On December 9th, InnerCity Projects
will perform a one night only performance called The Station
at Whitebox Art Center
. Led by dancer Miriam Parker and visual artist Jo Wood Brown, the multidisciplinary live installation will feature painting, video, and performance. Please read below for an exclusive interview with Miriam Parker about the upcoming project.
Miriam Parker working on The Station in her Manhattan based studio.
RANY: You and visual artist Jo Wood-Brown have created multidisciplinary performances for your collaborative InnerCity Projects since 2007. Please tell me a little bit about your current multimedia project, The Station.
MP: My collaborator Jo and I originally come from very different backgrounds. I’m a trained dancer, and Jo has been working largely as a visual artist. We began collaborating with an interest in creating hybrids between visual art and dance. Since then, our work has expanded into many other medias and disciplines, both informed by our interests as well as that of friends and colleagues who collaborate and work with us in each project. We take one discipline and see what it’s going to look like when it translates or influenced by another discipline. Jo usually begins this process as a painter, and I as a dancer, with a kind of associative consciousness. We are interacting with the world around us, and so the creation and “dreaming” stage is incredibly invigorating. In The Station, we hope to create a space where the lines between dance and movement, sculpture and environment, music and sound, art and ordinary, and performer and participant are blurred. The space is altered by the individuals walking through it, invited into the space as active participants, rather than bystanders. There is a sense of exchange between the participants and the work, but also between the various elements we have used to create the environment. Our hope is that those interacting with the space feel as though they are stepping into a dream, into someone else’s imagination, free to explore within. In this iteration of InnerCity Projects, we wanted to invite the audience inside the space, as part of the space. There is no stage, and so the audience’s presence plays a vital role in the work. This removes any sense of hierarchy between performer and participant, and the presence of the performers is one of understanding rather than knowing. The activity is constantly trying to touch, or put light on, or grasp what slips from our eyes, from our attention. We are providing a unique opportunity for people to think and be.
RANY: The idea of “stepping into a dream, into someone else’s imagination” is an intriguing thread that the viewer/audience member can follow throughout the duration of The Station. It almost sounds like a collective guided meditation. That said, knowing that the project draws from improvisational instances, would you describe it as a tangential piece? Building upon that, in your opinion, what are the benefits of creating a live installation?
MP: Tangential implies that it is in some way off center – but here we are creating a place where the center exists in more than one place at the same time. A live installation is always changing. The elements in our work are reflective of life, and art is in life. What each person brings into the space is equally as important. Each person creates a new center. One of the main benefits of a live installation is that you get see the process of creation. Full disclosure, everything laid bare and happening in the now, and that’s what I’m all about. Ideally my work is talking about this process itself. I hope that the work acts to help others become aware of how their mind works. The idea of a live installation is exhilarating to me. It’s freedom. I feel this vision is supported by the elements inhabiting the gallery space which are living, breathing entities. The sound, for example, is being mixed live in the space by Ross Meneuz. Ross’ decisions will be directly affected by the ways in which the participants navigate the space, as well as the choreography of the dancers, the lighting and its effect upon the sculptures, the visuals appearing in the projections, and so on. These elements also create relationships with one another. Each moment will be vastly different from the next, due to a unique cycle that is never the same from moment to moment, and is never to be replicated again. The elements in the installation also pull from life and all of its intensity and movement outside of the space. Subsequently, the choreography was created using pedestrian vocabulary; the video projections document movement across New York City; and the sound is reflective of a constant state of flux we are in while navigating this large city. Through our work, we attempt to slow all of this down, providing moments of reflection and exchange.
Jo Wood Brown, painted still
RANY: How did you and Wood-Brown decide upon the duration of The Station?
MP: We decided on the duration based upon an understanding of how long people tend to view work in a traditional gallery setting, and how long we may be able to capture our audience before minds wander. There’s also something really beautiful about daydreaming, and we felt it appropriate to keep the installation ongoing to allow for that inevitable infiltration of thought to fill the space should they choose to stay. Again, the installation is as much about the individuals inhabiting the space as it is about the purposefulness of the elements we’ve selected, and so the duration was intentional based upon presumptions of how people may want to encounter and experience the work. All of our assumptions may be proved wrong during the moment, but that’s where the excitement of a live installation comes in; and also, where the improvisation of the dancers and the sound will play an important role: as a guiding mechanism.
RANY: Are there any artists and/or collectives that serve as an inspiration to you and your creative process?
MP: Jo inspired me! She has a wild and expansive career. I love her paintings. I remember looking at them before our collaboration truly began, and thinking how incredible it would be to live inside of one of them. I think that with The Station, we are going to achieve that sensibility for the participants. I have also studied quite a bit of architecture. Richard Serra played a huge role in sparking my interest to work this way. His site-specific structures created pathways of movement that have altered people’s perceptions of space and time. His work is quite performative, and I saw a huge potential to expand on this idea.
Jo Wood Brown, video still
RANY: The Station project created an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the participating dancers, but also to support the invention of a structural component that will allow the installation to function on an improvisational level. Could you elaborate more on the function of this structure? For example, did the engineer use core materials from New York City to underscore the dialogue between a fixed structure within an interactive space?
MP: Jo and myself chose the materials and design. The engineer, Robert Duteil, helped us to actualize the design utilizing common building materials. What is really exciting for us is that Robert created a sort of erector set with ball bearings at the end of the triangles. This allows us to shift and move the sculpture, making it adaptable for different spaces and situations. I would like to continue to work on creating a type of “Lego” set that would allow us to build up different topographies for the audiences as well. Cinder blocks are part of our material vocabulary to create this landscape, but I’m dreaming of finding a lighter, more fluid alternative.
RANY: What new projects are on the horizon for InnerCity after your upcoming performance at White Box?
MP: We are in dialogue with a few venues in Europe and the US, all of which is to be determined. One thing is for sure; we plan to utilize this one night only event to inform future projects. We are constantly recycling material, so for example, video we take inside the space of the audience will likely be abstracted and utilized in future InnerCity works.
RANY: As we make our way through the dawn of the Digital Age, do you think that multidisciplinary projects are the shape of the future or just a new way of examining and processing art, or perhaps both?
MP: Yes! I believe it is a new way of examining. For me it allows for an opportunity to study the phenomenology of perception and have a way of applying these studies, incorporating them into the work.
Lowline conceptual rendering for NYC’s first underground park
RANY: Speaking of projects that are forward thinking, I noticed that you are a member of the Lowline Advisory Board. How did you become involved with the board and what are your thoughts on building an indoor park in NYC? Sounds intriguing.
MP: I had worked with Dan Barash
, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Lowline on other community building projects – mostly involving art and the Lower East Side – so when he started this project, he asked for my help in finding intelligent ways to work with the arts community in this area. I am fully passionate about this project. I am very interested in new ways of having shared space. I believe an important element for a healthy life is to have places that are open and available to the public where one can connect. This also reflects back to my work with Jo; we have this immense and incredible opportunity to provide a brief and yet completely distinct moment in time for as many individuals who choose walk inside the gallery on Tuesday night
. There’s something incredibly magical about that.
ABOUT INNERCITY PROJECTS: InnerCity Projects was created in the collaborative dialogue between visual artist Jo Wood-Brown and dancer Miriam Parker over a period of several years. It is built on dialogues between the nature of the fixed or painted image and the time-based nature of movement and has led to the development of mixed media works: installation, film, and performance.
ABOUT WHITEBOX ART CENTER: Whitebox is a non-profit art space that serves as a platform for contemporary artists to develop and showcase new site-specific work, and is a laboratory for unique commissions, exhibitions, special events, salon series, and arts education programs. Through site-specific exhibitions, performances, screenings, readings, lectures, and panel discussions, Whitebox provides the opportunity to experience an artist’s practice in a meaningful way to the surrounding communities of Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and cultural tourism.