On the moors at Gallery 17

April 23rd, 2015

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Heights at G17:door

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John Sippel and Gallery 17, in Detroit’s Russell Industrial Center, opened its doors to nerve to create the urban moors. And we did.

The panelled bed at the Heights

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Apparition[1]

I worked with several of our creative volunteers – the Nervous System – to design and fabricate  the constructed actors, the book-trees, the lockets dangling high above. And Steve Xander Carson, Marisa Dluge, and Rachael Harbert took the text of Cathy Earnshaw’s words to the floor, and the wall. They made a creature of memories, a book of loss.

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Cathy's creature

And another book lay quietly in the ground, buried all winter, till its spring rebirth: the text, our text, on which our performance is founded.

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One of our central tenets is “We take space and use it.” And we do.

Deep in the words

April 20th, 2015

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In the Examiner’s four-star review of THE HEIGHTS, Patty Nolan notes that “Those who love Wuthering Heights will appreciate how the script is true to Brontë’s own words.”

It is. Her words make the world we’ve recreated.

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The panelled bed at the Heights

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Floor painting HEIGHTS 2

At the end of the evening at THE HEIGHTS, a willow basket heaped with copies of Wuthering Heights is set out, and patrons are free to take one if they wish. And they do wish – the basket’s already had to be replenished, two shows in.

Because the words make the world.

 

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Who makes it real?

April 15th, 2015

The artist, writer, mover, painter, performer, feels the spark, itch, grind, flutter: and with skill, glee, frustration, and effort, makes the piece, whatever the art may be.

Then s/he offers it, sells it, gives it, presents it to the world, hoping and strategizing and working to help it find its way into the hands and eyes and minds of those to whom it will speak.

It’s always been this way for the makers, it always will be. The trick is to stay alive, fed, housed, while you do it.

Which is where, for some artists, the institutional process comes in: the granting process: the foundation, the application, the anguished wait. “Oh, god, I hope I get that grant from the [insert your own favorite org here]! Because otherwise I can’t [write the book/create the dance/shoot the film].”

There are always thinkpieces and books aplenty – recently, Michael Kaiser’s CURTAINS? and Scott Timberg’s CULTURE CRASH (no, no links) – seeming to posit that art cannot survive without that institutional grant of support. Because otherwise the market will take over, and only the very commercial and the very high end (read: deep-pocketed donor supported) will exist.

Well.

In lieu of a saucy rebuttal (are some granting organizations more concerned with keeping their own lights on than advancing the cause of art? are all commerical funders taboo?), I suggest a reading (or rereading) of Lewis Hyde’s THE GIFT.

And I remind all artists of every discipline to remember who actually sharpens your pencil, primes your muscles, opens your eyes: because that’s where art begins and is born and comes to life. Wherever you get your funding to keep the ball rolling is fair game: just remember, every second, every step, that money doesn’t make the art. You do. Get busy.

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[Photo of me reminding you: Rick Lieder.]

 

Bronte is punk

April 10th, 2015

I wish I could hold you till we were both dead!

 

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Don’t torture me till I’m as mad as yourself!

 

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Do you believe such people are happy?

 

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[All quotes: Emily Brontë. Illustration: Fritz Eichenberg. Photos of Rachael Harbert and Steve Xander Carson: Rick Lieder.]

 

BAD BRAINS and all the beauty

April 9th, 2015

Book cover illustration

He was conscious of the long glitter of the silver thing, slipping from its canny post on the rainy windowpane  . . .

The short sharp heartbreak of a broken life, a broken head, the break that makes a fissure – does it? – for something new to filter in. Whether or not it’s real, whether or not it’s bad, so bad, killing bad, it’s still so beautiful.

BAD BRAINS ebook from Roadswell Editions, with a striking new cover by Rick Lieder: Welcome back, Austen Bandy.

#MYOF

March 25th, 2015

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Fun is not a by-product of work.

Your work must be fun or it’s not worth doing. And your fun has a purpose, an engine, a focus: to make good work.

Is there fun in the making of landscapes for serious play: the dark Wonderland of ALI<E, the POPPY brothel, the FAUSTUS altar, the gallery that holds THE HEIGHTS? Certainly, and it’s extra fun to see the work featured in Live Design.

What nerve is about, what my books are about, is that hand-in-hand creation, that joyride, It’s a lot of work, all of it, and it doesn’t all go as planned; sometimes (a lot of times!) there are failures and frustrations. But at the heart, that joyful engine keeps on driving: to the next book, the next event, the next surprise, the next challenge . . . If you find yourself saying,”Hey, wouldn’t it be fun if someone made/wrote/created this or that,” go and do it. Don’t wait for the world to give you joy. #MYOF, make your own fun!

[Photo: Rick Lieder.]