BUOY OPENING LETTER
For FRONT’s fourth edition, we trespass outside artistic production, asking the dark rich waters of process:
What resources do communities self-engender to underwrite artistic inquiry? How is dance developed in the realms of privacy or friendship? What shines skulls and pelvic bowls diagonal from project-driven logics? When distinct roles elide, authorship blossoms into swells of interest, and the force of activity derails estimations of utility—where are you and what are you doing?
Now that we can’t tell the ground from the path, we’ve found our ripe beginning.
Contemporary dance makers often produce cultural works few capitalized markets demand and even fewer viable systems of distribution circulate. The lament is all too familiar. Yet there’s no small ambivalence toward these conditions of production either. The weak force of “the market” has led artists to generate rather exquisite enclaves that operate on alternative resources of time, attendance, participation, reciprocation, and on and on…
These often informal dynamics of cooperation and solidarity in support of artistic practice strike FRONT as one of the most developed and diverse terrains in contemporary dance ecologies. We’re here to give them some broadsheets. ED4 looks to the myriad strategies artists have employed, organized and innovated to enable and sustain artistic vitality.
This edition pays homage to two champions of the social potential surrounding performance: Performance Works NorthWest and AUNTS. Sail a few pages over to find three gorgeously distinct contributions on the theme from Arlington, Hewit and Joyner. A brand new section, Notes from the Field presents a trove of artifacts from the creative lives of contemporary dance makers. Now with a twist, ED4’s two Chain Conversations get Pacific—spanning the US West Coast bound north and south. From Houston, Rachel Cook of DiverseWorks delves into her curatorial vantage in a special report for FRONT. And finally, we offer a glimpse into FRONT’s recent Resource Room Residency at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art.
What a crew. So happy you’re on board.
All our best from Portland,
RESOURCE ROOM RESIDENCY:
From October to December 2013, FRONT were Resource Room Residents at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art.
During the residency, FRONT organized a series of happy hours in PICA’s art library. We wondered what latent oral histories might reveal themselves given a convivial context centered around an collection of performance videos.
Most of the videos at PICA have been made in house. They openly archive most of PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival programming from 2002 onward.
Video cases at PICA are labeled with a single frame from the video within—a grainy thumbnail, none too flattering but useful in its way. FRONT had to wonder the last time any of these videos got any play. On screen, the documents immediately look a decade older than they are. Cameras have improved so rapidly; footage from a dim theater in the early 2000s looks impossibly dated. Still, there was something enchanting about the archival footage. FRONT kept returning to the question: What utility do these resources have?
The looming obsolescence of the DVDs and the already archaic status of the VHS tapes sets apart PICA’s videos from the hundreds of commercially produced art books in the Resource Room. In their homespun containers, these videos look a white plastic ghetto beside printed matter designed and edited a dozen-times over by Phaidon, Verso, Semiotext(e), MIT Press and any number of publishers representative of a field of cultural production that adds much value and esteem to the art and ideas it reflects upon.
Yet for all they lack, PICA’s videos arguably hold as much or more relational potential as any of the other media in the Resource Room.
As residents, FRONT organized a series of gatherings around the videos. We ate popcorn and watched with various degrees of attentiveness footage that we had invited our guests to select from PICA’s archive. As scenes from now defunct performance spaces illuminated the small monitor with fuzzy dancing objects, FRONT and guests chatted. Why had our guests selected their individual videos? What associations could our group of three to six spin from the images animating the screen? Where were those audience members today whose ghostly laughter and applause are locked away in these documents? Would they remember this performance?
As an extension of our Resource Room Residency, FRONT offers this form for your use, designed for easy photocopying.
- Who in your artistic community might have a significant private collection of archival video footage?
- If you could invite anyone to watch archival footage of performance in a social gathering, who would you invite and what would you watch?
- Why do you or don’t you record video of dance rehearsal/performance?
- Why do you or don’t you archive recorded video of dance rehearsal/performance?
- How many videos do you have documenting your own work?
- How many minutes of dance video do you have stored in a private medium?
- How many minutes of dance video do you have stored in a public medium?
- Do you keep performance programs?
- How many do you think you have?
- What range of dates do your programs catalog?
- What is the hypothetical utility of such printed matter?
- How can program brochures be activated in the present day and toward contemporary projects?
- How much do you know about the history of your dance community?
- How can memory and material supplement one another?
- Who is your mentor’s mentor?
Text by Robert Tyree for FRONT.
Graphic design for FRONT: BUOY by Noelle Stiles. Order a copy of the newsprint publication here.