April 23, 2013
Cornish Class Takes it to the Street
: Crosswalk piece, Mitchell Gustin. Courtesy Cornish College of the Arts.
: Crosswalk piece, Jimmy Herrod. Courtesy Cornish College of the Arts.
: Crosswalk piece, Juan Franco. Courtesy Cornish College of the Arts.
: Crosswalk piece, Bobby Brandon. Courtesy Cornish College of the Arts.
: Crosswalk piece, Matt Drews. Courtesy Cornish College of the Arts.
InterArt class takes lessons out into the world to produce a public, site-specific project utilizing crosswalks to explore the body’s perception of disintegrating time.
The freedom to explore for both participants and viewers: the classroom was no classroom at all as a Cornish multidiscipline class exited the Main Campus Center and set a performance in motion on the four corners of a public intersection. The intersection was Terry & Lenora, and the class was InterArt 385 a “hybrid class that explores collaborations utilizing images, movement, and sound.”
The nameless project took place on Friday, April 19. Five students designed and performed: Bobby Brandon, Juan Franco, Matt Drews, Mitchell Gustin and Jimmy Herrod. They had collectively developed their final site-specific project making use of the public cross-walks that tie together the four corners where Lenora crosses Terry. The goal was to explore “the notion of disintegrating time as perceived through various bodily senses.”
The actions of the participants were commonplaces, mostly, but were placed in an extreme setting and executed in extremis to the beats of a metronome. Jimmy Herrod rinsed with mouth wash and brushed his teeth over and over again; Bobby Brandon sat at a table with a metronome; Matt Drews licked a lollipop; Juan Franco buried underwear in the dirt of the planting strip.
Participant Juan Franco offers a concise picture of what the piece hoped to accomplish. “Conceptually,” he says, “the piece dealt with notions of time and the awareness of time itself.” Although a lot of the action took place outside, the first piece of the performance began with a video that showed from inside the ground-floor cafe. “We placed a monitor that mirrored the image outside. It was a video that followed the sound of the metronome and made the cafe an environment where time was apparent.
Franco continues. “Outside the building, on the four corners of Terry and Lenora, we compiled actions that dealt with repetition, duration, and degradation. Each image was composed by the performer, and dealt with tasks of the everyday interpreted through difference lenses of humor, composition, ritual, and context.”
“By placing the performance in a public setting,” Franco summarizes, “we were able to leave behind the safety of our class and private viewing of the performance. Also, we hoped to interrupt the social fabric of people outside of the community. Through these actions, we hoped to change the perception of onlookers and passersby, and that their daily or incidental passing of this intersection offered an extraordinary experience to take with them. Ultimately, the work was both personal and public, aesthetic and pedestrian, and humorous and serious. The street intersection itself offered the metaphor of the intersection of art and life, and the liminal space that exists between them.”
For Mitchell Gustin, the performance was an internal experience. On his corner of the intersection, Mitchell used his body as a tool for producing sounds. He reports that he laid out eight sheets of manuscript paper in front of him in a semi circle. The sheets had simple rhythm instructions. He basically beat on his body for 30 minutes, an exhausting task. If the intent of the piece was to “disintegrate time” as perceived by the body, the exercise was, for Gustin, a complete success. “One of my class mates had told me at the end that it was 30 minutes long and i looked at her as if she was crazy,” says Gustin. “I could not believe that i slapped myself over and over again for 30 minutes.”
It was, perhaps, a form of meditation. “I became so focused on whatever color or rhythmic pattern was in front of me that i had no regard for time,” Gustin says. “I had no regard for anything, not even the rhythms on the page. They would spark something inside of me that made me ‘hit’ myself harder or faster.”
The visceral repetitive actions of the “actors” were powerful. “The piece triggered a lot of emotions for people, some good some bad,” says Gustin.
The piece on the crosswalks is is one of six slated to perform over the next two weeks.
InterArts 385 continues the long and storied tradition at Cornish of collaborative work that crosses traditional boundaries. It is taught by three faculty members from different disciplines: Tom Baker from music, Heather Dew Oaksen from art and Wade Madsen from dance. The three co-teach a hybrid class that explores collaborations utilizing images, movement, and sound. The students in InterArts 385 mix in groups in the same space, engaging in idea generation, interconnected research about similar concepts, and set ups/experiments/exercises with each other and the instructors. This multidisciplinary approach provides structured class time and the opportunity for students to create with others outside their own majors under the direction of professors experienced in collaboration.
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