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Sinanan & Drews’ WOOD Takes Shape at NW New Works

Sinanan & Drews’ WOOD Takes Shape at NW New Works

: Reilly Sinanan & Matt Drews, WOOD. Photo by Tim Summers, 2013..

Sinanan & Drews’ WOOD Takes Shape at NW New Works

: Reilly Sinanan & Matt Drews, WOOD. Photo by Tim Summers, 2013..

Sinanan & Drews’ WOOD Takes Shape at NW New Works

: Reilly Sinanan & Matt Drews, WOOD. Photo by Tim Summers, 2013..

Sinanan & Drews’ WOOD Takes Shape at NW New Works

: Reilly Sinanan & Matt Drews, WOOD. Photo by Tim Summers, 2013..

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Cornish artists strive to pioneer new forms of expression and collaboration; through their work in WOOD, Matt Drews and Reilly Sinanan live up to that ideal.

For the next two weekends, viewers will find Cornish grads performing on the street. Their company is WOOD and the piece they’re presenting is Mortar & Pestle. It’s featured at (or, to be exact, outside of)  On the Boards as part of their 30th Annual NW New Works Festival, a celebration of experimental theater, music and dance. As usual, many Cornish alumni will be there. WOOD was co-founded and co-drected by alums Reilly Sinanan (AR ’14) and Matt Drews (DA ’13). Mortar & Pestle is an interdisciplinary work that brings together sculpture, body-based performance practice, elements of ritual and composed sound.

WOOD will be performed on June 9 & 16 before the rest of the evenings’ showcase, please arrive by 7:00 pm to ensure seeing the whole performance.

Mortar & Pestal is built around a pivotal image, the film Titicut Follies. This 1967 documentary about the Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, examines the sort of treatment the inmates had to endure, which was negligent at best and brutal at worst. But, as Reilly went on to explain, “we didn’t start there, we actually started with themes. We wanted to explore wood (thus the company name WOOD), not only as material for fabrication, but also as a metaphor. It’s something that’s inherently rigid, but it’s also malleable, it rots, it breaks down. Just as you’d refine a piece of wood to remove the blemishes, we were interested in creating a piece in which we comment on our human tendency to try and refine ourselves to remove our own blemishes. How we try to get back to a place of impossible perfection. Eventually, we had all these themes, but it was becoming difficult to create around them because it was all so ephemeral…and then I remembered that movie. I went back and watched Titicut Follies and I saw all these themes that we’d talked about.” Asked about the reoccurrence of wood as a material in his work, Reilly answered, “I was really interested in getting away from the computer because that was so much my experience at the Art Institute, so I started experimenting in more physical mediums and I started to really get into using wood for things, I love being dirty, you know, it’s such an amazing thing to be covered in saw dust, I just love it.”

Having identified their themes, imagery and built the wooden objects that would be part of the performance, Reilly and Matt set to shaping their piece, preparing it for the NW New Works Festival. Still, they were faced with the dilemma of who should perform WOOD. Obviously, they were committed to the project, but there remained a need for additional collaborators. Both Matt and Reilly had a hesitancy about bringing in just anyone. Reilly explained, “I think one of the reasons that so many performance artists use their own bodies is because their putting themselves through things that are questionable. There’s a different responsibility for your own body versus someone else’s. It’s a huge moral conflict for us to watch people go through these things. Because of that it requires a lot of work , building a shared vocabulary, building a sense of trust, where we know that when it comes time to swallow a tourniquet that we’re with you.” Pressed further about the selection of their team, Matt detailed who they had been looking for, “we were really interested in people that weren’t going to have a problem with an interdisciplinary approach, people who were going to be able to go there, and we wanted to work with people that we really love and care about.”

Matt and Reilly brought 10 additional team members into the project and spent the next 3 months developing WOOD and preparing themselves. The rest of WOOD’s team is Ariana Bird (DA ’14), Carl Lawrence (TH), Chantael Duke (DA ’13), Jason Wood, Joshua Taylor (DE ’13), Juan Franco (AR ’14), Makenzie Stone (AR ’15), Rachel Green, and Seth Sexton with sound design by Benjamin Marx (MU ’13).

In discussing the selection of their performance space for WOOD, the exterior of OTB (aka out in the street), Reilly commented that “we’ve been cast out of the institution, separating ourselves from it, there’s different rules that apply to us, it was perfect.” Not only was it perfect for the piece, but this statement itself seemed all too appropriate for what the two of them were striving to accomplish with WOOD. Matt explained that, “both of us try to free ourselves from our own modality, everything that I’d make people would say, ‘don’t abandon your dance sensibilities, make sure to show that you’re a dancer’ and I felt that same sort of desire to escape those confines from Reilly, he didn’t just want to make something that was inert and just sits there.” These principles guided WOOD in their creation of Mortar & Pestle – it’s a dance that’s not a dance with objects that aren’t just props, but integral parts of the piece’s being, a single unified aesthetic.

For those who absolutely can’t make the performance of Mortar & Pestal, Reilly and Matt have plans to film their performance for posterity’s sake and may make it available to the public. Additionally, the objects that Reilly built for the performance can be seen at METHOD in July 2013 and at SOIL in March 2014. When asked about the future of their partnership, Reilly responded, “we have a lot of stuff coming up that doesn’t involve one another professionally. In terms of this piece, I think we’ll let it sit for a little while, we’re not going to try and tour it or anything. I think we’ll forever try to work together.” During the interview, they realized they will both be in New York for overlapping periods this fall, and, laughing, Matt jested, “god, I’m not going to get anything done!”

WOOD’s Reilly Sinanan and Matt Drews first met while working on projects with other artists, but quickly established a strong basis for professional collaboration and friendship. Matt described the pair’s initial interactions. “We just started getting to know each other, hanging out and going on walks. We talked about life, we both had interesting backgrounds in religion and spirituality, and how we ended up at Cornish very differently, but very on the same page about who we are and why we’re here. We hit it off really organically.” While they both took nontraditional paths to Cornish, bringing with them the varied and rich experiences that inform their work, there is something more to their partnership beyond that. Reilly commented, “I really thrive off of vulnerability. My work requires that — at least I hope it does. So to work with someone who is willing to go there with me, not only in a professional sense, but in a life sense, is really important.” Without it the work lacks the authenticity to be truly meaningful.

This fall Reilly has been accepted for the New York Studio Residency Program through the School of Visual Arts, where he and another of their collaborators, Juan Franco, will join a select group of national artists at studios in Brooklyn. Reilly hopes to setup a live feed between his studio in New York and his senior studio back in Seattle, as well as a fax machine that he will send regular updates through, allowing him to return to a pile of “visual information” to work with. He will also be working with Degenerate Art Ensemble (LINK) and the Kronos Quartet for their joint performance in Seattle on November 16. Reilly will graduate from Cornish in May 2014.

Matt is also looking forward to a busy schedule post-NW New Works. Over the summer, he will be working with Kate Wallich & The YC in New York (Armitage Gone! Dance Studios, MANA Contemporary) in preparation for a new evening length performance early in 2014. Matt will then return to Seattle for a show at Velocity Dance Center with The Pendleton House on August 30, a new alumni-filled group that will be presenting original work including an expansion of Matt’s BFA piece.


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