Archive for the interviews Category

Q&A with Johanna Hedva: She Work, a collaboration with Nickels Sunshine

Posted in interviews, upcoming events with tags , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2015 by Carol Cheh
She Work. Photo: Mattia Casalegno.

She Work. Photo: Mattia Casalegno.

Since 2012, artist and writer Johanna Hedva (formerly Johanna Kozma) has been writing and directing a series of plays that she now refers to as The Greek Cycle. The plays are adaptations of ancient Greek texts that, in the author’s words, “have been rewritten to respond to feminist and queer political discourse, and relocated into contemporary contexts.” Each play has been developed in close collaboration with their performers, and each has taken place in an unusual location–Odyssey Odyssey, for example, was an adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey that took place inside of a moving Honda Odyssey.

On July 11, Hedva will open She Work, the fourth and final play in The Greek Cycle. An adaptation of Euripides’ Medea, She Work was developed with body-based artist Nickels Sunshine (formerly Nick Duran). It will be performed at d e e p s l e e e p, a private apartment that doubles as an art space. In advance of this concluding work, I conducted the following email interview with Hedva. To preserve the nuances of Hedva’s voice, the text is largely unedited from its original form.

Carol Cheh: Where does your acute interest in Greek plays come from? Why does adapting them for queer and feminist discourse appeal to you?

Johanna Hedva: my short answer to “why the greeks?” has always been “because they need it.” my longer answer is that i have a deep and complicated love/hate relationship with these stories, and couldn’t think of anything better to do in terms of storytelling. whenever i thought about adapting and directing a story, i kept falling into the greeks — probably because these are “original” stories in terms of their influence in western culture, and can be traced in many of the narratives circulating today in all kinds of art, and also because of their mythic-ness, their expanse and specificity. they are as big as cathedrals, oceans. also, i’ve had a tragic life, and find that i’m drawn to tragedy as a comfort (not a lesson). i like myths in and of themselves, and as cultural functions, as seen on a spectrum alongside or counterpoint to intimacy (my other fave), and i like a good story, so to that end, there’s really nothing better than the wildness of an ancient greek myth.

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Meg Wolfe, New Faithful Disco, Bootleg Theater, September 13–15, 2014: Q&A with the Artist

Posted in interviews, reviews and commentary on September 22, 2014 by Carol Cheh
All photos courtesy Meg Wolfe.

All photos courtesy Meg Wolfe.

I’ve only seen two dance works by Meg Wolfe, and that’s a shame, because based on those two works, she is easily one of the most intriguing dancer/choreographers working in Los Angeles today. The first was a short solo piece titled calling it something else for now (2012), in which she made dazzling use of a cloud-like costume created by Pat Payne while moving to a hypnotic soundtrack by Aaron Drake. The second was a recent work-in-progress called New Faithful Disco, which Wolfe performed with taisha paggett and Rae Shao-Lan.

Like the earlier work, Disco had an engaging soundtrack, composed by Maria de los Angeles Esteves. This one varied more in mood and tempo, with some slower passages and some driving dance beats. Costumes and props also played a significant role and seemed to carry a lot of symbolism. There was a collection of old-fashioned tape recorders at stage right that were fiddled with at the beginning and the end. There was a small pile of loose dirt and sticks at stage left that seemed to serve as a setting for private encounters.

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Matt Siegle, The Human Potential Movement, Park View, August 11–15, 2014: Interview with the Artist

Posted in interviews, reviews and commentary on September 5, 2014 by Carol Cheh


One night in the middle of August, I made my way over to Park View, an art space started by Paul Soto in his newly rented apartment in the MacArthur Park neighborhood. Park View was having its inaugural show, a five-night performance by Matt Siegle called The Human Potential Movement. Visitors could drop in on any of the five nights between 7 and 10 pm, and come and go as they wished.

I entered the small apartment to find a simple, clean living room with a single striped couch positioned under the window opposite the front door. Matt was crouching on the hardwood floor, surrounded by gadgets and wires. Two clumps of blue lights lay on the floor. I took a seat on the couch, next to two people I didn’t know.

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Q&A with Rebecca Bruno: THE BEGINNING

Posted in interviews, reviews and commentary on July 27, 2014 by Carol Cheh
Rebecca Bruno, photographed by Shani Pak

Rebecca Bruno, photographed by Shani Pak

Over the last few months, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing two iterations of a dance performance by Rebecca Bruno, which both took place at Live Arts Los Angeles in front of a small group of friends and colleagues. Titled THE BEGINNING, the work seeks to engage directly with the energies generated by the people in the room, digging deep into the dancer’s sensory awareness to create a series of responses to the present moment. As Bruno writes in the announcement email: “A couple questions I am asking in this practice: What happens when the exploratory moments in a work’s nascency are performed? What, if anything, can a dancer indicate about collective energy?”

The first half of THE BEGINNING consists of a short participatory exercise led by Bruno. Audience members are asked to choose from amongst a set of essential oils provided for us. Whichever one we are most attracted to, we can apply to our bodies as needed. Properly re-tuned, we are then asked to get into pairs and walk around the studio, one after the other. The person in front leads while the person behind follows and observes the first person’s body and way of walking. After a couple of minutes, we stop and share our experience with one another. Then we switch roles and repeat.

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Q&A with Emily Mast

Posted in interviews on July 9, 2014 by Carol Cheh
Emily Mast directing ENDE (Like a New Beginning) Again. Photo: Will Wright.

Emily Mast directing ENDE (Like a New Beginning) Again.
Photo: Will Wright.

Following Saturday night’s performance of ENDE (Like a New Beginning) Again at Night Gallery, Emily Mast graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions via email.

Carol Cheh: Strangely, there isn’t really any explanatory text available for ENDE (Like a New Beginning). Is this intentional? Or would you like to share some explication or back story with us?

Emily Mast: The title of the piece that’s currently at the Hammer is ENDE (Like a New Beginning), as opposed to the title of the piece at Night Gallery which is ENDE (Like a New Beginning) Again. I wrote a sort of poetic press release that can be accessed on the Night Gallery website. It’s supposed to introduce visitors to a general feeling rather than a specific back story.

All of the iterations of ENDE began with poetry, or texts that I wrote to describe very specific moments in my life. Those texts were translated into gesture with my performers during a series of intensive workshops. And those gestures were named (and therefore re-translated into text) and then juxtaposed and layered to form one large, varied landscape of moments. One of my performers referred to it as a “minefield,” which I think is quite fitting.

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An Interview with Elena Bajo by Maia Lee

Posted in guest blog posts, Institutional Partnerships, interviews on April 26, 2014 by eunok1
Elena Bajo, With Entheogenic Intent: Burn the Witch, closing performance. Photo: Andrew Chung.

Elena Bajo, With Entheogenic Intent: Burn the Witch, closing performance. Photo: Andrew Chung.

Elena Bajo’s process-oriented exhibition, With Entheogenic Intent: Burn the Witch, was on view from January 13 to March 28, 2014 at the 18th Street Arts Center. Bajo’s work, which “refuses the binary distinction between art and politics,” examines the layers of culture that culminate in the collective consciousness we inhabit and seek to interrogate us as artists. Bajo engaged professional labor and the constructs of Hollywood in this project, in which “human invention intersects with the trajectories of capital.” She describes the performance aspect of her work as “sculpture in motion,” movements to trigger different images and touch on the more painful hidden depths of the sociopolitical framework as experienced through the body.

Maia Lee: You are an international artist working in Los Angeles, culling inspiration from local histories and discourses. What brought you here and why do these sites intrigue you?

Elena Bajo: I’m a native of Madrid, Spain. I moved to New York in the late 90s following a desire to experience a different culture. I wanted to see if American movies reflect the real American culture; I wanted to experience this culture firsthand without mediation. The United States and capitalism were leading the world and I thought I had to be at the source of this happening, in terms of time and space. What I was experiencing in Spain was secondhand, same as in Europe—European governments were following capital, and the maximum exponent of capitalism was the U.S.

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Outtakes from my interview with Marina Abramović

Posted in historical notes, interviews with tags , , , , on June 12, 2012 by Carol Cheh

Marina Abramović and filmmaker Matthew Akers.
Photo: David Smoler. Courtesy of HBO and Music Box Films.

So last week, I had the momentous opportunity to interview Marina Abramović via Skype for the LA Weekly. The edited interview, which contains all the juiciest bits where she dishes at length about the 2011 MOCA Gala, her long-running conflict with Yvonne Rainer, the “unoriginality” of Dawn Kasper’s Whitney Biennial installation, how she didn’t get paid “one penny” for her Seven Easy Pieces show, and how the underground is for “plants,” appeared today on the LA Weekly arts blog. As a special bonus for ART! readers, I am posting below the parts of the interview that didn’t make it into the final cut.

Can performance art really be taught?

I think yes, because I’ve been doing now 27 years, teaching a lot—in Germany, France, Japan, so many different countries. First of all, it’s the same as painting or sculpture, you can teach the painting but you can’t make the great painter. You have to have what I call charismatic state of being. Let’s start from the beginning. When a student comes and says “I want to be a performance artist,” I am first questioning if they are an artist at all—sometimes they just want to be a little famous or something stupid like that. Then, if you are really an artist, you have to find which real media is good for you.

Sometimes you think you are a performance artist but you actually can’t perform. So it’s not easy, but what I can teach people is how to condition the body and the mind to get to that state, and then it’s up to them to do the performance. There’s lots of techniques which I kind of mixed up. I can teach them how to reduce things, how to begin, how to document, which mistakes they should not make. Lots of things I learned, I can give this kind of advice. So yes, you can teach performance, but you can’t make someone great. It’s a genetic thing, you either have it or you don’t have it.

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PREVIEW: Nick & James at Highways in a Tribute, Highways Performance Space, Santa Monica, Friday and Saturday, March 16 and 17, 2012

Posted in interviews, upcoming events with tags , on March 14, 2012 by Carol Cheh

Nick Duran, left, and Jmy James Kidd work out final details of their upcoming performance at Highways

I have almost zero knowledge of dance history or contemporary dance, so I thought I wouldn’t be qualified to write about Nick & James at Highways in a Tribute, a new collaborative dance work by Nick Duran and Jmy James Kidd. As it turns out however, I might be the perfect person to write about this show, and you might be too.

Both Nick and James are natives of California, but both have also done significant time as dancers in New York’s intensely concentrated contemporary scene. They describe the dancer’s life in New York as highly pressurized and full of the anxiety of influence: “You go to rehearsals constantly, and in those rehearsals people are always talking about what they’ve seen, and there is a lot to see in New York, and everyone knows every last reference that is being made in the dances, and everyone is critiquing them,” said James. “It’s really hard to find the mental space to make your own work there, not to mention the material challenges of finding affordable places to do your work.”

Nick and James, who met while dancing with noted choreographer Neil Greenberg (the “tribute” in the title is meant for him), both relocated to LA not too long ago, and both found LA’s relaxed, open atmosphere a huge relief, as well as a boon to their own creative processes. Here, they are able to work from themselves and from their memory of movements, perhaps working out past doubts in new ways, free from the incessant chatter and judgment of their dance world peers. They feel they can do anything here; they didn’t feel that way in New York.

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Embodied Rituals: An Interview with Barbara T. Smith and Christen Sperry-Garcia

Posted in historical notes, interviews, upcoming events on August 5, 2010 by Carol Cheh

On Saturday, August 14 at 7:30pm, Barbara T. Smith and Christen Sperry-Garcia will present Chaos Confounded, a performance, feast, and benefit in honor of Highways Performance Space’s 21st anniversary. The event will combine Sperry-Garcia’s Maps, Nodes, and Networks, an interactive work based on the artist’s study of traffic patterns, with a multi-course, sit-down meal that will be presided over by both artists. The dinner, which will be a performance in itself, is the latest in a long line of work by Smith exploring food and ritual. Additional performances will also take place throughout the course of the evening.

This event is a great chance to experience signature works by a legend of performance art and an emerging Los Angeles artist, and support Highways, a seminal West Coast performance space, at the same time. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased here.

This past week, I sat down with Smith and Sperry-Garcia to talk about Chaos Confounded, and about their individual practices.

How did this collaboration between the two of you come about?

BTS: That was really fortuitous. I had been on the board of Highways, which, like all nonprofits, is very financially strapped. I was on the board for two years and decided that it was time for me to move on. At the same time, we were talking about how 18th Street Arts Center had just had a benefit dinner, which they charged $250 for, and it was very high-end, very gourmet, with an Artforum critic as a featured speaker, and it was quite successful. And so Leo [Garcia, Artistic Director of Highways] said, why can’t we do that? But we recognize that we don’t have the same donor base; the people who follow Highways are not, generally speaking, as affluent. So I said, what you could do is have some kind of affordable, not-so-fancy dinner, but at the same time bring in a decent amount of money, and have it be much more peasant-like, more fun, more in the body, you know? So this project became my last fling for them.

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Human Resources: Interview with the Organizers

Posted in interviews on June 16, 2010 by Carol Cheh

Opening reception for Qualia at Human
Resources, May 22, 2010

Human Resources, a new space in Chinatown devoted to performative art practices, opened on May 1 this year with much fanfare. The five organizers—Dawn Kasper, Eric Kim, Kathleen Kim, Devin McNulty and Giles Miller—were kind enough to consent to an email interview for this blog.

Who is Human Resources?

Human Resources is a collaborative collective of creative individuals who support the experimental performative arts through programming, archiving, and outreach. Dawn is a performance and mixed-media artist actively exploring the woven web of questions that fuel the quest for answers into the meaning of life and death. Eric, a longtime friend and supporter of the art community, has an academic background in philosophy and a professional background in health informatics, software design, and public health. He’s lived in Los Angeles for 6 years and HR is his first community arts project. Eric’s sister Kathleen is a professor and civil rights attorney focusing on the advancement of immigrants’ rights; she is also a violinist who explores experimental composition and improvisation. Devin is a musician and composer. Giles works as an investigator in the business world and has maintained a practice as a musician and performer for many years; he is a founding member of the experimental ensemble LA Fog, along with Devin and Kathleen. We also have a close working relationship with our neighbor gallerist, Francois Ghebaly.

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