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10 years of BIG ART GROUP a Visual History

April 14, 2010

Hugely talented artists and frequent Spank collaborators Big Art Group are staging a TAKE OVER of Abrons Art Center in Lower Manhattan to celebrate their 10th Anniversary with two shows and two video installations.  We got director Caden Manson to give us a run down of some of the best moments of the last ten years. Don’t miss this chance to see their shows this Thursday April 15th through Saturday April 18th at Abron Arts Center, ticket details at the end of this post.

Big Art Group Time Line 10 Years


01. Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson formed the company in 1999 in New York. Big Art Groupmounted its first production titled Clearcut, Catastrophe in the Kraine Theatre on E. 4th Street as part of NY Fringe Festival. The show was a performative meld of two texts, one theatrical and one filmic— “Three Sisters” and “Grey Gardens” — in which the ensemble led by Justin Bond interpreted blended characters simultaneously from both worlds. The play established several characteristics for the company such as an open network of performers and an interest in combining cinematic, televisual and theatrical modes of performance, and introduced original members Linsey Bostwick, Vivian Bang and Rebecca Sumner Burgos.

02. After the first play, the company was invited to be a resident at the Kraine Theatre for an extended run with The Balladeer, an exploration of high school violence, first love, and Lorca. The production saw the company’s first use of task-based choreography. It marked the first time Jemma Nelson wrote a script for one of the performances, and also the first appearance of some of the actors who were to become Big Art Group mainstays, such as David Commander and Amy Miley.

03. Again self-produced by the ensemble at the Kraine Theatre, Shelf Life initiated the Real Time Film technique and trilogy. The company shifted its way of working from the earlier devised plays to a different process, using set texts, action-based choreography, and new physical training developed for the new form. Real Time Film used direct video feed to portray a duality of theatrical and mediated performance— an onstage live performance echoed in a cinematic “film,” made and “edited” live; also the content of the
work narrowed to themes of consumerism, disposability, identity and media.


04. Based on Shelf Life, Mark Russell from PS122 commissioned the company for the next creation in the Real Time Film trilogy. Flicker was conceived as a sister piece to Shelf Life, using the same set piece and mode of story-telling, but with a dual story line. For Flicker, one story reproduced an archetypal horror mythos of a group of friends, lost in woods, being hunted and murdered by a serial killer. As a counterpoint, the other story delved into the softcore sadomasochistic relationships of a love triangle, and its eventual messy end. Flicker continued Real Time FIlmʼs investigation, with a focus on the image of violence and horror, and how that interacted with larger cultural issues about economy, entertainment, and empathy.

05. For fall 2002 Flicker was invited to The Festival dʼAutomne, Theatre Garonne, and Théâtre de Lorient in France. Later when Flicker premiered as part of the opening weekend of the newly created Hebbel Am Ufer in Berlin, it appeared on the front cover of Der Tagesspiegel, marking the first time a theatre piece had ever been on the front cover of that newspaper. Flicker toured to 26 venues in Europe and America over 4 years.

06. Immediately after the production of Flicker and before the company began to tour, the company produced a small piece called Empty Island for Soho Rep. It played briefly in a run of five performances as a work in progress, and although the script was later abandoned, it marked the initial trial of the live on-stage green screen technique that became one of the sections of the next major production, House of No More.

07. In 2004, Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson were profiled in Le Monde.

08. House of No More marked the third part of the RTF trilogy and the first international coproduction for the company; it premiered at PS122 in winter 2004 and was reworked and then premiered internationally in fall 2004. House of No More developed the crisis of identification that had begun in the first parts of the trilogy, taking as a motif a pulp-like story about a criminal mother in search of a lost child that might be imaginary, and the media that pursued her story. In House of No More, as the action of the story split and turned on itself in increasingly complex whirlpools, formal theatrical and filmic techniques were used to to replicated the character and layer the identifiers and locations of the action.

09. Turning away and ending the RTF trilogy, Caden Manson initiated the Dead Set series (#2 performing in Europe, #3 appearing in North America, others forthcoming). The Dead Set returned to episodic performance structures, drawing directly on and reproducing found source material (television footage, advertisements, film scenes) and shifting away from narrative structures to more formal aspects of performance; it incorporated movement and dance to a greater extent than earlier works, and also marked the deepening of an interest in sculptural performance installation, as the performance concluded with a black plastic inflatable that filled the space of the theater. Dead Set was also the first work of the company to be built mainly overseas.


10. Following Dead Set, the company opened up three lines of performance investigation: Cinema Fury, a reality-based theatre project, and the continuation of group work. For its first creation in the Cinema Fury : series entitled The Sleep, the company made a performance for the White Nights Festival in Rome collaborating with musicians Theo Kogan and Sean Pierce around MP Shiel’s The Purple Cloud. For its second creation in the Cinema Fury series, the company was commissioned by the Hebbel Am Ufer in Berlin to create a project for the 100th anniversary of the HAU 1 theatre; the result was a collaborative musical piece created with Justin Bond, Theo, Sean and the company of Big Art Group, in a grotesque fable about the process of artistic creation. This second installment called The Imitation played
subsequently in Paris, Munich, and New York. Cinema Fury remains an open laboratory for the company to collaborate with designers and musicians taking marginal or forgotten literary texts as its subject.

11. In 2007 Caden was invited to Singapore and Vietnam as one of the first American artists to participate in the Flying Circus artists conference. He presented the performance-lecture Pain Killer.

12. In 2007 the group opened up a new line of investigation in “Reality-Based Theatre” with its inaugural creation of The People for Inteatro Polverigi. Based on a small Italian village which has hosted an international experimental theatre festival for 30 years, The People used participants from the locale to investigate the nature of community and democracy, and their representation as a site-specific public performance. The project was recreated in 2008 in two locations in the Halle Germany for Theater Der Welt, it continues on in 2010 with creations for Austria and the United States. Eventually all the components of The People will be stitched together into a cross-cultural performance once the series reaches a natural conclusion.

13. The Company’s next group work was commissioned and premiered at the Vienna Festival in summer 2008, entitled SOS. Thinking about the nature of sacrifice in a hyper-acquisitive society, SOS is a frantically kinetic, linguistically dense, multiply-plotted performance installation action that takes place in a theatrical space for one hour. Since the dramaturgy of the piece involved the theme of celebration (and the company has no permanent residence or rehearsal space), the group began in Glasslands Brooklyn with an open-rehearsal-art-party in which the ensemble performed/rehearsed during the course of the evening. The Actions event grew itself into an independent performance-celebration which the company presented in Nuits Blanches in Montreal in collaboration with NY-based Spank DJ crew.

14. 2010 and 2011 hope to be busy periods for the company. In April 2010 the company will install itself in Abrons Arts Center in New York in three spaces, for three different aspects of its practice: a group piece, a performance installation, and a performance-on-video work. The group piece entitled Flesh Tone will be shown in its first incarnation, revisiting the RTF technique. Additionally, Caden and Jemma are completing a new commission for European Cultural Capital 2011 which will take place in three countries in Northern Europe (Estonia, Finland and Russia) in the Reality-Based Theatre line of investigation. The Cinema Fury and Dead Set series remain ongoing, the Company has launched a prototype for a new media outlet which will continue to develop (not yet officially announced), and touring and publication continues.

Information on the new shows and tickets here

April 15-18, 2010

THE SLEEP in the Experimental (NYC Premiere)
April 15-18, 2010 at 7:00pm
$15
The Sleep mixes early cinema techniques, magic lantern, concept album and Big Art Group’s Real Time Film technique into a live see-though movie adapted from M. P. Shiel’s 1901 story, “The Purple Cloud,” in which a lone explorer races to the North Pole while a poison purple cloud covers the earth. His subsequent return to the remnants of civilization drives him into a crisis of being, in a classic “last man” adventure that eerily presages catastrophic climate change. Live music by Theo Kogan, Sean Pierce, and Jemma Nelson.

FLESH TONE in the Playhouse (Preview)
April 15-18, 2010 at 8:30pm
$15

Big Art Group’s new project Flesh Tone is told through hybrid, hallucinatory storytelling influenced by steely Hollywood thrillers and filtered though the company’s breathtaking mediated performance techniques, Real Time Film and Green Screen Performance. A character-driven critique of the American way of looking at the world, Flesh Tone turns the visual economy of the US into an acid bath of self-exposure. Confronting social issues of economic and environmental degradation, a war-scarred national psyche, and transformed bodies, Flesh Tone queries Image-America about a possible path to reconciliation with its own transmogrified reflection. This live performance spans cinema, visual art, and spectacle in an utterly unique, compelling event.

Ticket Info

OPENING NIGHT VIP TAKE OVER
Package covers admission to see both The Sleep (7:00pm) and Flesh Tone (8:30pm) on opening night, April 15. VIPs receive a Big Art Group gift bag, an invitation to the after-performance toast with the company, and free admission to the after party at the Delancey Bar, 168 Delancey Street.
$100 https://www.ovationtix.com/trs/store/209

TAKE OVER
package discounts the admission to see both The Sleep (7:00pm) and Flesh Tone (8:30pm).
$25 https://www.ovationtix.com/trs/store/209

THE SLEEP at 7:30pm
$15 https://www.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/209/1270143547097/prm/

FLESH TONE at 8:30pm
$15 https://www.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/209/1270143547097/prm/

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3 comments

  1. […] Spank Zine Hugely talented artists and frequent Spank collaborators Big Art Group are staging a TAKE OVER of Abrons Art Center in Lower Manhattan to celebrate their 10th Anniversary with two shows and two video installations.  We got director Caden Manson to give us a run down of some of the best moments of the last ten years. Don’t miss this chance to see their shows this Thursday April 15th through Saturday April 18th at Abron Arts Center, ticket details at the end of this post. read more… […]


  2. […] Spank Zine Hugely talented artists and frequent Spank collaborators Big Art Group are staging a TAKE OVER of Abrons Art Center in Lower Manhattan to celebrate their 10th Anniversary with two shows and two video installations. We got director Caden Manson to give us a run down of some of the best moments of the last ten years. Don’t miss this chance to see their shows this Thursday April 15th through Saturday April 18th at Abron Arts Center, ticket details at the end of this post. read more… […]


  3. […] “Le mammole” y conocimos a un interesantísimo y super moderno grupo newyorkino que se llama The big art Group en una obra trepidante titulada SOS. El programa prometía pero resultó ser aún más gratificante […]



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