Nameless forest dean moss sungmyung chun
For the performers, the collaborators, our guests, and supporters
Nameless forest Choreographed and Directed by Dean Moss in collaboration with Sungmyung Chun Performed by Kacie Chang, Eric Conroe, Aaron Hodges, Pedro Jimenez, DJ McDonald, Sari Nordman Original Music by Stephen Vitiello in collaboration with Patrick DeWit (drums) & Pauline Oliveros (accordion) Audio diary, recordings and photo images by Michael Kamber Original song by Aaron Hodges Costume Design and Construction by Roxana Ramseur Neon sculpture by Gandalf Gavan Lighting Design and Technical Direction by Vincent Vigilante Production Coordinator (Korea): Hyangsuk Choi Set Design by Sungmyung Chun and Dean Moss Set Construction by Vincent Vigilante with Gandalf Gavan and Dean Moss Co-produced by Gametophyte, Inc. and MAPP International Productions
Lecture at ASU
photo credit: Tim Trumble
Residencies & Performances 2009 November 1December 2
Residency at Arizona State University, School of Dance, Herberger Institute for Design and Art, Tempe AZ
2010 August 23-28 September 16-26 Novermber 9-21
Residency at The Kitchen, New York, NY Residency through ASU Gammage and ASU School of Dance, Tempe AZ Residency at the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, Tallahassee, FL
2011 March 21Residency and Preview Performances at World Performance Project April 3 at Yale University, New Haven CT May 19-28 Premiere Performances at The Kitchen, New York, NY September 3-4 Performance of Nameless forest at The Bitgoeul Citizen Cultural Center !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Gwangju, Korea 2012 January 19-21 April 5-6
Performances at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA Performances at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland College Park, MD
Table of Contents 7
Be With Me by Abbe Schriber
Performance with perspectives by Kacie Chang
Interview: Moss and Chun by Amy Rosenblum
Thoughts and Considerations by Dean Moss
From the Swallowing the Shadow Exhibition 2008: work and photo by Sungmyung Chun 6
Be With Me: The Revelatory Work of Dean Moss by Abbe Schriber,
Program Associate at The Studio Museum in Harlem Orginially appeared in the 2011 Summer/Fall issue of Studio Magazine, published by The Studio Museum in Harlem
A sense of becomi ng , or metamorphosis, permeates the work of artist/choreographer/curator Dean Moss. As an attendee to one of Moss’s i mmer si v e, multi di sci pli na r y performances, you might be selected to transition seamlessly (or awkwardly) from audience to performer, in a shift that is sure to forever alter your conceptions of the roles of each.! Moss is above all committed to his audience and trusts the intense emotional and aesthetic power of the ultimate surrender: of audience to the performers’ i nstructi ons. And conversely, Moss engages in a kind of surrender of his own, by allowing room for spontaneity and risking the di r ecti on of a n a r tw or k on participation and interaction. As audience contribution has been increasingly privileged by performance artists and art institutions, Moss’s work stands out as especially generous and powerfully about his viewers in a way that differs from most performance, which might use participation to further the ends of the artist. All of
Moss’s work displays a vested dedication to the contradictions and fragility of interpersonal connections— though his performances can be quite dark, they constantly work toward the possi bi li ti es of understandi ng, embodying, and ever really knowing another human being. !!! Over the last decade, in addition to becoming more concerned with the role of the audience, Moss has investigated collaboration as a conceptual conceit and creative process. Though he works closely with musicians, set designers, dancers, choreographers and writers, Moss’s collaborative efforts with visual artists in particular have proved to be especially fruitful starting points for the open exchange and reconfiguration of ideas, usually through a performative translation of the artist’s body of work. !!! !Moss’s first collaboration was the 2005 piece figures on a field with artist Laylah Ali (b. 1968), whose work is represented in the Studio Museum’s
permanent collection. figures on a field, like Moss’s collaborative performances since, translated the experience of the artwork to the stage, rather than the work itself. Based on Ali’s ongoing series of detailed gouache-on-paper paintings that depict flat, brightly co lo r ed cha r a ct er s ca lled “Greenheads,” fig ures on a field included a docent-led tour of the performance during the performance, rethinking the relationships between audience and performer, and audience and work. In addition, Moss used movements, gestures and props— dodgeballs, clothing, belts—that subtly referenced the suggested narratives in Ali’s paintings. Moss’s latest project, two years in the making, is a tour de force called Nameless forest that will have already debuted at The Kitchen in May 2011 by the time this article is published. Nameless forest expands and challenges the scale of collaboration and audience i nv olv ement found i n Moss’ s previously mentioned works, further
questioning the responsibilities of community and the individual in both art-making and society at large. It was created in conjunction with Korean sculptor, painter and installation artist Sungmyung Chun (b. 1970) after the two recognized shared elements and processes in their respective practices. Part sculpture and part installation, Chun’s dystopic mise-en-scènes are heavily influenced by theater and cinema, featuring a muted color palette and dramatic lighting. The figures, who wear striped shirts and whose faces are eerie clones of the artist’s, interlock in scenes of aggression and violence. In one work, a figure holds a knife against the throat of another figure (whose face mirrors his own). In another, a boy or man (it is not quite clear which) stands alone amid litter on the floor, a knife in his hand and a rag dripping with blue paint stuffed in his mouth. As he did with Ali in figures on a field, Moss renders, translates and distills the unnerving aesthetics and theatrical storytelling of Chun’s work into the environment of Nameless forest. The choreography generates movement that, though meticulously tailored to each performer’s role, is unrestrained and highly physical, convulsive and even violent, seeming to trace the unresolved storylines in Chun’s work. Through motion, Moss establishes
narrative in unconventional, fragmented ways, eschewing any linear expository structure—as he put it, dance is itself an “automatic narrative,” one that by default provides an “abstract story of personhood.”. Nameless forest is a collective enterprise on a larger scale than any of Moss’s previous works. In addition to the aesthetic collaboration with Chun, there are journal entries and depictions of war by photojournalist Michael Kamber, neon sculptures by artist Gandalf Gavan original music by sound artist Stephen Vitiello costuming by Roxana Ramseur and lighting by Vincent Vigilante. Then there are the performers, representing a wide variety of backgrounds, technical abilities and interests, and ranging in age from twenty-six to fiftyseven. Many of the movements are derived directly from their idiosyncrasies and individual responses to the choreography Moss —who does not appear in the piece— proposed. Again, Moss involves the audience, too, in a kind of ritual process of becoming that wavers between comfort and discomfort, intimacy and distance, stability and uncertainty. Discussing the piece, he invoked a quote by Andy Warhol that begins with the phrase, “being born is like being kidnapped.”
Though not quite a metaphor for birth, Nameless forest echoes the arbitrary, overwhelming reality of where and how we emerge into life, and how we then muddle through the isolation, pain, and crisis that weaves throughout it. Thus Moss describes the effect of the work on these participants as “a wounding and examination of the audience.” Up to twelve audience members are seated onstage and called upon to interact directly with the performers, while the remainder of the audience watches from the traditional, removed perspective. This separation creates two vastly different experiences of Nameless forest: a full immersion into the events unfolding onstage and a more distant, consumptive experience, in which we empathize with our fellow audience members from afar. The brilliance of Moss’s work lies partly in this emotional mixture of compassion and confusion we feel while watching the metamorphosis, as audience members engage in situations that are by turns awkward, unpleasant, intimate and instructive. “Be with me,” the performers whisper at one point to the audience participants, and no matter our level of spectatorship, we have no desire to do anything but—Moss’s work draws us in, invites us not just to be, but to become.
photo credit: Paula Court
On-stage audience with Kacie Chang and Aaron Hodges
photo credit: Paula Court
12 Kacie Chang, and Aaron Hodges - photo credit: Paula Court
Photo Credit: Paula Court
Kac ie Chang
a p e r f o r m e r â€™ s p e r s p e c ti v e
â€œ T he t hi ng about N am e l e s s f ore s t i s t hat i t t ot al l y c hange s t he j ob of be i ng a pe rf orm e r. U s ual l y you re he ars e and re he ars e , s o you don' t have t o t hi nk and w ork t hrough proc e s s w he n you' re pe rform i ng. Co- c re at i ng a pi e c e w i t h t he audi e nc e re qui re s a ve ry di f f e re nt l e ve l of aw are ne s s and c ri t i c al t hi nk i ng at e ve ry s t age . For t he pi e c e t o w ork , w e have t o gi ve up s om e c ont rol . T he re he ars al s have he l pe d us figure out how t o gi ve up t hat c ont rol i n a w ay t hat al l ow s us t o s af e l y and e f fe c t i ve l y m ak e t he pi e c e w i t h t he audi e nc e m e m be rs w e part ne r w i t h on s t age . T hrough a l ot of t ri al and e rror I have a good i de a of w hat t o l ook for and w hat t o avoi d ! pe rs onal i t i e s and e ne rgi e s t hat are n' t l i k e l y t o w ork , re l at i ons hi ps t hat c an be c om e a di s t rac t i on and c l ot hi ng t hat c an be c om e an i s s ue . ! It ' s pre t t y f raught and unf orgi vi ng. !S o, t he m i nut e t he audi e nc e s t art s t ri c k l i ng i nt o t he t he at e r, I' m e val uat i ng e ac h one and t rus t i ng m y j udgm e nt t o s e l e c t pe opl e w ho c an he l p us c re at e t he c re at i ve j ourne y w e w ant t o t ak e pe opl e on. T hat vi gi l anc e ne ve r goe s aw ay. â€?
photo credit: Paula Court
t-b: Hodges, Chang, Conroe, Nordman, and Jiménez - photo credit: Paula Court
l-r: Mcdonald, Conroe and Jiménez - photo credit: Paula Court
Audience Participants with Aaron Hodges - Photo Credit: Paula Court
Kacie Chang and Aaron Hodges - photo credit: Paula Court
Cast in the “castle” section - photo credit: Paula Court
Cast in the “dogs” section - photo credit: Paula Court
Audience Participents with Cast - Photo Credit: Paula Court 19
Audience Participant (kneeling) with Cast - photo credit: Julieta Cervantes Aaron Hodges (nude) and Audience Participant in Nameless forest
20 l-r: Conroe, JimĂŠnez and McDonald with masks - photo credit: Julieta Cervantes
Photo: ©Julieta Cervantes Eric Conroe, Pedro Jiménez and DJ McDonald in Nameless
Photo: ÂŠJulieta Cervantes Audience Participants and cast in Nameless forest
Kac ie Chang
a p e r f o r m e r ’ s p e r s p e c ti v e
“The first section has this true narrative based on the interior world that the sculptures create. Then we bring the outside world into it through this narrative and this irreverence, but in the end we bring our actual, true circumstances in.” “It’s another mirror of life. You can see your loved ones do harsh things and have a different reaction than if you see a stranger do something harsh on the street. It becomes heightened and more complex, and the onstage audience has a completely complex emotional relationship, truly, to what’s going on. They’re very involved; they have a shared responsibility with us.” “...the thing that I learned the most as a performer in this piece is that when you interact with the audience you have to be very firm; you can’t be nice, and you really have to adjust every bit of your energy to direct them. How do you get the response you want without asking for it? That’s my job. If they do something that’s not what we want, that’s my fault. So that calibration is really intense.” Excerpts from a 2011 Time Out NY interview by Gia Kourlas
Audience Participants and Cast in final tableaux - photo credit: Julieta Cervantes
Interview: Moss and Chun on Nameless forest by Amy Taylor Rosenblum,
Archivist, World Performance Project at Yale University Translation for Mr. Chun by Kee-Yoon Nahm The interview was conducted April 2, 2011 and is edited for clarity and space.
Rosenblum: The first thing that I wanted to discuss is that in the space of the theater there’s this presence of an ether ea l pea ce or suspensi on tha t per v a des t he t hea t er , but t ha t ’ s si m ult a neo usly pa i r ed w i t h t hi s incredible violence, and that violence seem s t o co m e bo t h f r o m t he atmosphere of the piece itself but also from within the bodies of the actors as they take their knees and thrust them into their chests and flail about on the floor uncontrollably. And so, I wanted to ask to what extent the violence is a self-perpetuated violence that comes from within the individual and to what extent it comes from the world that is creating this piece. Moss: I think you are very perceptive in finding the violence placed within the bodies, and within an interior world as opposed to an exterior world. What we try to do with this work is show an exterior world and give an alternative view to an interior kind of journey. The violence that both the piece (pauses)
the calmness of the work that reflects the calmness of walking through the gallery which reflects the cultural calmness, in my experience, of Korean sensibility. Not so much in the world, but a kind of sensibility where calmness, a little bit of d i st a nce, i s v a lu ed i n p er so na l r ela ti onshi ps. Tha t ca lmness, tha t peace, that material peace is put in juxtaposition with a kind of immersive visceral activity, and that activity deals with a kind of pain and a kind of violence of how[what] we do to ourselves through the activities in our work[lives]. Chun: Dean is absolutely right that there is the strong contrast that you see between the peacefulness and the violence and that they i nform each other, heighten each other, because they are placed side by side. As for the interior v i olence a nd t he pa i n becomi ng something that you can see on the outside, the four male dancers all wear similar striped shirts and rather than being four selves, they are actually four vari ati ons of the same self. They
represent how the self can take different aspects depending on what perspective. There is a great variation in age and race and it’s meant to expand the story of this one self to encompass a more universal scope. I think what I am more focused on when I see the piece are the scars and the pain inflicted on the self, rather than the violence. The violence is a process though which to unearth these scars that I think come from a journey to search for one’s true self. As far as the origin of the scars and the pain goes, I think that it is very much i nfluenced by ea ster n phi losophy , especially Buddhism, where they say that the entire Universe is contained in a small pebble and sort of to answer the question of why you have to search for your true self, why is that necessary, I think that this philosophy provides a kind of frame of thought where you take the smallest things and find the entire w o r ld t h r o u g h i t a n d i t ’ s t h i s perseverance, this continuous search that causes these scars.
Rosenblum: Speaking of those scars and that trauma, within the piece when you take the audience and make them a part of it, in one of the aural soundscapes, someone mumbles “pain means you’re alive” and someone responds “yeah yeah,”. Later I believe you said in the talkback, that trauma is a process towards self. I was curious to what extent, while bringing the audience into this world you are trying to make them aware of these scars or what it is, in this ritual, you are initiating them into? Chun: I thi nk for the onstage audience the focus is to have them participate in these circumstances, in this situation, we’ve created. And you see that these audience members that are put onstage and put in different poses get confused. Their gestures are very awkward, and that is as much a part of the choreography, the general choreography of the pi ece as the dancer s. In contrast, the audi ence members that are in the orchestra, their r o le a s o bser v er s i s much mo r e reinforced because of this split in the audience. M o ss: Yes, I a lso find tha t the audience’s role, or what we would like to bring to the audience, is their (pauses) this awareness, this awareness in loss and in
pain, the things that accumulate to form an idea of personhood, an idea of self awareness. When I’m happy, I’m oblivious and I think that’s true for many, many people. But give me a little pain, and I get all thoughtful and existential. So, I think on stage what we do in an immersive fashion and in a simulated fashion that is not as simulated as the audience expects, so they actually have these feelings… [for example] when the male performers enter the space and speak to the female participants who are sitting on the stage, and its very straightforward— they just want the women to get off the stage so they can do something that would be dangerous there–but they come to them and they say “Please, go away,” people react to that, without exception. All the women react to that, you see them be devastated, you see them have an expectati on j ust dropped, they thought that one thing was going to happen and something else entirely happens and the subtleness of that moment is what this work is about. The audience participant then thinks: What am I doing here? Why are they doing this to me? Why am I here? Why did I let that happen? And it’s exactly the thing you go through in your daily life, it’s exactly the thing that happens when the boyfriend you’ve been with for
whatever amount of time says, “I’m thinking maybe, is this working for us?” But this happens just like (snaps) that. It’s really interesting to me, that you can touch that, but also that it reflects back into your life and it’s a really immersive emotion that happens. So you have that feeling, a feeling that we make a little scar, it’s not on purpose, it’s not meanness, it’s just a kind of reminder to say, why are you here? And here in the much more larger way than the scope of the piece. We’re interested in the answer of that question in the much larger sense but for that moment it’s a little poke that begins the conversation of, why? So I think we’re both interested in how the little pains and setbacks in life culminate into existence, how they do that. We’re very interested in (pauses) I think Sungmyung depicts that moment, shows those wounds as talismans as totems on a journey, you know. So when you see his sculptures you see the cuts, you see the bruises, you see a picture of someone dragging themselves across the ground leaving a trail of blood, you hear sounds, you see these beings that look like dogs on the top of leg s sur r oundi ng a per son w ho’ s eviscerated. So you see the symbols of a process in his work. In this performance work, in Nameless forest we ask the
Dean Moss and Sungmyung Chun, Seoul Korea - photo credit: Kay Takeda
audience in, celebrating these symbols of our coming into self awareness and those sy mbols a r e pa i n, they a r e isolation, they are often both pain and isolation. In that there’s some humor, dark humor, but we’re interested in you sharing, coming with us into this ritual, a ritual that represents a journey that we all go through. Ro s en b lu m: So t hen, w i t h t hi s community, you spoke of abandonment a nd t her e a r e t hese communi t i es constantly being manufactured and then d i sso lv ed t hr o u g ho u t t he p i ece– particularly in the community on stage versus having that audience bank that is removed. Yet the audience that is removed cannot hear, cannot experience so much of what is going on on stage, those small little exchanges of “come with me” or “that’s really fucked up”. So how do you try to distance those
communi ti es v er sus esta bli sh these different narratives between the two communities and why is that crucial to you: to have audience on stage and also observing this liminal space? Chun: One of the things that we talked about in collaborating on the dev elo pm ent o f t hi s pi ece w a s t r a di t i o na l K o r ea n per f o r m a nce, k no w n a s Ma da ng N o r i , w hi ch translates into “farmer’s dance”. These performances would take place in a square, in the village square, or out in a field a nd t he a udi ence w ould si t complet ely sur r ounded by t he performers so you’d be able to see the performance from all angles. That had to be adjusted to bring it into a more theatrical space and that was one of the reasons why the audience members were split into these two clusters.
Another character that exists in my own work is not only the main character who wears the striped shirt and the little girl who is the guide through the journey, there’s also another character who’s a bird with human legs. This character exists in the forest and he’s a neutral observer. He doesn’t implicate himself in whatever is happening and he sort of watches from afar very inactive. Because there was nobody within the piece, within Nameless forest, that took on that role, the audience sitting away from the performance who were observing the action are given that role. Moss: So extending that, there became this fourth wall that was very strong. You have the audience on stage and this very immersive environment. You feel different there: it’s a white floor; there’s objects hanging in space; the performers are v ery close to y ou, si tti ng on y ou
almost and there’s a very closed feeling in that and then there’s the fourth wall and then there’s this watching group. Then the trick of the piece, the challenge for us and for the piece, is to end in such a way that this watching group is absorbed into the work. That’s the talking sequence. It begins with or rather when Kacie Chang comes out with a microphone and starts talking directly through that fourth wall to our seated audience. In Sungmyung’s work, the first act his character goes through is a journey that involves a number of things happening to that character: it is born or awakens i n a world that i t has no understanding of and is constantly reacting to the circumstance of that world. The first act that this character takes on for itself is to consume the watcher. In Sungmyung’s work there is a moment where the main character which features his face on a child’s body has its mouth full of blue bloodied feathers and on the wall are canvasses with the silhouettes of the bird cut out of them. So he’s
consumed the watchers as his first act of being. So this is, in a way, a way of bringing all of those audience members onto the stage and placing them and addressing t hem di r ect ly , i n a n a t t em pt t o metaphorically consume our audience. Our onstage audience is already consumed and we are now reaching out for you. Rosenblum: So in this sort of elliptical Korean space that you were talking about where you can see the performance from all vantage points, to what extent do you feel the piece embraces that and goes away from that, in that the audience, both involved and j ust obser v a ti ona l, ca nnot ha v e f ull knowledge? The performers themselves have this quality about them where you feel that they have complete control and knowledge, but in reality it’s really only the two of you being the observer that can see the full movement, who can see the 360 degree perspective. Particularly in viewing your sculptures, as Liz Son talked about in her
lecture – they are forty inches tall and that you literally have to bend down to see them and feel their pain and become implicated in that – how is the audience then allowed to see in all directions and yet simultaneously buffered away from that? Chun: The idea of using a traditional Korean space had to be adjusted to work with the given circumstances. At first I was a little disappointed and I did see it as a negative thing. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that it was central to the piece. Just as we can’t predict ten minutes into the future of our own lives, there is this sense that because you aren’t able to see what’s happening to you because you are in it, you aren’t given that vantage point of having the full picture, I think that’s where the repression and the pain and the scars in our own lives come from. In a sense I think it’s more truthful to life that you aren’t able to see everything.
l-r: Sungmyung Chun, Jae Ryung Noh (translator), Hyangsuk Choi, Seoul Korea - photo credit: Kay Takeda
Moss: I agree. I think that the piece relies on a sense of the unforeseeable difficult path. I think that all this encompassing view allows you to see is that this is a journey. That we are going on a journey and we are taking you and allowing you to see what is necessary for this journey to happen. That it’s necessary for you to go through these things, it’s almost inevitable, it’s unavoidable and unforeseeable. You go through life seeing yourself in the present and everything behind you, you cannot go into it seeing your future at the end. So there isn’t an attempt to give somebody a 360 degree view, there’s an attempt to give you something that is very small, the universe in that small touch in that small moment and something that has distance. You sit in the back of the audience and watch the patterns, watch the people move through the space, you see the set design and watch the video on the wall, you see all these things, but at the same time you are removed and you can only see what’s on stage as little indicators. Someone’s whispering what is that? I don’t know what that is. So that’s on a kind of theoretical level. On a more practical level, there now is this play of balance about the expectation of the audience coming to see something. You sit in the seats of the audience and you expect that things will be projected to you and you get really kind of bothered that they’re not – in this piece, they’re not. Now for us it becomes a balancing act. How do we balance the experience, in the next six weeks before we open at The Kitchen, how do we allow the people who are sitting in the audience
have a little more of an idea of what’s happening to the people on stage. Because the people on stage have a very rich and full experience right now and we need to share that a little more. Rosenblum: You mentioned the black masks in the end and the performers not being able to look forward but just look back. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about that movement and how that movement was generated. Moss: The movement actually comes from the fact that the performers can only see behind themselves. The masks have no eye holes so they can only see what’s behind them. So the unsteadiness of their progress was inspired by the activity of just finding their way. The actual activity of the choreography is based on a section of the work where the performers move in the very rough style, running around the main character. It’s minimized, you’re looking at nude bodies and I don’t want to spoil the power of that. I’m not interested in making it funny: if you have them jumping up and down and their penises are flapping around it becomes a kind of humor. So I’m interested in you understanding their vulnerability and I want you to have to look at them. I want to bring them down front and I want you to look at their bodies, look at this thing that is moving softly where they’re pressing against each other and you become really aware of their flesh. You don’t have to
look at their faces, they can only see you in reflection when they turn away from the audience and you can see in the reflection of their eyes, their eyes looking at you. But you don’t have to be faced with their face, their gaze at you looking, at you looking at their nakedness, which actually allows you to look at them, really look at them and their bodies, and understand that vulnerability but also understand the tactile-ness of their flesh against flesh, against other flesh and understand that that’s part of life too. You may be blind and only able to see behind you about your life but you also have this real tactile present moment and so that’s where the movement comes from, that’s why it’s as tight as it is, that’s why it comes downstage and center. Ther e’ s some a mount of nudi ty i n Sungmyung’s sculptures, but the treatment of nudity in this has to take advantage of the fact that these are live beings. So I push the nudity, I don’t just have the nudity as forms but I have the nudity be a metaphor for the general idea about life which he also has, but I think in his sculptures it signifies a different thing. With live people, it has a different force behind it. Chun: I really think that the nudity is necessary in this piece because it’s all about the body itself and that’s where all the marks of violence and pain emerge. It’s on the body. This piece really gives you an opportunity to see the body disassociated from everything else, just as itself.
Choi and Chun using garbage bags to create volumes in space - photo credit: dean moss
â€œVinnyâ€? Vigilante with the bonded foam insulation and wonderflex material he invented to build the set - photo credit: dean moss
Garbage bag volumes for set design mock-up at ASU - photo credit: dean moss
Photoshop rendering of set design (2009) - image credit: Hyangsuk Choi
Gandalf Gavan bonding sheets of wonderflex - photo credit: dean moss
Vincent Vigilante with wonderflex â€œskinâ€? of torso set piece - photo credit: dean moss
Vincent Vigilante and Gandlf Gavรกn with torso set piece - photo credit: dean moss
Gandalf Gavรกn installing the neon sculpture at The Kitchen - photo credit: dean moss
Roxana Ramsuer designing stripes for costumes - photo credit: dean moss
Sari Nordman and cast testing set design at The Kitchen (2010) - photo credit: dean moss
Torso set piece hung for first time in ASU/Galvin Theater - photo credit: dean moss
Sungmyung Chun (Co-Director)
received his BFA and MFA from Suwon University in Korea. His seventh solo exhibition!Swallowing the Shadow,!was held at TouchART Gallery in Heyri Art Valley, Paju, Korea. Chun participated in ARCO 2007, Art Rotterdam 2007, Busan Biennale 2006 and Gwangju Biennale 2000 as well as various group exhibitions worldwide including in Italy, France, Israel, Spain, and China. He is the recipient of the grand prize at the Kim Sejoonj Young Sculptor Awards and the third prize at the 2007 Micro-Narratives, October Salon, in Belgrade, Serbia. Chun's works can be found in the collections of MusĂŠe d'art Contemporain de MontrĂŠal, Canada and Gyeonggido Museum of Art, Ansan, Korea. He lectures in the College of Fine Arts, Kyunghee University and Chugye University for the Arts. A book of Swallowing the Shadow!was published by TouchArt in 2008.
Kacie Chang (Performer)
has worked with Dean Moss for the past 15 years and was Rehearsal Assistant for!Nameless forest.!She has taught performance workshops at Yale University, Elm City Dance Collective, Dancing Dialogue, and Florida State University. Her!choreography has!been presented in New York by Dances for Wave Hill, New Steps, and BAX.!As a performer, she has danced with Risa Jaroslow, Poppo and the Gogo Boys, Nai-Ni Chen, Wendy Blum, the Butoh Rockettes and Richard Move.!
Hyangsuk Choi (Project Coordinator - Korea)
was born in 1978 in Seoul, Korea. She holds a BFA in Sculpture from Suwon Universty and a MFA from the Graduate School of Media and Cultural Studies of Sungkonghoe University. She was a commercial photographer for five years and managed the atelier Space Chunsungmyungin, eventually becoming an assistant to Sungmyung Chun. Currently Choi works as a freelance art director and concept artist: managing creative events, rendering images for independent cultural projects and designing innovative art books.
Eric Conroe (Performer)
is a Brooklyn-based dancer, choreographer and poet, educated in Dance and Literature at Bennington College in Vermont. Recently, he has presented his choreographic work at St. Mark's Church, the Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and through Movement Research and AUNTS. His writing has appeared in The American Drivel Review, danceinsider.com, and elsewhere.
Gandalf Gaván (Neon Sculpture)
works in diverse media including blown and slumped glass, and creates drawings and large-scale installations that explore contemporary social themes. Gaván was born in Berlin, Germany in 1975. He received his BFA from Bard College in 1998, and his MFA from Columbia University in 2005. He has taught printmaking and sculpture at Columbia University. In 2005 he received the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant and in 2006 the Mortimer Frank Traveling Fellowship.
Aaron Hodges (Performer)
grew up in an Army family that moved about in the southern states. He is a 2006 Circle in the Square Theater School graduate. He has performed, written or designed sound for various original works, with friends, at The Chocolate Factory, Chashama, Ontological-Hysteric Theater, The Public Theater, The Players Theater, Brick Theater, and Brooklyn Arts Exchange. His band, Holy Spirits, records and performs in NYC and around the U.S.
Pedro Jiménez (Performer)
has been increasingly driven from some earlier expressions remembered, such as neighborhood sports, playground games, Man Hunt, water balloon fights, the Mickey Mouse Club, Living in South Florida, Michael Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr., and getting arrested and put into jail at age 16 for using his school Metro Card on a non-school day. Pedro recently has worked with Tino Sehgal, Arthur Aviles, Claire Barratt, Noemie Lafrance, Mei-Yin Ng, Richard Rivera, and Michael Leleux.
Mike Kamber (Audio Diary and Photo Imagery)
was born in Maine in 1963. He attended Parsons School of Design and has worked as a freelance photojournalist and journalist since 1986. He has covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Liberia, the Sudan, Côte d'Ivoire, Somalia, Haiti, Israel, the Congo and other countries. The Village Voice nominated Kamber for a Pulitzer Prize in 2001. Currently he is the Founder and Executive Director of The Bronx Documentary Center. (www.bronxdoc.org)
MAPP International Productions (Co-Producer)
Co-directed by veteran arts producers and managers, Ann Rosenthal and Cathy Zimmerman, MAPP has developed 30 multidisciplinary projects, produced over 60 multi-city tours with artists from the U.S. and 23 countries in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and the Caribbean. MAPP is a co-founder and general manager of The Africa Contemporary Arts Consortium and The America Project. Information about MAPP’s current artist and community projects is available at mappinternational.org
DJ McDonald (Performer)
headed his own professional modern dance and theater company for 15 years and was one of seven American choreographers chosen by the American Dance Festival to tour France as part of the first Franco-American young choreographers’ exchange. He has appeared with the dance companies of Andrew DeGroat, Jeanie Hutchins, Yoshiko Chuma, Pina Bausch, David Dorfman, and Mikhail Baryshnikov (White Oak). He now writes and hosts culture commentary on the blog City Of Glass and at Culturebot.
Sari Nordman (Performer)
has shown work most recently at BAAD!, BAX, Columbia University, DraftWork at Danspace Project and Movement Research at the Judson Church. Working as a dancer with choreographers Douglas Dunn, Dean Moss, Susan Rethorst and Melinda Ring has influenced her own dance-making. She is a recent recipient of American Scandinavian Society’s cultural grant. She holds an MFA in modern dance from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts.
Roxana Ramseur (Costumes)
is a Henry Hewes nominated Local USA829 Costume Designer and craftsman.! She has been designing and building costumes for new theater and dance since 1996. Upcoming and past collaborations include: Young Jean Lee's Theater Co. (Untitled Feminist Multi-Media Show, Lear, The Shipment), Brian Books Moving Co. (Piñata, again again), Sara Juli (The Money Conversation), Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble, Messenger Theater Co., Black Moon Theatre Co., Ariel Dance Theater.
Vincent Vigilante (Lighting and Technical Design)
is a SUNY New Paltz graduate with a BA in Theater Performance and Technology. He has been working in the New York dance and theater scene for the past five years. Currently living in Brooklyn and running his own lighting design company, Vigilante Design, Vincent is the Lighting Supervisor for Dance Theater Workshop, as well as a founding member and Production Manager of The Clockwork Theatre. He is the resident designer for Gallim Dance.
Stephen Vitiello (Composer)
an electronic musician and sound artist, has composed music for independent films, experimental video projects and art installations, collaborating with artists, musicians and choreographers including Julie Mehretu, Jem Cohen, John Jasperse/ White Oak Dance Project, Pauline Oliveros, Tony Oursler, Steve Roden, Eder Santos, and Nam June Paik. He has received several awards for his work including a 2006 Creative Capital Emerging Fields, and Innovative Literature Award.
Partners Lead commissioning support for Nameless forest has been provided by The Kitchen, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at University of Maryland. Nameless forest has been developed in part during two creative residencies at Arizona State University; a residency at The Kitchen; a residency provided by Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at The Florida State University, and a World Performance Project residency at Yale University. Nameless forest has received generous support from The New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Boeing Company Charitable Trust; The MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; The Asian Art Theater’s Project Development Initiative funded by The Office for Hub City of Asian Culture in the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. The participation of Sungmyung Chun is made possible in part with support from the Korea Foundation. Nameless forest is generously supported by the following individuals: Wolhee Choe, Lili Chopra, Paulette Demers, Alan Gilbert, Mark Giglio, Mike Glier, Mildred “Dicky” Graff, Roberta Graff, Henry Hom, Michelle Lippitt, Carleen Sheehan, Melissa and Robert Soros, and Christina Yang. Gametophyte Inc. gratefully acknowledges the continuing support of its Board Members - Charlotte Mendelaar and Marya Warshaw. We are also grateful for the formation of “Friends of Gametophyte” (FOG) by Christina Yang and Christopher Warnick. Gametophyte Inc. also thanks the following individuals for their varied and important support: Mark Ammerman, John Bowe, Jennifer Calienes, Billy Clark, Emily Coates, Simon Dove, Anna Glass, Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, Ralph Lemon, Eunhee Lee, Young Jean Lee, Arial Lembeck, Joshua Lubin-Levy, Angela Mattox, Cassie Mey, Sarah Michelson, Kee Yoon Nahm, Sunny Oh, Amy Rosenblum, Abbe Schriber, Debra Singer, Susan Sollins, Liz Son, Kay Takeda, Mia Yoo, and Gilly Youner. We deeply and sincerely thank the many audience participants that have, over the course of the production, been essential in the work’s development.
Thoughts and Considerations by Dean Moss On collaboration Nameless forest comes out of an idea not only to explore the work of Sungmyung Chun, but to question how artists’ individual mythologies and contrary identities contribute to society's sense of compassi on. As such, Nameless f o rest’ s most important collaboration is the one with its audience. Of course the primary aesthetic collaboration in the production of Nameless forest was between me and Sungmyung Chun. The performance was conceived as a response to and a meditation on the paintings and sculptural installations of Sungmyung Chun. I stumbled upon Sungmyung’s work randomly, while walking the streets of Seoul in the spring of 2007. Though focused on his recent exhibition, Swallowing the Shadow, Nameless forest references Sungmyung’s entire body of work. Sungmyung and I worked very closely together sharing our aesthetic processes and using that
Swallowing the Shadow exhibition at Sun Contemporary Gallery 42
knowledge to construct the performances. Over the two-year course of the production, Sungmyung made five trips to NYC and I made two trips to Seoul. Additional collaborators - Mike, Gandalf, Stephen, and Roxana - contributed specific elements and formed a more theatrically traditional relationship to the work. “Vinny” Vigilante’s contribution was particularly extensive because he was brought into the project at the beginning, invented a process for constructing the unusual set pieces, and determined the technical framework of Nameless forest. The performers are also deep collaborators on this project. Their individual abilities come from various forms of dance, acting, music and performance. In directing and choreographing the action, I most often initiated a movement exploration or scene development and then
Swallowing the Shadow exhibition 2008 at Touch Art Gallery
immediately stepped out to focus on the cast’s response. I then re-shaped and challenged what they made available. This way, the dancers embodied the movement material from the beginning. Though Nameless forest has at times the appearance of spontaneousness, the performance i s hi ghly choreographed: right down to the eyeballs. Cross culture, cross media Nameless forest as a contemporary performance project is the result of two artists from different cultures who are drawn together because they recognized elements of their own processes in each other’s practice. So Nameless forest is based on similarity as opposed to difference. Though neither Sungmyung nor I incorporate easily recognizable, culturally traditional activities in our practices, we each undeniably carry within us unique cultural backgrounds that are reflected in Nameless forest.
Moss, Gaván, Chun, Kamber and Vigilante at Gaván’s studio (2009)
Specific Korean elements include the onstage audience, which references Madang Nori, the traditional Korean folk performance in the round. The deliberately spacious pacing of the work, its subtle dramatics, gendered roles, the metaphor of the flowers and simple performance effects all reflect a Korean sensibility and cultural influence. My diversity in casting, the deep research in and use of the onstage audience, and the layering of stories – from Sungmyung’s internal narrative, through the photojournalist’s diary entries to the audience interviews – resonate as decidedly American strategies. Similarly, Nameless forest incorporates aesthetic concerns from both gallery and theater space. The large striped set pieces, the restrained palette and white flooring signal our shared interest in the
Sungmyung Chun directing cast - l-r: Jiménez, Conroe and Chang
visual tension created by volumes, colors and planes, as well as the dramatic tension of the performance. Sungmyung often describes his installations in terms of storytelling, and I have a long history of working in video imagery. The role of the audience The changing role of the audience in my performance work is based on two questions, “Where does the gesture in performance reside?” and “How can its experience be shaped in the mind of the viewer”. The attempt to answer these questions has gradually informed my practice to the point where the audience not only participates in the activities of the work, but have ultimately become the work itself.
was the 2005 work figures on a field, a collaboration with the visual artist Laylah Ali. In it I designed an intervention, as part of the choreography: a small docent-led group tour of the performance, during the performance. The intervention resulted in a complex visceral performance experience for the audience, challenging the relationship between the viewer and the work, regardless of whether one was part of the tour or not. Similarly in Kisaeng becomes you, a 2008 collaboration with Korean traditional dance choreographer Yoon Jin Kim, we recruited audience members for the title role of kisaeng (artist/courtesans of Korea’s Joseon dynasty). By charging audience members with the recitation of poems and the enactment of hosting rituals, the performance turned the audience into the very “other” that they had originally come to see.
My first experiment with formal audience participation
figures on a field cast with audience participant (right corner)
Kisaeng becomes you cast with audience participant (center) 43
“You in pain buddy?...” In Nameless forest the primary metaphor presented to the audience is that of a rite of passage, where the viewer is both the initiate and the community into which they are to be initiated. The performer’s activities then function to frame the audience’s experience of this transition by presenting the ceremonial (yet risky) journey through which the viewer must travel.
reflect on themselves and articulate the painful ways by which we form personhood, while simultaneously recognizing the compassion that individual vulnerability reveals in society.
The viewer’s perception of their transition is aided by the separation of the audience into two groups. The onstage group is composed of a limited number of viewers invited by the dancers to “join” the performance. The offstage group resembles a traditional audience in that they “witness” the proceedings, until the end when they are addressed directly by the onstage audience. This encounter between the two audiences acts like a mirror. It allows the viewers to
On violence During the last ten years, my work has gained a reputation for violent transgressive activities. Though much of my process does question accepted norms, I am also interested in the audience’s direct, complex emotional engagement. A technique used to accomplish both involves a “literalization” of metaphors. For example: the impact of a scene where a performer is confronted with their own image may be theatrically cliché. But complex readings can be renewed if the scene is of his being beaten literally with mirrored panels, as in the work american deluxe. Similarly when translating an image
Cast in workshop performance with students at ASU
A display of concerned for audience welfare at Yale
from visual media to live presence, I often explore the literalization of the surreal and the possible ramifications of it becoming human behavior: as in the hand-in-mouth sequences in both figures on a field and Kisaeng becomes you or the bloody trail in Nameless forest. This direct and sometimes harsh imagery in the work is used to help engage the audience in a deeply visceral, immersive fashion, forcing immediate unconscious involvement. On gender The norm of contemporary performance is gender neutrality. In Nameless forest the gender roles are quite distinct. Though it is not black and white, in general the male roles relate to meaning through enacting performance content while the female roles relate to it by re-shaping the context of those acts.
Untitled work by Chun, inspired the performance’s use of flowers
“That’s good! Pain means you’re alive... Right!?” - from Mike Kamber’s diary recordings
Originally this had to do with Sungmyung’s source imagery and the particulars of its narrative. But the gender di v i de i n the work also dev eloped independently of that source during its production. This is an indication of the changing relationship of the performers to the audience, both onstage and off, as the roles of the viewer in relation to the performers became more defined. In the end, the roles of the on and offstage audiences, the women, the men, correspond not only to particular elements of the source imagery, but also reflect the multiplicity of perspectives that shape the production and importanly the artists themselves. Finally, the play of gender in Nameless forest questions the particularly western notion that gender neutrality is synonymous with gender equality. - dean moss
Delicate and rough in the “castle” sequence
S tatement: My work is a way to see the world through the self, while incorporating multiple, possibly contradictory, modes of investigation (commonly called: “other people”). As an aesthetic it navigates issues of control, constructed identities, and the utility of pain in understanding the body and its environment. As a performance practice it employs interdisciplinary, often transcultural collaborations and examines the role and experience of its audiences. Not an exploration of movement invention, so much as a composition of precisely layered gestures and behaviors, it offers the viewer/participant an immersive journey through the contradictions and fragility of identity – a journey that extends to the work’s creation because the process of collaboration forces the same experience for the artists as for viewers: into seeing the world anew, unpredictably and even frightfully. It is the experience I seek with each new project.
Constant dialogue: on-stage rehearsal notes
Biog raphy: Dean Moss is a director, choreographer and media artist who, through his company Gametophyte Inc., questions aesthetics, identity, and transcultural experience in the guise of multidisciplinary collaborative performance works. His innovative audience participatory works have toured internationally. Moss was the Curator of Dance and Performance at The Kitchen from 1999-2004 and served as a Curatorial Advisor until 2009. He has taught as a Guest Professor at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music; as a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University; as a lecturer in the department of Theater Studies at Yale, and is currently a Visiting Professor in the graduate programs of Art, Dance, and Intermedia Studies, at Hunter College. The work, Nameless forest was nominated by the New York Dance and Performance Awards for Oustanding Production and Oustanding Sound Design.
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A trace of body from Nameless forest - photo credit: dean moss
Additional photo credits: Julieta Cervantes: bio photo on page 38 of Chang. Sungmyung Chun: photo (#2) on page 42. Paula Court: spreads on pages 4-5 and 10-11 bio photos on pages 38-40 of Conroe, Hodges, Jiménez, McDonald and Nordman. Emily Harney: photo (#3) on page 42. Dean Moss: cover photo; spread on pages 36-37; bio photos on pages 38-40 of Chun, Gaván, Kamber, Ramsuer and Vigilante; photo (#1) on page 42, photo (#1) on page 43, photo (#2) on page 44. Kay Takeda: bio photo on page 38 of Choi. Tim Trumble: photo (#1, #3) on page 44 and all photos page 45. Laura Vitale: bio photo page 40 of Vitiello. Book credits: Designed and edited by Dean Moss; produced by Gametophyte Inc. © 2011 Dean Moss/Gametophyte Inc. 383 Clinton St. Brooklyn NY, 11231. All rights reserved. For additional information contact: gametophyte.org or firstname.lastname@example.org 46