Supporting creative work by women
Women Center Stage, Culture Project’s month-long celebration of women-created theater, tasked 13 female directors to create 15-minute pieces to answer the following questions: How does economy affect art and artists: are we entirely dependent on the generosity of the wealthy, or does art thrive in times of economic depression? Can we do more with less, or is less just less?
Chloë Bass (pictured left), one of the selected directors, is an artist and community activist. A graduate of Yale University with an MFA in Performance and Interactive Media Arts (PIMA) from Brooklyn College, Chloë has extensive conventional theater training, but she is most interested in interdisciplinary performance that bridges the worlds of theater and visual arts. “Although my background is in fairly traditional theatrical practice, in the past few years I’ve become a little frustrated by the limitations of the audience-performance experience,” she says. “Physically, intellectually, and emotionally, it feels stagnant, no matter how challenging or fascinating the material of the play may be. I think environmental and site specific theater pieces do something to address this stagnation.”
For the Women Center Stage commission, Chloë will present The Bank of the Bureau of Self-Recognition, an interactive, conceptual piece that breaks the traditional theatrical mold. It is an installation of a larger project, The Bureau of Self-Recognition, which is designed to track the progress of self-recognition and its myriad of outcomes through individual exercises, spacial investigations, video and audio recordings, lectures and experiential performance.
Audience members may simply observe the project. Or, if they are a bit more daring, they are encouraged to participate by approaching the “tellers” at The Bank of Bureau of Self Recognition, a beautifully rendered structure designed by Mitch McEwen, A.Conglomerate/7884 Projects (pictured below). Once at a window, audience members aka clients and the tellers engage in a discussion about the economy, their roles in it and how to give back to oneself. In other words, something more important than money will be exchanged: a commitment by clients to take care of themselves in some fundamental way.
Audience members shouldn’t be nervous about participating in such a thought-provoking project. “I think that because the structure of this piece is based on interaction, really just asking people to engage in a relationship that we think is normal (bank-client), anyone can take part in it,” enumerates Chloë. “You don’t need to have an interest in the arts to want to have a discussion about economy.”
Chloë’s inspiration came from the alternative banking system, eflux’s time/bank project, which bills itself as “a platform where groups and individuals can pool and trade time and skills, bypassing money as a measure of value.”
“I wanted to take that in a slightly different direction: offer people opportunities to assess their net worth and make commitments to doing things for themselves,” she says. “I’ve also been paying close attention to my interaction both with real-world bank tellers and with online or phone banking I’ve done a lot more banking than usual in the name of research. I find the client-bank relationship to actually be fascinatingly bizarre. It’s very intimate, while also being completely impersonal. I think that we learn a lot about ourselves in these weird moments, but rarely if ever take the time to dissect them.”
With a project like this, audience participation is key. Is Chloë nervous about its outcome? “The not-knowing is a little bit scary, but it also leaves open the potential of tiny, fascinating things to happen all over. I want to trust my audience as a collaborator, and I hope that trust excites them. “
The Bureau of Self-Recognition is a year-long project that will open as an exhibit at Momenta Art in May 2013. You may learn more about the larger project at its web site. To participate remotely, contact email@example.com. Start by answering “What is your net worth?” You may interpret this however you like.
Directors Weekend occurs March 10th and 11th as part of Women Center Stage at the Living Theatre . For more information, visit Women Center Stage’s web site.