Image credits: Catherine Sullivan, Still from multi-channel installation Triangle of Need, 2007. Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Catherine Bastide, Brussels, and Metro Pictures, New York.
CONGRATULATIONS TO Wednesday freebie winner ERIC A.!
1) Name one of the three organizations that co-commissioned Triangle of Need (2007).
A Foundation, Liverpool; Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
More information on Catherine Sullivan after the jump!
Catherine Sullivan (American, born 1968) cross-pollinates theater with dance and film to achieve a hybrid art. Trained as an actress, in the late 1990s Sullivan began to create elaborate multi-channel video installations (some of which have also been presented as live theatrical performances). She develops these works through a rigorous process that includes extensive research, improvisatory experimentation, and multi-tiered collaboration. Stylistic characteristics include lush production values; long, slow shots that track action over an extended period of time; the performers’ use of stylized gestures that suggest attitudes or emotions rather than a conventional portrayal of character; and densely layered scores that combine music, speech, and silence. Many of Sullivan’s prior works have used sources such as texts, films, and plays as points of departure. She also incorporates the histories and symbolic potential embedded within the places in which she films. In works such as Triangle of Need, Sullivan choreographs these elements, but does not attempt to make them into a seamless whole. Instead, she generates meaning through the carefully orchestrated collision of disparate places, activities, and ideas.
A member of the University of Chicago faculty, Sullivan taught a practicum course on adaptation in fall 2007. She collaborated with her students to form a new collective called ARTV 24103.
Triangle of Need
Multiple storylines, characters, sites, and sources intersect, overlap, and collide across three screens that present footage filmed in two contrasting sites. The opulent Vizcaya estate in Miami was built in the early 1900s by International Harvester founder James Deering; Sullivan has described the home (now a museum) as “a primal scene in the evolution of concentrated wealth in America.” Deering’s factory was located in Chicago, so Sullivan also set Triangle of Need in a working class Chicago apartment building that was built in the same period as Vizcaya. The performers appear in each site as if in one another’s dreams, acting out narratives that fail to reconcile themselves in either setting. A fourth, smaller screen provides a graceful counterpoint: black-and-white footage of figure skater Rohene Ward alternates with grainy color images of girls celebrating their fifteenth birthdays (quinceñera) in Vizcaya’s gardens.
Unlike the other artists in Adaptation, Sullivan has culled one of her central sources from a mundane aspect of our current culture rather than from classic works of the past. Triangle of Need draws on a ubiquitous type of e-mail scam. In imperfect yet formal English, the supposedly African writer exhorts the reader to join in a business transaction that will yield riches for both parties. In the e-mail that Sullivan used as a source for Triangle of Need, a man calling himself Dr. Patrick Obi invites the reader to stand in as next of kin for a recently deceased man named Harold Bowen. If the reader provides personal information and pays a fee in advance, he/she will receive a portion of Bowen’s estate. One narrative line within Triangle of Need imagines a series of conflicted interactions among Obi, Bowen, and a character named Next of Kin.
Another storyline follows a trio of Neanderthals (long-extinct proto-humans). Sullivan invented a story in which the last three Neanderthals are brought to Vizcaya for a breeding experiment. The three are manipulated and observed by several other characters, a process that raises questions about the nature of the primitive, the civilized, even the human. These themes are reinforced and extended by composer Sean Griffin and choreographer Dylan Skybrook. In addition to scoring the work, Griffin invented a language based on research into Neanderthal speech; his half-sung language is spoken throughout Triangle of Need with the exception of a few English phrases. Similarly, Skybrook rooted his choreography in scientific and cultural views of Neanderthals as well as his research into representations of the grotesque within contemporary dance. (In another layer of collaboration, Kunle Afolayan, a director of Nigerian melodramas, filmed some of the Vizcaya scenes.)
Sullivan also derived characters from the catalogue of Pathéscope, a film company from which Deering rented films to screen at Vizcaya. These include Eulalie, a gypsy girl who has fallen into everlasting sleep, and historical figures like Napoleon Bonaparte.
Emmalyn Gennis, Laura Heldt, Daniel Huddle, Natasha Long, Joseph Miller, Jason Pallas, Jeremy Pelt, Casey Smallwood, and Clay Smith
“ARTV 24103 is the name given to the collective of students who participated in the University of Chicago course Practicum on Adaptation. The work they produced involves a series of sources chosen by the students as items worthy of reflection via adaptation. There were no criteria for the form of the sources: any kind of cultural object could be chosen. Each student selected a source and throughout the quarter researched its history and context and developed language about its compelling attributes. Speculative proposals were generated for the sources and resulted in potential forms of adaptation such as installation, board games, sculptures, and performances. The students then projected the attributes of the sources onto one another, further speculating on unexpected ways in which new meaning could be unpacked from their sources. In the final stages of the course, students agreed that the final collective form for the exhibition would be a video work, and developed scripts and instructions which involved characters, narratives, attributes, motifs drawn from the development of all of the sources. The final work is written, produced, and directed by the group and demonstrates both collective and individual interests adapting to one another through collaboration, as well an approach to content in which relationships emerge as ideas are immersed in one another rather than being subject to a thematic unity.” —Catherine Sullivan