HYDE PARK — A local dance company is celebrating its 20th year with an exhibition and performances created with other Chicago artists, as the dancers express and define four “tools” that unite them with their collaborators.
The Seldoms‘ Toolbox @ Twenty exhibition opens this weekend at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave., and runs through Nov. 13.
Four dancers with The Seldoms were paired with artists of different disciplines to explore how they each use a certain tool — “bowerbirding,” splicing, masking and knotting — in their respective works.
The exhibition debuts Saturday with performances of all four dances at 1:30 p.m. and again at 3 p.m.
Four more performances, followed by conversations between pairs of creators, will be held at the art center during the exhibition.
- Choreographer Carrie Hanson and multidisciplinary artist Edra Soto will talk about bowerbirding, named after the male bowerbird who decorates his nest with found materials to attract females, at 6 p.m. Oct. 6.
- Dancemaker Damon Green and multidisciplinary artist Sadie Woods will discuss splicing, or combining sources to layer or underscore their meaning, at 1 p.m. Oct. 15.
- Dancemaker Maggie Vannucci and visual artist Jackie Kazarian will chat about masking, or using a material to cover up part of a painting before removing the material, at 6 p.m. Oct. 20. Composer Sima Cunningham will perform live for this event.
- Dancemaker Sarah Gonsiorowski and fiber artist Jacqueline Surdell will reflect on knotting, or “repetitive patterning that tightens as similar loops accumulate over time,” at 6 p.m. Nov. 3.
“This year, The Seldoms celebrates 20 years, and one of the key features of our group is we’ve worked a lot with visual artists,” said Hanson, the company’s artistic director.
“[For Toolbox @ Twenty] the dance artist invited a visual or sound artist to talk about their practice — how they make and what things are important to them. We’re seeking a single word that feels essential to their practice and something we feel that we can translate physically.”
This fall’s exhibition is the latest manifestation of the Seldoms’ Toolbox project, which since 2017 has explored “new and interesting ways of moving” while encouraging conversations between artists of different disciplines, Hanson said.
Toolbox @ Twenty “is the most public presentation of the Toolbox platform” so far, as it’s mainly been used in a classroom setting, she said.
Dance students in those classes have even taken the concept outside the art world to explore tools shared with elevator repair workers or Mongolian sheep herders, Hanson said.
“The idea is that dancemakers and artists in general can find something both intriguing and useful” in discussing techniques with others, Hanson said. “What do you do and how do you do it — that’s really what the base of this is.”
In painting, the painter Kazarian’s technique of masking leads to a “visual shift with surprising and clean edges, so you’re not sure what’s forward and what’s backward,” she said.
Vannucci developed her interpretation of this technique by spending time choreographing in Kazarian’s studio.
The collaboration with dancers — whose movement demands a viewer’s attention — pushed the visual and sound artists to bring equally “demanding” pieces to the exhibition, Kazarian said.
“Live music, live action and even text is really hard to compete with as a painter, but I think my paintings — and these paintings in particular — are able to hang and actually interrelate with the dances,” Kazarian said.
Woods — an artist, DJ and curator who explores “splicing” with Seldoms dancer Green — said the duo’s pairing of sound and dance is “a natural marriage of mediums.”
Two of Woods’ pieces are featured for the exhibition. Her mixtape “The People’s Radio” — which puts speeches by Fred Hampton, popular songs by Curtis Mayfield and the Supremes, Black oral histories and more in conversation each other — is featured in the Hyde Park Art Center’s gallery through November.
The latest version of Woods’ ongoing project “A Meditation on Civil Rights,” which uses audio from sources such as James Baldwin and the Last Poets, soundtracks Green’s original dance “DisKontinue” for the five live performances at the center.
“Concepts around the ’60s — and social movements specifically — is what brought us together,” Woods said. “Damon created everything on his own; it’s his creative expression. What I have is my creative expression, and we came together on similar tropes.”
The pair’s collaborative work for the exhibition splices together timeless music, words and movements. The concept of sharing tools across practices should resonate with viewers, even for those without a formal background in art, Woods said.
“I would hope that the work inspires conversations and dialogue” around civil rights, power and liberation, Woods said. “It’s been a long part of my artistic journey to explore social and historical subjects and seeing how that connects people through music, through art, through lived experiences.
“It’s about understanding that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon — it’s a lifetime of working through a lot of these issues. I’m just looking to move forward through the work.”
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