Interview and images (except where noted) by Molly Wilbanks.
If you are a photographer in Charlotte, you probably already know Troy Tomlinson, or at least know of him. There is the Flaming Chicken Studio, and their infamously great parties; there are the art swaps; the numerous large format cameras, one of which was just featured on the cover of Creative Loafing; the beautiful Wetplates that Troy creates; and then, there are the roosters.
Last week, I visited Troy in the warehouse studio he shares with several other photographers. I got a tour and asked him some questions. Troy is generous with his voluminous knowledge of photography, and I learned various details about Wetplate collodion processes, film techniques, and random photography tech stuffs, including how to turn an ice fishing tent into a sweet portable darkroom.
Molly Wilbanks: I know that you’re involved in a lot of photography projects, what are doing around town right now?
Troy Tomlinson: I help out at The Light Factory whenever they need something. With Biggs Camera we can donate a few things, just help get them back up and running. Lately, the project I’ve been working on the most is with volunteer rescue work for Carolina Waterfowl Rescue. I’ve been photographing a bunch of roosters that they have. It started out, basically, just to get the pictures out there for them, so that people could see and maybe adopt the roosters out, and then it grew to the point where people wanted to buy the prints online too.
MW: Is that to help the organization’s mission?
TT: Yes. There was a cock fighting ring down in South Carolina that was busted. They had 120 roosters there, and there were 60 people who were arrested for it. Now there are all these roosters and they have to find places for them. We’ve found homes for quite a few…
MW: What’s a day in the life of Flaming Chicken Studios like?
TT: Typically, we’re in here most weekends. I don’t know if there is a day-in-the-life. It’s whatever we feel like doing, it comes more organically, we just come in and start shooting. There are a total of seven of us, that share the space here. The Flaming Chicken Studio, that’s basically my name for the studio. There are six other people who share it on a monthly basis. Nobody needs a studio 24-7, especially something this size (6,000 square feet). We have a full darkroom… here I’ll show you around…
MW: It’s like a theater in here…
TT: I got the drapes and stuff when C.A.S.T., last year, had their yard sale…We have a full darkroom, mainly we do our wetplate stuff in here, I did some last night…
TT: This is the varnishing station for our wetplate work. It lasts pretty much forever, but since it’s a silver product, it will tarnish over time. A guy in Tennessee makes this varnish himself, just for wetplate…this ice fishing tent is what we use for our portable darkroom when we are doing the wetplate work.
MW: Is it made to be light tight?
TT: Not completely, but it’s made thick to keep out wind, it’s actually double-layer, and we sprayed it with Flex Seal, you go in and seal off the pinholes of light. It works pretty well.
MW: How long does it take to do one wetplate print?
TT: From start to finish, about 15-20 minutes. You got to take the plate out, sit your subject down, do your focus, your alignment, go back, pour the plate, let it sit in the silver for about three minutes, load it into the holder, come out and shoot it, then go back and process it. So, from the time you actually take the plate out of the silver to the time that you process it, it can only be about 15-20 minutes because it still has to be wet when you process it.
MW: Tell me about the art swaps.
TT: I posted on Facebook and said, ‘hey, anyone interested in coming to an art swap?’ That first night we had 60 total people. My biggest fear when I saw how many people wanted to come– I didn’t know a lot of the people coming– I didn’t want anyone’s feelings to be hurt, and that was my biggest concern, that someone was going to come and be like, ‘I’ll swap prints with you’, and the other person wouldn’t want to… but it was nice. That’s why I said, ‘if you have something that you think is worth a million dollars, don’t bring it!’
MW: Where did the name “Flaming Chicken” come from?
TT: My wife had a little chicken named Mr. Joy, as a therapy pet. I used to take pictures of him for a calendar we did, and for Christmas cards and such, and I had a couple to drink one night, and I was playing with a picture of Mr. Joy, and some flames that just happened to be on the computer screen at the time. I brought them together and thought, ‘What a great idea for a studio name!’ I brought my wife in and she was like, ‘That’s great!’
MW: The best of digital collage! So, what is your favorite camera to shoot with?
TT: Whatever one is with me at the time. I have many, I don’t shoot with one in particular. Right now, it’s the Kodak. I have a Rolleiflex that I shoot with quite a bit, also.
MW: Do you prefer digital or film? Stuck on a desert island, with all the darkroom amenities included, which would you choose?
TT: Probably film.
MW: Do you remember the first photo you ever took?
TT: Yes, I do. It was actually a picture of my dog Tigger. It was with a Kodak disc camera that I got when I was a kid.
Meet Rachelle Díaz, and her newest project, Rooms, a collection of fascinating digital collage artworks. Rachelle lives in Austin, TX, and her brain never seems to stop working– she is always working on a project, whether it’s an exploration of Ecclesiastes, hosting a group art show, or drawing found objects. If you like what you see, don’t hesitate to hire Rachelle to create your next graphic design.
Please keep reading for more on Rooms, in Rachelle’s own words:
“Rooms attempts to make the viewer feel as though they have walked in upon an intimate religious, conjuring, or worship ceremony that was suddenly interrupted. Vacant of human or otherwise beings, these eerie depictions raise questions regarding the objects in the scene. Rooms asks the viewer to examine their own doctrines, practices, and venues, only to realize they would appear equally mysterious, unsettling, even absurd, to someone unfamiliar with their beliefs.
I’ve used vintage and outmoded clip art in graphic design and art experiments ever since I discovered a few clip art CDs at my first design job about 10 years ago. On a slow day, I’d pore over the thick preview books full of thousands of tiny thumbnails on every type of subject, dating from the 1930s to the 1990s, and create simple collages out of my favorite images of the day (both images done in 2005).
A few years later: different job, same thing. I was studying the Furniture section of our office clip art book, and thought it’d be interesting to create stage-like settings with the furniture pieces. Dropping in a few Baroque chairs onto a white background in Adobe InDesign reminded me a lot of the floating, seemingly airless interiors in 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Man Who Fell To Earth. I then dropped in some wainscoting boxes filled with different backgrounds for a trompe l’oeil effect. They could be wallpaper panels or perhaps windows – you couldn’t tell – looking out on to completely different landscapes. I liked the result so much I made a note to come back and develop this concept further (the very first Room I did in 2012).
When I finally returned to the idea a couple of years later, I wanted to viewer to feel transported to these enclosed spaces in which they didn’t know whether the room was connected to another and another, what the room was used for, if you could ever leave the building, what the building was used for, what was outside of the building, and if you were waiting for someone or something to come in or if it had just left, or what had happened or what was going to happen. There you are, held in these spaces suspended by an unseen force.
After I finished the Rooms earlier this year, I began reading The End, a novel by Salvatore Scibona, just after I had finished the last one. The musty, sinister atmosphere of the book resonated with me, and the title of one of the chapters particularly caught my attention: “The Daughters Of Music Shall Be Brought Low.” I searched for the phrase on the internet and discovered it was from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. It’s a very short book written much later than the other books of the Old Testament, the writings of a teacher known as Qoheleth (the Hebrew book is synonymous – the name actually means “Gatherer” but is traditionally translated as “teacher” or “preacher”). Qoheleth discusses how the toils, fears and beliefs we place such great importance on while we’re alive are actually incredibly vain, because most of us are people whose stories will be forgotten by the time of our great-grandchildren, our names lost to history just a couple of generations after that. Yet he also edifies this as well, saying that as long as we recognize our own vanity, we might as well enjoy our short time on earth, do the best we can, and make sure to preserve any knowledge or material we do accumulate for future generations – not in the general sense of, “children are our future,” but specifically one’s own family, because that can determine their place in life for untold years to come, as well as your own influence lasting long after you die. That’s something I think about quite a lot – I’m somewhat of a genealogy nerd, and I’ve witnessed this in my own family. Plus, Ecclesiastes has such great poetic phrases, it all unexpectedly came together for this project. I don’t place a lot of importance on titles in my own work, so it was a serendipitous development for me.
A lot of my work somehow inadvertently deals with transience and death. I do lots of different kinds of projects till I feel I’ve explored idea as much as I need to, then I move on to something completely different.”
“The components of my paintings are similar to tombstones, erected to signify the absence of something. It’s that absence that allows them to be individuals, to be new and freshly encountered.”
“Written language is inflexible, it effectively crystallizes a concept by setting it permanently into words. In my work, I seek to reverse this process, to begin with language or specificity and drive it back into obscurity. This manifests as various sets of modular shapes, abstracted from written language, which can be manipulated in response to the environment of the painting. The only content left in these shapes is the vague recognition that they somehow resemble written language in their organization and interrelationships.”
“Working with collections of individual shapes inevitably led to ideas of separation and compartmentalization. The compartments I use are either filled with collections of shapes, or they are so complex that they’ve rejected those populations.”
“For me, abstraction is mainly the act of reducing the specificity of something so that it communicates its basic nature in a more universal way. When emptied of inherent meaning and specificity, there is a great deal of freedom in abstraction. The act of assigning meaning is a top-down and immobilizing process, which is something I aim to avoid for the most part.”
*Text by Roberta Gentry. All images copyright Roberta Gentry.
Interview and images (except where noted) by Molly Wilbanks.
Molly Wilbanks: Tell me about your self portraits. What are you working on now, and what do they mean to you?
Laurie Schorr: I am working on a variety of different projects. I have a bunch of old nautical maps from my dad, I work a lot with maps, I work a lot with the idea of navigation, and journey, the cross from one point to the next. I grew up navigating through the waters of Long Island Sound, into the Atlantic, and down into Florida, along the Keys. I’ve got all his old maps and they were really neat to receive in the mail, because they’re still all taped together with old Scotch tape, and they’ve got these little nicotine fingerprint stains. They evoke a lot of memories of being on the boat, those first moments of being really aware and receptive to different feelings that inspired me, as a young artist. I would always take my journal, and write on the bow- it as a big bow- we called it The Hurricane, it was a Hatteras. There was a bow at the front that was meant for harpooning fish- it was a charter fishing boat at one point. I would sit on the bow and write about the waves, and look down and see the seagulls. We would often sleep on the boat and wake up at sunrise and go up to the tower and watch the sun come up so, there are a lot of special, young memories that fuel inspiration with all the little details.
MW: I am thinking about why I have done self portraits, and for me it started because I didn’t know who to photograph and then it became an investigation of who I am. Is that the case for you- an investigation of who you are?
LS: Absolutely. The self portraits started in college at the urging of a professor who told me to take a good look at myself. I never liked photographing models anyway, I think I’ve done it a couple of times, but there was just no connection, it just felt like moving parts that didn’t have any sort of meaning. When I started doing self portraits, symbols came into play, memories come into play. There are these moments where I remember, growing up, very young, taking dance classes and a lot of those gestures or positions in the photograph would be from those old memories of dance. There are also so many physical similarities between me and my mother that overlaying her image with mine became a way of figuring out how I was following in her footsteps, or not following in her footsteps. Also, I think there is a lot you can do- I don’t like having models because I think that when you are in the moment, and you are creating an image, you’ve got these memories, you’ve got these ideas, symbols, and you respond to it, and respond to the environment, the temperature, anything… I like to work totally alone. That’s the only way I can work. Sometimes I’ll go into the woods or I’ll go into my studio, or I’ll go stay in a cabin a couple of days, just by myself, just to have those moments. I don’t think there’s anyone else who could respond the same way.
MW: If you are photographing someone else it’s a completely different story, whereas with yourself, you’re involved in the whole entire process, before the camera, behind the camera, in the darkroom.
LS: I honestly haven’t taken any self portraits in a long time because, frankly I’m just sick and tired of the whole “selfie” thing. I’ve always taught the history of self portraiture because it’s really important to me. But what I’ve started to teach is, understanding the difference between creating a self portrait, documenting yourself at different points of time in your life, and this whole “selfie” thing. It can be a really good thing, I guess, or just really obnoxious.
MW: It is very unthoughtful, and random. Our conversations include images now, with smart phones so much a part of our lives. We have conversations and we take a picture to illustrate what we are talking about as we text…
LS: I think it’s important because it is a way of documenting what’s going on in your life, where you are at a certain point, but there’s a thoughtfulness that goes on behind creating a real self portraiture. The way that I studied it, the way that I like to understand it, the way that I really admire other artists who pursue this as their main way of exploring their journey as an artist, or a woman, or a man -it’s very different.
LS: Ana Mendieta did a self portraits series called the Silueta Series where she uses the universal symbol of a woman’s outline, her body, in different environments. An outline cut in the grass… all these different ways of embedding herself in the landscape, it’s very beautiful. Anne Brigman in the very early 1900′s, was doing very beautiful self portraits, nude, in the landscape. She would mimic the form of a tree, or be out on a rock in the distance. I felt like her poses where also dancerly… a certain way of feeling really good, and free, your body just goes into those poses. It was very bold of her to do those self portraits in that time.
MW: You said that a teacher urged you to do self portraits. Did you know of any of these artists before then?
LS: Not at all. When I met this teacher, it was his first year of teaching, it was my first year in photo. We did not get along. I wore a ton of makeup, I was always dressed up, and always ‘on’. I told him that I was really interested in photography and he said, ‘well, the first thing you need to do is take a good look in the mirror, wash the makeup off your face, and take a good look at yourself’. It wasn’t anything personal, it was just like, ‘get real’. He has given me a ton of opportunities, allowing me to use his studio space to create, but the most significant one, was pushing me to my border.
MW: What do you think about the art scene in Charlotte?
LS: Coming from New York, it is wonderful. When I first moved down here, I was very lucky to fall into a wonderful group of people who were very supportive. I feel like I grew here much more than I ever would have up in New York because it’s not about money or competition, it’s about having a space were you can grow and make connections… every neighborhood has changed so much. I’ve been here four years now, when I came here NoDa still had Center of the Earth Gallery. There was a lot more art in NoDa, and then it changed over to South End. Now, it’s Plaza Midwood that has a lot going on, The Light Factory dissolving from its location, and re-emerging in Plaza Midwood.… there’s a lot of shift, a lot of change. My only concern, really… we have these beautiful museums, but I feel like when I go to them, I’m one of two or three people there.
Interview and images by Molly Wilbanks, 5/19/14
Are you ready for experimental theatre? Because experimental theatre is ready for you. In this interview, Matt Cosper talks about the The Machine, a performance collective founded in 2009, as well as Bohemian Grove, an occult performance party opening tomorrow night.
Here is what The Machine has to say about it, “Bohemian Grove is a site specific performance party that uses literal travel, a party atmosphere and arcane magic to playfully explore metaphors of change and transformation, the sacred and the mundane. Each night, a small group of mystical adventurers (that’s you) will ride with us, as the first part of the performance occurs in a van traveling to a private farm. The remainder of the performance unfolds on a beautiful piece of land, in the open air. This site-specific and entirely immersive theatrical encounter is unlike anything Queen City audiences have experienced. Performances are on Friday May 30th, Friday June 6th and Saturday June 7th 2014. Tickets are limited and reservations are required, so e-mail us today with inquiries. email@example.com”
…yes, Toto, we are still in Charlotte, NC.
Molly Wilbanks: What is the purpose of The Machine?
Matt Cosper: We create new works of performance in Charlotte. Experimental theater has been my bread and butter since college, and that kind of work has not had a home in Charlotte. Theater is such a pain in the ass to make, that you should only be making it if you need to. You shouldn’t start a theater company unless there is a real niche you can fill. For us, that was the experimental, new performance world. We are interested in formal experimentation, looking at new ways to tell stories. The theatrical impulse is not going to go away, that has been with us for thousands of years, and will be with us after we’ve bombed ourselves into oblivion. What is going away is theater as our parents knew it, or even, as I knew it as a young person, where there are big buildings that we go to, where we pay a lot of money to see, what is essentially a television show. We know that the impulse and hunger exists, but what is the new container for it? We play with form but I think the impulse is still the same, looking for life- a spark. I don’t think of us as cold, post-modernists, although we are really engaged in form… we are looking for the living thing.
MW: How did you get involved with The Machine?
MC: I founded it. I started a company called The Farm in 2000. We were making work from 2000 through 2004, and that was more of a mix. We would perform pre-existing scripts, but we would also do original work. From 2004 through 2009 I was strictly a freelance director, working for other companies, as an actor sometimes too. That’s how I was making a living, directing other people. In 2009, I started the company with a close group of colleagues and the rest is history… My parents both passed away in 2010, so I went away for a little bit. I came back in 2012, and have been working steadily ever since. In the last year or so, there’s actually an experimental theater scene that’s popping up, with Triptych Collective, and Taproot. There is more experimental performance happening, and that’s exciting. I think that there are a group of people that reached a conclusion at the same time, that trying to build an organization in the old model of the non-profit theater has no future.
MW: What does The Machine do for you?
MC: It lets me be an artist. I love to direct plays. I’m a theater kid, so it’s fun for me to do a Shakespeare, or to do a new play. More and more, though, that’s not what my interest really lies in, aesthetically. We formed the company so that I can do the kind of work I want to do. I started writing plays because I wasn’t reading the kind of plays I wanted to see on stage. The Machine gives me a structure to work in.
MW: Bohemian Grove is opening next weekend, an experimental, immersive performance. Would you call it interactive also? What is the audience members role, if any?
MC: Interactive for me, brings to mind those awful, murder mystery shows that people do as fundraisers. We’re not asking audience members to perform with us, but they won’t be able to help it… once you get out of the van onto the property, you’re moving through a world. The hope is that the work is an open text. It’s a situation that we can place people in and it’s going to have a different set of associations for each audience member. In a way, it’s entirely interactive, we’re creating a rich environment for them to move through. There is a point where there is a choice that is made, and hopefully that has meaning for each person.
Initially, we were going to make a serial soap opera on The Illuminati, and conspiracies, a science-fiction piece. As we worked on it, we ended up taking a detour, and creating a different, full-length play, “A Guide for the Newly Dead” which we did in October. It took us on a detour which got us thinking about initiation. Life, death, and what’s in between, these other realms. Through that journey of creating, in the last year, this performance has almost… well, I think of it as a piece of magic, that we are asking people to participate in. Hopefully, people will leave with a new power.
MW: Is it scary?
MC: No. Well, there is one point where there should be some real fear. Most of the show is in a comic vein…
MW: Was Bohemian Grove written collaboratively, or just by you?
MC: I will come into a rehearsal process with the group, with a skeleton script that I’ve written. Then that work will change, in the room. There will be sections in the scrip that say, “Caroline and Ashby make a dance”, or “Caroline and Ashby play a word game”. In that way, their contribution is built into the blueprint. We are all very close friends, we spend a lot of time together- we’re an ensemble. A lot of the text that I am writing is coming from our actual conversations. That’s the joy of having a fixed company, I’m writing for specific actors. Or other times I’ll send actors home with a writing assignment. There’s a piece of text in the show that Peter Smeal wrote that is some of the most beautiful prose I’ve read. Some companies have a truly, intensely democratic, collaborative style where everything is voted on, and every member of the team is bringing in their own scenes. We don’t work like that. I am definitely the filter, but I think that if you asked anyone in the company, I’m taking stuff from them all the time, and eventually it does become a creation of the group.
Patent Mechanical Gallery Targets is a study in what may happen when one has a three year-old child, old Wall Street Journals, and few hours of time when aforementioned three year-old happens to be gone from the home. Particular thoughts and interest that is derived from this study is upon the reader. No bears, toys, or three year-olds, for that matter, where harmed in this study. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is probably purely coincidental.
Images by Ross Wilbanks. Text by Wikipedia, to be rejected as invalid, or ignored, at will.
The face is the feature which best distinguishes a person. Specialized regions of the human brain, such as the fusiform face area (FFA), enable facial recognition… The pattern of specific organs, such as the eyes, or of parts of them, is used in biometric identification to uniquely identify individuals.
By extension, anything which is the forward or world facing part of a system which has internal structure is considered its “face”, like the façade of a building… “Face” is also used metaphorically in a sociological context to refer to reputation or standing in society, particularly Chinese society, and is spoken of as a resource which can be won or lost. Because of the association with individuality, the anonymous person is sometimes referred to as “faceless”.
“Gestalt psychologists theorize that a face is not merely a set of facial features but is rather something meaningful in its form… Allen suggests that the purpose of recognizing faces has its roots in the “parent-infant attraction, a quick and low-effort means by which parents and infants form an internal representation of each other, reducing the likelihood that the parent will abandon his or her offspring because of recognition failure”.
Baby is topless, dressed in pink footie pajamas. Crawling across the floor and gurgling in ecstatic tongues, she alternates between chewing the legs of the coffee table, confusing and on occasion injuring the dog with the intensity of her affection, wearing holes in multiple pairs of her footie pajamas regardless of color, cackling at the sudden appearance of Dad’s face from behind his now splayed fingers, pissing and soiling herself with regularity, crying with anger directly after the soiling or pissing or when she is hungry, crying with despair when she awakes in the crib to an empty room and no one else is present to verify her existence, spreading mushy food across her face and chest while again laughing, nearly always laughing or crying, splashing madly during bath time, lifting her arms and scowling in a sometimes silent demand to be held, crawling double-time to the door when Dad arrives home from work and rings the bell – a ritual he has trained her to honor, much like a dog – and sleeping with an expression both Mom and Dad secretly suppose signifies some great mystery. She is a little girl after all.
All in all Mom and Dad had spent the past couple months learning to parent an infant capable of movement and were feeling pretty functional and on top of things infant parenting-wise, until a brand new problem raised her over-sized infant head and laughed until her face is the pink of a cartoon blush.
Adding some serious and weighty insult to injury, Mom and Dad had already dealt with Baby’s first three months, when the combination of Baby’s refusal to accept sleep and consistent dedication to basically behaving like an unhinged maniac whenever she was in public had driven Mom and Dad to a fraying edge of exhaustion and rage. Both said some deeply hurtful shit to each other in sleep-deprived stupors, one to the other, and Dad had missed sex with a fierce passion. Both had confessed – well after the fact, of course – that they had each individually considered tossing Baby out with the morning trash, or feeding her whiskey through a dropper in order to facilitate a full night of sleep and privacy. But until quite recently Mom and Dad had believed themselves well past the worst of it, and Baby had grown into an affectionate, expressive, and generally sweet little thing.
‘What are we supposed to do?’ says Mom. ‘I can’t watch her every waking moment.’
‘Can’t say I have a clue,’ says Dad, the terror and irritation present in Mom’s voice absent from his own, a circumstance almost entirely due to the fact that he’s six months deep into a triumphant return to the workforce. ‘Do the books have anything to say on the subject of kamikaze infants?’
‘Don’t be glib. It’s not a good look on you,’ says Mom. Baby laughs.
‘Christ, she’s done it again!’ says Mom.
Baby’s new obsession – and the reason for Dad’s bewildered amusement and Mom’s lancing fury – is to crawl towards a small opening of any sort, press her face to the carpet or floor and gently manipulate her head into the opening, straighten her neck until she is thoroughly stuck and then commence with the laughter-in-tongues. Thus far Mom’s been the first one to find her, at which point Mom begins hollering and cursing and one specific time – when Baby had gotten into the garage and promptly fit her head beneath the carriage of Mom’s 2005 Toyota Tacoma and giggled like a shotgun – screaming gibberish right back at Baby, Mom’s terror so bright and huge as to overwhelm her linguistic capabilities.
Dad’s theorized that Baby has a checklist of all the locations she absolutely must get her head lodged under. Thus far she’s marked off the space underneath the couch, the empty spot between the entertainment center and the back wall, the hole manufactured by the dog beneath the backyard gate leading to the alley, the tiled floor and wall behind the toilet in the front bathroom – Dad for once thankful that Mom’s been a border-line psychotic for cleanliness from the moment he met her – and Baby had come very close to wedging her skull under the stove while Mom was cooking dinner, consequently almost giving Mom a heart attack right there in the kitchen, which Mom sort of wishes had actually happened, in order to teach Dad a fucking lesson about the unforeseen consequences of parental smugness.
‘It’s not a big deal. Kids spend the first four years of their lives trying to kill themselves anyways,’ says Dad as he fixes himself an early-evening cocktail.
‘Easy for you to say. Not like you’re stuck at home with our little suicide bomber. Cause I know who gets the blame when she offs herself,’ says Mom.
‘Don’t over-exaggerate. We’ll blame each other equally.’
‘Fuck,’ says Mom.
Baby’s already an audibly rumbling high-pitched bell, her head stuck under the front of Dad’s favorite college chair, which Mom’s wanted to get rid of for basically ever. Dad rushes in, but Mom can tell that he’s not taking the entire situation too seriously – the fact that he brought his drink along a sure-fire tip-off – and when he starts chuckling in time with their daughter, she’s absolutely certain.
‘Maybe she’ll grow up to be a magician. Like David Blaine! The reporters we’ll ask us when we knew she was gifted. Stuff like that,’ says Dad.
‘Maybe you can fish her out for once,’ says Mom.
Baby is still laughing.
‘Hold that nagging thought darling. Listen to her down there! What if we’re missing out on something hilarious?’ says Dad. So he places his drink carefully on the bookshelf and squirms behind the chair until his stomach is parallel to the carpet and all he can see is the vibrating skin of Baby’s jowls. ‘Hello there Ella. What have we got here now?’
Baby laughs without stopping – and whom for all Mom and Dad know, may have no interest in ever doing so – and when she spies Dad’s face directly across from her own she shakes louder and harder, so that for a brief second Dad’s scared that she’s injured herself, or is totally fucking losing it. The lower he moves his head the harder she laughs, until the two of them are nearly nose-to-nose. Baby’s eyes are wide and glassed, her nose dripping and chin coated with drool. Dad considers asking what’s so funny, but holds back due to a lack of optimism in receiving a coherent response.
Baby’s tongue rolls out her mouth. Someday – when her mouth is a real mouth – she will smile, across a bar or living room, and someone else outside of Ella will cease for a moment to breathe. For the moment, Dad cannot exhale. Baby slams her chin into the carpet and grinds it back and forth, a blank expression bouncing around her eyes and forehead. Someday she will cry, or speak in a quiet restraint, and someone else – again outside, always outside, possibly Mom or Dad or spouse or friend or partner or offspring – will listen, and have nothing to say. She curls her head to the right and gums the leg of the chair vigorously. Dad considers telling her no, but for the first of what will be many times, cannot. Baby chews her flapping tongue. Ella’s face will hover overhead, face furrowed in concentration – though on what, no one can say – the ceiling above her an ocean of moonlight and refracted shadow. Baby laughs. She will live her life, a tenant in time and space, eyes two coins, mouth accounted for, until this is no longer the case.
‘Ella?’ says Dad, a question wrought with rhetoric and a mis-comprehension he will become intimately familiar with, a response he will be trotting out – fleetingly and frequently- for the rest of his life.
Max Paradise lives in Northern Virginia and sincerely enjoys talking about the weather.
*#$*if you wanna submit creative writings to Fab Oversight, please email us right away at faboversight[at]gmail[dot]com
1949 Maya Deren
We’ve all been in this scenario. Trapped inside a movie theater or at home with friends, you are watching a movie and it’s pounding your frontal lobe into oblivion. You hate it but you feel it’s rude to leave or simply don’t want to have to explain everything out.
In the land of plenty the general rule for art and commerce is: add more. But you -the viewer- can subtract…
Don’t forget. Your eyelids are powerful! If a movie is so jammed with every single sound and image in perfect synchronicity, leaving no imagination or room to breathe CLOSE YOUR EYES. Now, there is the perfect radio play going on right in front of you. Generally, films like this are really trying to make a statement and have underlined every feeling with the soundtrack. The images are no longer necessary, plus you’ll probably imagine better ones.
Of course, you risk falling asleep and blowing your cover so one must concentrate. Once the feeling of sleepiness overtakes you, open back up. Even the worst movie will seem fresh once you’ve opened your eyes, at least for a few seconds. Now you can begin playing: open/closed, left eye/right eye and when you really want to cook, change the rate of opening and closing your eyes as if to make the images flicker right off the screen. If you’re relatively awake, lowering your lids to mask part of the image can produce some hilarity and hallucinations. Make sure to buy a soda beforehand.
For some, the eyes are just a pain to keep open so one must focus on the ears. Here it’s very simple: earplugs. I like using the ones for shooting galleries as to guarantee that, if you want, you will not hear a thing. Some films are hampered by sound and look much better with no soundtrack. When a film-maker is handed money it’s a general rule that sound must be added, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to it. Even the various mufflings from available wrappers, cups, and your hands surely will make it interesting. Maybe that yapper in the front can finally be your friend.
To more distractions,
I met Greg Banks at one of The Light Factory’s Sunday Salons, sometime last year. Greg pulled several 11×14 prints from his photo box: big, pretty silver prints. He had just photographed the Occupy Charlotte protest and captured some stunning images. We have countless images of the Occupy movement, but it’s wonderful and stirring to see images in the gelatin silver format. It’s important to document political movements. The beauty of gelatin silver and the hazy quality of the Holga vignetting adds a poetic element that is hard to find in modern street photography.
Greg Banks photographs more than just politics. His street portraits exhibit a genuine interest in humanity, while in his dreams and nightmares images we begin to see the artist, seeking and exploring his own humanity.
all images copyright Greg Banks. View more at http://greg-banks.com/
Interviewed by Molly Wilbanks
In February I went to a show at the Milestone and got to experience some unexpected, awesome energy. Dancers were performing, and there was an excited crowd packed in and watching every move, eager to see what would happen next. It was the Triptych Collective, and they had a whole evening of performance to give, like something I haven’t seen in a long time… I had to find out more. A few weeks ago, I got to sit down and talk with two members of the Triptych Collective, Eric Mullis, and Sarah Ingel, and ask some questions about creative process, and how to perform even if you’ve never performed before. If you’ve seen them live then you already know what I’m about to say– there’s nothing quite like this happening anywhere else in Charlotte.
Be a part of the collective, be a part of the experience: this Saturday, join the Triptych Collective Community Slow Walk in NoDa, beginning at 6pm. And there’s more, be sure to catch “ARTiculating through Action: an evening of reflective performance” Thursday, April 24, 8pm at Neighborhood Theatre.
Molly Wilbanks: When did you first begin to perform as a dancer?
Eric Mullis: A year ago. I came to dance late. I have a background in music, I play jazz drums and mallet percussion. I also have a martial arts background. Chinese Kung-fu, and Tai Chi. I started working with Triptych collective years ago, as a musician. I started collaborating with them, going to all of their rehearsals. Writing music for dance is a very different ballgame. So, I watched what they were doing, and got really, really interested in it. Because the group is collaborative, and very supportive of each other as artists, I expressed an interest in trying dance out, and everyone was wonderful, and now I just can’t stop.
Sarah Ingel: I started dancing when I was very young. At four I made the switch to Tae Kwon Do, so I also have a background in martial arts. About age 13, I made the switch back to dance, and decided that dance was what I was going to choose as my path in life, and what I wanted to do as a career. I started training at that age. For high school I ended up going to the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem and I was there for three years. Then I went to Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia for my undergrad. From there I started going to the American Dance Festival in Durham. That is where Eric and I started to work together, and that’s when Eric brought me into the Triptych Collective, and we’ve been working together ever since, and that was last year.
Molly Wilbanks: What was the impetus for forming Triptych Collective, and what inspired the name?
Eric Mullis: It was, originally, really informal. It was a group of friends who were all in NoDa (North Davidson area) in some way and it was a group of five people who were all either at UNCC studying dance, or had recently graduated. I met them through playing music. One of them had the idea of doing a Dark Side of the Moon ballet, so we put that show together with a big band and they collaboratively created dance for the show. We performed it at the Neighborhood Theatre, and we just had a blast. It was very well received, and so we decided to keep working together. There were six founding members, and all of them except myself and Caitlyn Swett have moved on. Either moved away, or they’re on to other projects. Since then, we have brought new people in, like Sarah, and other dancers. The idea for the name, for that first show, was because we had three different kinds of artists collaborating- we had musicians, dancers, and a visual artist doing original, live projections, and so it was a triptych. Now, it is more of a collaborative spirit, but originally it was those three types of artists. Since then, we have branched out.
Molly Wilbanks: In what ways do other creative works, such as paintings, music, or writing, inform your creative dance process?
Sarah Ingel: I tend to think of dance-making as research, so I am very inspired when I’m doing my research, by other artists, and by other visual, musical inputs. I also work in multimedia as well, I like to use projections and dance video. The way we work collaboratively is to show a diverse group of artists, and to dispel the distance that people think there is between the different forms of art, because they’re actually quite similar in their process of creation. The way that I create a film is very similar to how I go about creating dance. I don’t think there is as much separation as people think there is, between the different art forms. There are more, and more collaborative works that are coming out, nobody is just a musician, or just a dancer, or just a choreographer. Everybody is becoming a jack-of-all-trades, or a Renaissance performer, of sorts. I think that’s just the way that art is evolving. People are looking for new ways to explore how to express themselves and that is something that comes with layering media, and layering meaning on top of each other.
Eric Mullis: For me it was very interesting, as a musician, watching dancers embody movement, that I was helping to make and seeing that kind of dialogue happen. That was really addictive. To work on some ideas, and bring it to a rehearsal, and see the dancers embody it, it was like drugs. Especially as a musician, it opened up new ideas for music for me, and that is what gradually pulled me in. Now, to be on the other side, feeling music differently, and thinking about how I want to embody it…
Sarah Ingel … it’s all intertwined. We can make dance without music, but it’s not going to be as impactful. It all has to be intertwined for us to be able to get the messages across that we are trying to explain. Also, in the research, you accumulate so many different things that bring meaning to the piece, it’s a natural process of gleaning that happens, at least in my process. Some people have it in their minds, they know exactly what they are going to do, right off the bat, they have the moves, and they don’t need music, or it doesn’t have as much input. But for me, it’s very much a process of gleaning of videos, and music, and what I saw on the news yesterday, and the conversation I had with Eric this morning, it’s very much a process of collecting.
Eric Mullis: I think, for most of us, we get a vague notion of something we want to explore and then we start talking with each other about it. We start to create as we are exploring and investigating it– that vague idea that we have. I think most of us aren’t really sure where it’s going to go and I think that’s why we like to use other media, to help us think about it.
Sarah Ingel: A lot of it comes as fleeting images. For my most recent piece that I did, I knew that I wanted a skirt completely covered in flowers, and that was important to the piece. As I started to make the movements, I thought, ‘okay, I know what this is about now’. Oftentimes I don’t know what the piece is about until I perform it…
Molly Wilbanks: Triptych Collective performances, from what I’ve seen, often invite audience participation whether it’s donating items, or actually performing alongside the dancers. Do you consider your audience as part of the collective?
Sarah Ingle: Definitely. I think it’s important… A performer is making artwork to be shared. I am making my artwork to start a conversation, in order to provoke thought. I think it’s absolutely integral to have the audience there. They’re part of the collective, and they’re a part of the experience that we’re trying to create with our performances.We want it to be very accessible, we don’t want to be up on a stage, or have the artist be inaccessible by the audience. I think it all ties into having artwork that does form around some kind of meaning, and some kind of activism. At Hollins University we practiced what we called conceptual activism. That is something that has really stuck with me for a long time, and something that I try to use in my work, as motivation for meaning and as a reason, otherwise, why are we doing this?
Eric Mullis: Especially because one of the collective’s mediums is dance…for a lot of people dance is usually seen as entertainment. We want the audience to really investigate this with us. There are a lot of people who don’t know how to respond, or view dance, especially modern and post-modern dance. I’ve had this discussion with friends and family, and we, as a Collective, feel compelled to be inclusive.
Sarah Ingle: That’s something I’ve gotten a response about, as an artist. I will tell people, “Oh, you should come to our show”, and they will say, “Oh well, modern dance, I don’t get it”. But it’s not about ‘getting it’ or ‘not getting it’, it’s about what you’re taking away from it. If you’re not taking anything away from it, then I haven’t done my job and I want to hear that kind of feedback. By getting feedback from the audience, that is how we tailor our pieces and become more effective. The audience is part of the collective in that I take their response and then make my piece into something completely different based on what people tell me they were feeling. It’s very important.
Molly Wilbanks: Tell me more about the Triptych Collective Community Slow Walk.
Sarah Ingle: At Hollins University we would do slow walks, with the Hollins Repertory Dance Company, the dance club on campus. It started before I was a student, with a woman named Shani Collins who was a member of Urban Bush Women and an MFA graduate of the Hollins Dance Department. I don’t know what the original reason for the slow walk was, but they used it, while I was there, as a way to commemorate events. We would do a slow walk on the anniversary of 9/11. We would do a slow walk on Take Back The Night, or to commemorate the passing of a professor, or the Virginia Tech shooting, which happened around the corner from us. That was the start of it. For me it was one of these incredibly personal, meditative practices where I could be going crazy in my college life, doing a million things, and then, for an hour, I would take that time to walk across campus, slow down my body, and slow down my mind. That was such a wonderful practice, especially having something to focus on and think about. We come back to social activism, by slowing down our bodies, and slowing down our minds, we actually have a form of activism that happens right there. People are watching us walk very slowly and start to think about why we are doing that. It triggers a line of thought on whatever event we are commemorating. With this particular walk, we’re giving people the option to slow walk for whatever is important to them, whatever they would like to give their time, that hour of a busy day, a busy lifestyle, to commemorate. It can be slow walking for peace, it can be slow walking for equal rights, it can be slow walking to fair wages, or unions, I could list a number of things– more funding for the arts! We’re going to meet in NoDa, and we’re going to take an hour to walk down the street.
Molly Wilbanks: It reminds me of flash mobs, but with the opposite speed.
Sarah Ingel: …the wonderful thing about slow walking is that everyone can do it. People often think, “I’m not a dancer, I can’t do what you are doing”, but actually, you can. This is a way that anyone can do it. In that way we’re also asking people to become political in their own bodies.
Molly Wilbanks: I have a question regarding Poor Mouth, a current performance piece for the Triptych Collective. It focuses on the Piedmont Mill Culture and some of the same issues are pertinent now, in America, with the living wage movement. Did any current events influence the work of Poor Mouth, or is it more historical?
Eric Mullis: Originally, it was purely historical, going back to NoDa as our creative home. NoDa tends to be where we get a lot of community support, we perform elsewhere, but it’s our base. Making a long story short, last summer I was traveling back and forth to ADF (American Dance Festival in Durham) on the train which runs through Charlotte, Salisbury, Concord, Kannapolis, Burlington, and Durham… and on the train line, you see all the abandoned mills, the ugly side. I got really interested in that and started doing some research into mill culture, and specifically, NoDa’s history as a mill village. I got crazy obsessed with that research. The research changed the way I experienced NoDa. It was really interesting to me that I had been involved in this community but not really… those abandoned mills right on the corner, I never saw them. The research really brought them to life. I wanted to make a piece that would encourage people to have that same experience. I feel like NoDa, like every neighborhood, is always going through subtle changes and there’s a question of how it’s connected to its past. I felt that especially after being here for a few years and seeing it change from a bustling arts district to more of an entertainment district… the hope was to really encourage people to think more about this place. At the same time, some feedback I kept getting from audiences was, “wow, it’s the same thing now”. You have people who are struggling for a living wage who are working two part-time jobs, with a kid, and there’s no way they can make it. Or the fact that these mills shut down, and now they’re just in China, and they pay the people next to nothing in China to make the same product. That’s the crazy part, that none of it’s really changed. Originally that wasn’t my intention, but then, in getting feedback from a lot of people along the way of creating it, and performing it, they’ve brought this up, and it’s really–
Sarah Ingle: –sounds like you need to make a Part Two.
Eric Mullis: Yes! It’s interesting because it has to do with the historical sense of this place but also, like you said, those same issues that those mill workers faced, they haven’t changed today, it’s mind boggling really.
Molly Wilbanks: What might you say to a younger person who wants to perform but is shy?
Sarah Ingle: A relevant question, we were just talking about ideas surrounding this, for next season. For me, this is something that did occur to me, in my process of being a dancer. I was told that I didn’t necessarily have the right body type, that I was not really going to succeed. It wasn’t until I went to Hollins University that I discovered that I can make my own path in terms of what I wanted to see in the dance world. That I could be what I wanted to see in the dance world, which was an acceptance of different body types and the idea that, if you want to dance and if you love to dance, then you can dance. In a similar way that we always say, “what is art?”, or “what isn’t art”, there is a similar idea of what can be dance, or what cannot be dance. There are a lot of things that people don’t give themselves credit for. You have a capable, moving body, you just have to allow yourself to act on it. That’s what my piece that I will be performing at the Neighborhood Theatre is all about, called “Efforting Efflorescence”.
Eric Mullis: For me, I was comfortable in my body from a long time of martial arts practice, and then working with dancers, but I remember thinking- I have no dance technique, I don’t have the right training. There was definitely intimidation there, even though I was with a support group. You’re head messes with you, saying, ‘I’m not supposed to do this. I’m not qualified to do this.’ At the same time, what was so addictive, I didn’t know it at the time, but in terms of movement, the vocabulary was all spelled out in terms of self-defense. There are possibilities in there, but they are very specific, and so I got the prospect of experiencing my body moving, but in a different way. On the one hand it was kind of terrifying, but on the other hand, very interesting because it gave me a different way to relate to the way my body feels. It’s a type of awareness. Dance as a form gives you so many possible avenues into experiencing your body in different ways. Culturally we don’t have a lot, we play sports, maybe do yoga, or go to the gym.
Sarah Ingle: Everybody has a movement that is natural to them that they don’t even realize is already there.
Eric Mullis: What is mind-blowing, is that you have that, and if you dig into that, there is a lot to be found. But we do this thing, we tell ourselves, “I’m not a dancer.” My culture tells me I’m not a dancer… but you have a body that has a vocabulary and you can really dig into it, and experiment.
Sarah Ingles: That’s the process of research, that is what makes you a dancer is your investment in that research– how you invest in researching movement. There is a company in New York called Movement Research. That’s the idea I play with and dance about, my investigation of the limits of my body, and the expressiveness of movement.
Molly Wilbanks: I’m inspired to dance now! Well, my last question is, if you could perform anywhere in the world, no boundaries, where would it be?
Eric Mullis: For me it doesn’t really matter where, the space, as long as the crowd, the audience, feels a part of it, and I feel like something meaningful happened, it could be anywhere.
Sarah Inlges: Something that would be so amazingly cool… they actually have a performance up in New York that goes by the title “Sleep No More” which is an old hotel that has been converted into an entire dance-scape theatre, it’s interactive. You can go around the entire space, kind of like a haunted house, you can explore different rooms, follow whoever you want to follow, dig through drawers. Having that kind of immersive experience would be so amazing, taking a house and converting it into a performance space that constantly rotates different people in and out. That would be incredible.
*slow walk press photos by Aspen Hochhalter