2012 Lab Artist: Yanira Castro / a canary torsi
YANIRA CASTRO has been creating site-adaptable dance projects within visual and audio environments since 2000. Her elegantly designed work plays with the relationship between the audience and the performance event, examining questions of intimacy, distance, control, manipulation and ultimately the agency of the audience in the performative environment.
Castro collaborated with composer Stephan Moore and installation designer Kathy Couch to develop a the performance work, The People to Come. The People to Come is a participatory, site-adaptable installation where the dance is radically altered each night by the performers, who use material created/contributed by communities surrounding the performance site. Simple assignments are given on a dedicated website (thepeopletocome.org), and performers adapt their dance to the audiences’ responses that are given before, during and after the performance. Some examples of the assignments are: “Pick a famous portrait and photograph yourself in the pose” or “Describe the public for your work (as a lawyer, teacher, etc.) in a run-on sentence.” The website serves as the archive for all the contributed material and dances, forming a portrait of each performance community.
Through a series of research visits in March, June, July and September, Castro and her collaborators gathered information about the Town House in Marlboro, VT and the community by participating in community events and encouraging the community to participate in the performance by contributing materials to the performance archive at www.thepeopletocome.org Their research culminated in a public performance in the Town House itself on September 29, 2012.
Residency Reflections Part I by Yanira Castro
“The artwork is the people to come and it is a monument to its expectation, a monument to its absence.” – Jacques Rancière The Emancipated Spectator
The stories that I am beginning to tell about The People to Come are all about the audience. The night we unexpectedly found that a young woman we only know as Sophie has an incredibly beautiful voice as she sang two submissions (one by Hilary and one by Charlotte) combined by performer Luke Miller into one song: “I am a plastic doll dressed in a penguin suit...” Or how wonderfully undramatic young Cyrus was to performer Peter Musante’s repeated demand that he say “Fire!” over and over again. There was the audience caring for Luke as he blindfolded himself and wandered about the stage. The woman who found her passion when she destroyed the archive table on Luke’s command and who did it with such gusto that it seemed to release years of pent up desire to obliterate someone else’s order. The young woman who took all of performer Simon Courchel’s weight. The audience kissing one another on Peter Musante’s suggestion inspired by the video made by audience members Kelly and Clark in the photobooth: Tail of a Tongue. The audience moving about the space whenever Luke moved as Simon raised his shirt and gently prodded his belly-button. A man attacking Luke’s zipper with the microphone. Many an audience member standing up to speak into the microphone their interpretation, their story to answer questions about the town of Marlboro, about what the other performer was doing, about astronomy, about negative space. One boy shouted out, “He is doing what we made! He is doing it!” A gang of kids rushed in to watch performer Darrin Wright do their movement verbatim.
Residency Reflections Part II by Yanira Castro
In asking questions about participatory work in my last blog post, I suggested that The People to Come is an attempt to be in some way transparent about the process of the piece. It endeavors to create a shared knowledge base in which everyone in the performance space—performer, director, designer, audience member—has a shared and specific involvement in the outcome of the event being played out live.
Ruminations on Participatory Work by Yanira Castro
Previous to The People to Come, I have not thought of my work as participatory. It seemed like a strange bedfellow when the word first cropped up in project descriptions. The word raises, for me, questions about theatrical manipulation and suggests an awkward relationship between performance maker and audience. The word “coercion” comes to mind at the extreme—or a subtle pressure that is perhaps more insidious. But essential questions about the nature of the relationship between audience and event kept me coming back to uses of and practices in audience participation. From the spectacles of Louis XIV’s court ballets to the bawdy exchanges in the Elizabethan Theater to Brecht’s alienation effect, how have audiences participated in the live event? And isn’t the shaping of this participation what defines a performance in culture/in time/in place?