“Collaborating with Circumstances”: Final curator’s letter from Melinda Ring
June 29, 2011
Collaborating with Circumstances
Collaborating with Circumstances -the missing topic from the Living Room Conversations event. We dropped it due to time constraints, but I still can’t let it go. It is the secret essential underlying discussion of our recently concluded platform, Susan Rethorst: Retro(intro)spective.
In planning documents I described the topic like this:
How do personal and political (i.e. money) circumstances enter into the art making process-how do they intrude, alter, and present unforeseen opportunities in the studio and in producing/presenting work? Once in the studio, how does something always work out even when the circumstances are not perfect?
I’m a strong believer in collaboration with people, as well as with circumstances, and I found it tremendously satisfying how this played-out within the context of the platform. I loved playing curator. First thinking about the resources available, how they might be used, and what it means to be an artist/curator in particular. Then once I had made the choice to work with Susan Rethorst, our actual collaboration -getting to know each other, which I sometimes refer to as “when we were dating,” and the process of planning the platform program -was deep and rich in all the ways I hoped it would be.
Artist Dawn Clements entered the collaboration. She agreed to make a drawing that would be reproduced in the catalog. I recognized an immediate connection between these two artists in their use of domestic settings. As we became further involved we realized the parallels between how their working methods developed through resourcefulness and preference. Both of them favor working in their own intimate spaces, and have developed methods to make large-scale works within those relatively small spaces. It was through our conversations with Dawn that the topic Collaborating with Circumstances began to take shape. And, the inclusion of Dawn’s drawing led to the unusual catalog format -more a poster and map of ideas than a book.
Then there were the Wrecking events. Susan was under no obligation to use anything that happened in the Wreckings, but you might be curious about the results. She told me, “you and John both sort of validated some things. I was going to cut the lamp -it was done first on the armchair -the dancers told him about it and he sort of put it back in, validated it. Something similar happened in yours, which I don’t even remember. I did a minute of reversing (you and Tere both did that). From Tere’s I took the low dip and put it in two places. I’d have taken more, but no time. They served more to show me what I take for granted, and it’s more a long-term awareness device in that way. Anyway, this time you all made me realize how separate the two duets are in my mind and I decided to keep them that way. Also, they all made me realize the extent to which I’d ‘brought the walls with me’ was how I was thinking about it -you all (Tere the most I think) used the space of the church instead.”
Much more complex are the ways in which Susan collaborated with circumstance in making her new works 208 East Broadway: Over and Out and 208 East Broadway: SOLD, and even in reconstructing Beau Regard. Some of this is discussed in the catalog, which is still available here.
Judy Hussie-Taylor was supposed to take part in the Collaborating with Circumstances discussion, because her plan to enact the platforms as part of Danspace Project’s programming came about through just this kind of dynamic -her own re-imagining of the organization, its role as a presenter and its relationship with its constituents. I know something about this through our work together, but was eager to hear more.
Aah, this is the one thing I know for sure about making art/dance, there is always something left undone. Ideas keep coming, time runs out.
Thank you Susan, the Platform worked-out quite well! I’m amazed at how much we accomplished. Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for taking risks, being vulnerable, and bringing your particular scent of beauty, mystery and pleasure to all aspects of this project.
Dear audience, you can read about some of the parts of the Platform you may have missed, and view photos and video at the following links:
Melinda Ring, curator