Take it to the Bridge Starting This Week
The Corcoran Gallery of Art and Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) are partnering together this summer to present “Take it to the Bridge.” From this Wednesday, July 18, through September 15, the series of performances and installation art will occupy the Performance Bridge space in the Corcoran’s entryway. Artist Holly Bass built the Bridge with architectural designer Kashuo Bennett for her February 2012 performance “Moneymaker” in conjunction with the “30 Americans” exhibition.
After the Bridge’s use in “Moneymaker,” Sarah Durkee, vice president of public education at the Corcoran, wrote, “we could not help but to generate a series that pushed the possibilities and interpretation of this space in new directions.” Bass and Corcoran curators approached WPA about collaborating for summer programming that would involve local artists and incorporate the Bridge.
WPA’s executive director Lisa Gold, the Corcoran’s curator of contemporary art Sarah Newman, and Bass selected the participating artists from proposals submitted in response to a call for proposals in May. According to WPA Program Director Blair Murphy, the three considered “how the artists had engaged with the space, if they had considered not just the Bridge itself, but its relationship with the street, the surrounding buildings (including the White House) and pedestrians and museum-goers who pass by…..[W]e were looking for artists that came up with innovative projects, that took the possibilities of the Bridge and ran with them.” Bass "appreciated the range and variety of ways that people want to use the Cube," The Bridge’s modular design, with a Plexiglas centerpiece and wood frame, allows for this variety.
Sarah Newman, curator of contemporary art at the Corcoran, added, “I think we were all struck by the fact that the projects were so sensitive to this highly unusual space, and struck further still by the diversity of approaches within that specificity. … One of the wonderful things about seeing the works as a series is the opportunity to understand the various ways this particular cube of space reverberates aesthetically, physically, emotionally, and socially.”
The nine works selected all incorporate the Bridge in unique and clever ways. The ten artists were also able to successfully blend the nuances of the space together with themes that fit well in the contexts of their existing work. The performances and installations will take place during Free Summer Saturdays, which many participating artists regarded as a key step in gaining exposure for the series and reaching the broadest audience possible.
For “Save the Date,” slated for August 11, Kathryn Cornelius will transform the Bridge into an oversized wedding cake. She is soliciting proposals online now, and plans to marry and divorce seven suitors over the course of the seven hours she will be performing. Cornelius often performs site-specific works that critique institutions like marriage. “When the bridge call was out there,” she wrote, “I got this idea in my head. It seemed like a good space to do a work like this.”
Chukwuma Agubokwu and Wilmer Wilson IV, who are collaborating for the “The Airborne Leaflet Campaign” on August 25, saw “Take it to the Bridge” as the perfect opportunity to carry out an existing idea. The work explores Wilmer’s examination of the “dynamics of institutionally backed symbols” and Agubokwu’s interest in “the relationship between the individual and the group as well as the manipulation of communication, perception and reality involved in this dynamic relationship.” According to Wilson, “Chukwuma and I had collaboratively developed the idea of a leaflet drop a while ago. We are both interested in text, and had been experimenting with language and manifestos. ….We heard the Corcoran's call for entry and it seemed to be a perfect match for the space conditions we needed.”
Carolina Mayorga saw “Moneymaker” in February and leapt at the chance to perform her own work in the Bridge. Mayorga, born in Colombia, often confronts Hispanic stereotypes through her work. For “Maid in the USA,” scheduled for the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, Mayorga will clean the Plexiglass case for the duration of a typical day shift while playing popular Latin American music and wearing a traditional Columbian dance dress. She “took advantage of the case as a venue, the fact that it is glass and needs to be cleaned.” For her, the glass enclosed Bridge was the ideal venue, both to “expose” the reality behind stereotype and also to extend the literal “entrapment of the glass,” into the figurative entrapment of this social cliché. “The fact that the Bridge reaches inside and outside is a great idea. The people that go to the museum are...open to the idea, [but], you never know what the passersby will think.”
Maida Withers will close the series with her interactive performance and installation “This Space Occupied (by Maida)” on September 5. Electronic musician Steve Hilmy will contribute to Withers’ piece with live sound accompaniment. “Much of my own work is very spatial and pushes always the boundaries of freedom, lack of control, and abandon,” said Withers. “I always like limitations when I am performing and the glass cage is an excellent limitation. It is an elevated space that is protective because I will be inside. However, being glass, it allows the audience to look into what might be turned into my private domain/space .”
“Take it to the Bridge” will also feature Esa Nickle, Managing Director/Producer of Performa, the New York organization that sponsor of the well-known biennial, in a talk at the Corcoran on August 9, (The talk is free to the public, but registration is required.) The following day, WPA member artists will have the opportunity to meet with Nickle individually.
According to WPA program director Blair Murphy, “Lisa Gold knows Esa from New York and Performa is such an important platform for contemporary performance….. There has been a lot of activity in DC's performance art scene in the last couple of years….. So we think that having Esa speak and meet with artists is a great way to add to that conversation. For WPA, we also saw it as an opportunity to forge connections between artists here and the larger performance art world.”
“Take it to the Bridge” has the potential to leaving a lasting impact on the D.C. artists and art audiences well beyond the brief duration of the works. Bass applauds the Corcoran for make performance art so visible and arranging the series during Free Summer Saturdays. The new venue "bridges inside and outside...public and private... in this very cool way." It transforms the Corcoran from an “amazing institution” that is often still seen as “imposing” and “stately” into a “more welcoming and intriguing" place. In a similar vein, Mayorga thinks the series will“ bring the museum closer to people [and] make the Corcoran a more dynamic place.”
Cornelius is “hoping it sends a message to the [Cororcan] board for the potential for the architecture and the space as key to them formulating their identity.” She underscored the series’ potential to influence the future of performance art as a medium, adding that it is “probably one of the most interesting and significant [initiatives] the Corcoran has put together.…It’s great to have an actual museum giving its mark on [the] medium itself by arranging the series and allowing public to attend the series for free.”
Withers said she is “grateful” to be participating in the series during “such an important time for the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The thought of D.C. losing that building, that location, and that energy is quite shocking and hurtful…..D..C has the money and the audience for a private ... [institution] the magnitude of the Corcoran. My hope is that the [series] can be a part of the renewed support of the Corcoran and Washington, D.C. artists”
The Corcoran seems to share at least some of these ambitions for the program. Durkee thinks, “the cross-pollination of ideas in this series – in combination with the mix of installation and performance art -- will feel fresh and exciting.” She also believes “engaging with the Take it the Bridge series should prove to be an incredibly valuable experience for our students, visitors, faculty, other artists, and staff alike.”
Newman explained the museum was “especially interested in the idea of site-specificity and locality. That is why it was so important to us for this series to focus on local artists—artists who knew this space and had a connection to it, and could respond in a way that resonated with the people who will be watching…. We wanted to do something that was local and ambitious. It sounds kind of funny, but we wanted to do something out of the box, and we ended up doing that in a box.”
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