Wrapping up Summer 2014

This is the first year in seven without a trip to Burning Man, and the first year in four without a circus tour – but don’t be fooled by outside appearances, life is doing anything but slow down. The circus is now halfway toward our new, next-level production, Hinge. Our Indiegogo was a smashing success and we’re in the process of coordinating fundraising events, and applying for grants to get us the rest of the way there. Costumes and music will both be properly underway beginning September. I’m trying to keep up with fulfilling backer-rewards (yay, spreadsheets) and scheduling team meetings in the meantime.

Hinge is huge, unlike our previous shows which have only really had six or seven people working on them, the team for the development of Hinge is closer to fifty people – many of whom are volunteering their time. The scope of the project is intimidating, but, given the caliber of those involved I have great confidence in its success.

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We aren’t only including the ingredients you’ve come to expect from the Vespertine Circus, interdisciplinary circus-arts and narrative theater, we’re also incorporating elements of game-design and immersive theater. Sound intriguing? A visit to the Vespertine Circus will span two hours, and include delights for many senses. Hinge is designed to allow different audience members to have dramatically different experiences based on what types of things they’re interested in exploring and how they do (or don’t) interact with the cast and set. We hope you’ll join us in summer of 2015.

I’m still floating along, teaching aerial fabrics and modeling here and there – Scott Watson of CK Studios just took a few new headshots so I can keep my portfolio current, and here they are, 27 and feeling fine

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On the personal front – I have been spending as much time as I can training not only my usual aerial-fabrics, but tight-wire and flying trapeze, with a smattering of clowning. It’s awfully exciting stuff. Training clips and snapshots from “The Adventures of Bunny Zlotnik” are frequently getting uploaded to my Instagram account (follow if you’re into circus, lingerie, whiskey, and absurdity) – speaking of whiskey, I have a new favorite dive, if you’re ever in Oakland and you want to drink someplace charming, try Heinold’s First and Last Chance. Oh! And a favorite whiskey, if you can find it: Angel’s Envy (rum finished) Rye. It tastes like honeysuckle and magic, I’m pretty sure it’s what the Faerie Queen, Titania, would drink if she were drinking rye today.

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(Above excerpt from my favorite nonfiction book: The Ordinary Acrobat, by Duncan Wall. Nose courtesy of RB&B’s blue train show.)

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The Vespertine Circus: Hinge

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN OF THE INTERNET, I come bearing exciting news!!

The Vespertine Circus, my small & beloved touring circus troupe, is stepping up our game. Bigtime. We transitioning from a part time LLC with seven regular contractors, to a full-time nonprofit org that will employ 10 people. How? Gosh, let me tell you, there are a lot of steps between here and there. It’s a rather daunting staircase, but I believe we can do it.

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Step one is to reach, and hopefully surpass, our crowdfunding goal on IndieGoGo, which will pay for the music & costumes for our new show: Hinge.

Please take a look, share it, and contribute if you can (buy the circus a cup of coffee?)

http://igg.me/at/vespertinecircus

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If we do well garnering support here, the next step is to host a few fundraising events in our rehearsal space, and then start applying for grants & corporate sponsorship. We have nonprofit status right now, via our amazing sponsors at Fractured Atlas, and the more funding we have already collected (thus the IGG) the more likely we are to get the support of larger entities. Basically, this campaign is not only for music and costumes, but to prove that we have a strong following, and we’re serious about the Vespertine Circus, and this show. Here’s our chance to show the world we’re ready.

Will you join us?

Thank you!

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(Photos by Terri Brindisi, Darren Keith, and Terri Brindisi – again, in that order.)

 

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Lament

About a month ago, I teamed up with musician and dear friend of mine, Jesse Buddington, and friend & photographer, Leah Watanabe to recreate with photography an oil painting by the marvelously talented Alana Corra**, whose work caught my eye a while back. This image in particular reminded several mutual friends of ours of Jesse and I (we lived together for years), and maybe you can see why. Here is the original version: lament-painting-goodcolour

And here is our rendition:

It was a delightful and challenging project for all of us, and a nice opportunity to work on a piece of art with some friends on our own time, something I do far too little of considering how much my world revolves around the creation of [all kinds of] artwork. Never forget when you’re finished “working” for the day at your arts job, to then go home and make art a little more. 😉

**With her permission of course! Here is a link to her website so you can see more of her work, she not only paints, but builds beautiful dolls.

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Darkly Dreaming

Antonette Streeter posted more photos from the winter 2012 look-book shoot for Honey Cooler Handmade on Friday, in celebration of Friday the 13th, and I simply adore them.

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Really, their sweetly sexy & spooking “seance” styling (mm, alliteration) is a perfect match for the mood I’ve been in recently. Decadent & dark. Appropriately, I’ve been listening to The Parlour Trick all week, click to take a listen yourself: http://theparlourtrick.bandcamp.com/album/a-blessed-unrest – I think it’s the perfect soundtrack to accompany this set of photos.

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  • Photography: Antonette Streeter
  • Designer: Honey Cooler Handmade
  • Models: Kate Coneely, Bunny Zlotnik
  • Fashion Stylist: Dominique Guillen
  • Set Design: Antonette Streeter, Dominique Guillen
  • Hair: Peggy Poveda Sipe, Jai Carrillo
  • Makeup: Alicia Campbell

Such a delightfully involved team of artists to make a lovely fantasy a reality. The world needs more creepy slumber parties!

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Quick, get a butterfly net! There are ideas here.

Not a lot of updates here, but plenty of activity. I’ve been like a sponge collecting visually & aurally inspiring snippets as I develop Hinge, the next Vespertine Circus show. I thought I’d be further along by now, but my work flow is erratic – I spent October thinking of almost nothing except Halloween. Now the holiday has passed, and my muses are awake and talkative, teaching me what the show is about.

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Of course, October sabotaged me in more ways than distraction; for a while there I didn’t have a computer and I still have not recovered my data. So, as I type to you now, know that in my mind it’s from something more like a typewriter & web-browser, and less like the gigantic resource of accumulated files my previous machine was. Rise like a phoenix.

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..Or a cat? One could rise like a cat, too…

I have all-the-meanwhile continued to model (the images imbedded in this post are from a shoot earlier this week with Jason Wood) and teach aerial fabrics lessons, but it has only been since November began that I’ve really been focused on this project of mine again after the pause. Hopefully by the end of today I will have a first-draft of the setlist and a mockup diorama version of the set. You guys, the set for Hinge is going to be gorgeous. I can’t get over how excited I am to finally get to design with much broader limitations. Considering that our last set was the cheapest office furniture I could find, this is going to be a major breakaway for me. I am delighted.

People have been asking, “What’s the theme of the next circus show, Hinge?” and I haven’t had a straightforward answer for them. It’s a set of distinct character narratives (similar to our last show) all taking place within a circus (rather than an office) holding its final dress rehearsal before the show opens. …For a while I didn’t want to spoil that bit for any of you, dear friends, because there is something magical about coming in and learning that you’re not playing the audience at a show, you’re playing the tent crew at a rehearsal – surprise! But, I don’t think the impact will be any less wonderful for those of you who are reading me now. In truth, you may be better prepared to play with us, given a little warning.

Aesthetically, the set will be a collage of lovely anachronisms and juxtapositions between primordial nature and human architecture, a diorama that shows growth and entropy side by side as part of the same cycle. Thematically, what all of the characters have in common is what ties them together – their commitment to the circus in the face of personal hardship. It’s all a little meta, you see. It’s a show about what it takes to build a show, a circus set at a rehearsal for the circus.

Hinge is part faerie-tale too, with visuals heavily inspired by urban exploration. The sights and sounds of windows & doors opening and closing are everywhere – opportunities constantly changing around us.

Perhaps then that’s really what the show is about, its “theme”: to be presented with an opportunity, and after some hesitation and deliberation, take it. Its thesis? That the creation of magic can be very difficult, but is always worth it.

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…Speaking of beautiful & inspiring things, let me share a handful of recent favorites with you. This seems like a good note to end on:

Dolls 1.

Dolls 2.

Music.

Model.

Film.

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Revisiting Dutch Flat Photos

These were too fun not to post – a year ago when I went to Dutch Flat for a weekend of fun and modeling with friends, Terri took these photos, and she came across them last night and shared with me. These almost make me miss having pink hair. Almost. 😉

Terri Brindisi. Oct 2012.

Terri Brindisi. Oct 2012.

Pillow fights are one of my favorite things. There’s a giant one in San Francisco every Valentine’s Day I highly recommend – but wear a bandana over your face or you’ll inhale quite a few feathers.

Terri Brindisi. Oct 2012.

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The Scratch Symposium

I am beginning something, which I hope will evolve into a monthly networking event for creatives, and is starting up in early October: The Scratch Symposium.

These will begin as very small events, with no more than 15 persons in attendance, whereupon each person is to prepare a presentation (of any form) that runs between two and ten minutes, and incorporates that month’s theme. The first theme is Language. My aim is to have somewhere between 40% and 60% spoken word (short lectures, particularly, a la TED), and the remaining portion a mixture of dance, music, circus-arts, etc. I hope and suspect that presentations will be both excellent, and really weird, given who I know.

[Portrait of some such contemporary artists taken at the Devil’s Ball:]

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Apart from the 15 or so presenters themselves there will be no audience, creators are the viewers and vice-versa. None of the pieces are expected to have come from more than two weeks labor, and so all of them will be rough-cut; this is a playing field for fresh ideas. Using these gatherings I hope to superficially impose deadlines on creative works that would otherwise get dusty and perhaps never come out to play. Creative deadlines without the stress of a client, grade or paying audience, inspired by the high caliber of others’ works alone.

The size of the crowd has been somewhat arbitrarily decided, so, after the first one I will talk with all who were there about whether or not to grow or shrink the size of the thing. Once there is a concrete number, I will take all names interested in joining these events, add them to a list, and then cycle through invitations – such that once the number of “participants” exceeds 15, there will still only be 15 per event, which will also make it a better mixer I think, because there will be an element of rotation that draws from a longer list of names. If there were 40 interested persons, say, the order-to-invite would shift by 5 each month, and end up shifting further than that inevitably because as someone can’t attend, another name down the list is invited; so there would be both a sense of community built over time, and plenty of fresh faces. If there is interest, we may film and publish some of the acts at the Scratch Symposium, to build momentum for it, but control over the release of the talks/performances will be entirely in the hands of the artist.

By nature of knowing so many accomplished creative persons, I am very excited about the potential for these to launch great works.

[Only peripherally related, snapshot of Kat opening a trap door in her artwork:]

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Muses

Disclaimer: This is going to be an extra sappy entry, and I blame at least some of that on whiskey recently consumed.

To actually read this entry, properly, I want you to grab a pair of headphones, or plug into a good sound-system, and find a volume as loud as A) it’ll play clearly and B) you’ll feel comfortable listening at.

Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf5QfpqF0sU

Moving forward (and in that context): For those of you long time readers and friends will know – a couple of years ago I was married. During what I now think of as the “golden age” of that pivotal relationship, he was living an hour and some change south of me, with this singer for a house-mate, while I was building my dream home in Oakland and commuting back and fourth between houses as he finished grad school. Under these blithe and beautiful circumstances, I came to know musician, muse and kind-spirit, Kelly Koval [formerly the front woman for the acclaimed Santa Cruz local folk/electronic/soul/etc. band, Audiafauna] and I have loved her ever since. She knows about some parts of me and my life that very, very few folks are privy to.

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We have a mutual and profound admiration of one another, and it was a real delight to reunite and make some art together. Photography is a new(ish) venture for Kelly, though she’s been taking beautiful portraits for a while now, and I was excited to reconnect and help further her efforts. These images are scans from her point-and-shoot (film) camera, shot outside yesterday around 5pm.

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Spoiler alert: It is my plan to make a clowning/aerial-dance/storytelling piece in the not too distant future for public viewing, and I hope to involve both Kelly’s musical talents, and the film-making artistry of RJ Muna. This is one of many “ideas for a neat project” I’ve got kicking around, but given the story I want to tell, and the artists I have interested in getting involved, I think it is more likely to actually happen. Cross your fingers.

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Studying Emotionally Evocative Art

PART I:

I am in the early stages of a research project. I am compiling a list of artworks, from many mediums, with a handful of constraints:

  • They must be viewable in 10 minutes or less.
  • They must be viewable digitally (via photography, video, written transcription, audio recording, etc.)
  • They must be emotionally effective to a high degree*.

*For the purposes of my analysis, “emotionally effective” is measurable by the physical response incurred in audience members upon viewing. If a piece is beautiful, cool, clever, unusual, innovative, or any other measure of aesthetic or novel excellence, that does not qualify (nor disqualify) the art in question for my list. Rather, I am collecting works which consistently evoke: tears, sweat, an increased heart-rate, laughter, stomach-knotting discomfort, goosebumps, etc. in a large sampling of first time viewers.

I am collecting this data FROM viewers/audience members, not from the artists themselves. To avoid sample bias, I am hesitant to include works from the many skilled artists who I know personally.

Of course, what makes one viewer laugh will not make everyone laugh. Therefore, as I collect these works, I am particularly sensitive in evaluating which things are evocative enough to meet the criteria. It is an impossible and arbitrary measure, therein lies the greatest fallacy of my research. I believe that if people submitting the works to me, do so under the pretense of “This is the most emotionally powerful ____ I have witnessed.” and that I then witness it myself and share [physiological] results, and perhaps share with an additional small group of friends, who in turn also respond, this it is for my purpose good enough. An aside: It would be a moot point if I were witnessing this artwork attempting to be unmoved by it (and fortifying some kind of mental wall), and so at each evaluation I will seek to observe from an open-hearted and attentive perspective. Needless to say, this is going to be very challenging research to conduct.

My aim is to compile at least forty of these pieces, if not more, and describe them analytically in terms of their visual (and/or multi-sensory) characteristics in great detail, watching/viewing each one about ten times, picking them apart for characteristics. I want to tackle the moment that gives you the goosebumps, the frame of film where tears begin, the rhythm and timing of the joke (in seconds, or in measure of vocal pitch-variance) that elicits the biggest laugh.

When I have this list (which I will publish, here), and these summaries, I want to highlight and connect all the common characteristics shared between the photos, dances, poems, films, songs, etc. and find a kind of backbone or formula, hidden in emotionally profound works. I hope to learn from it, and integrate my learnings into the art work that I create.

The bellow statements (PART II) are related, though indirectly, to the more scientific approach described above. Rather than being about the formula for generating emotional potency, I have reflected on the more illusive source, which is immeasurable.

PART II:

I propose a bold thesis: the key to creating meaningful, emotionally potent art is to allow yourself to experience vulnerability. At its root, the practice of being vulnerable, open, exposed in your fears and candid in your truth, is the most essential part of creating valuable works of art. Art the likes of which steers our culture, fuels innovation, inspires creation and the attempt – sometimes the completion, of great feats. Without this vulnerability, this susceptibility to pain, we not only stifle our ability to connect with others over the experience of living, but perhaps rob ourselves much of the very experience of living fully.

Straying further –

Self-censorship is the crutch. It is a great injustice to our capacity for growth to turn or shy away from love, even in its painful roulette of unjust dispense. In all forms, love helps us grow and learn – from platonic to brotherly, passionate and temporary to steadfast and lasting, we are educated by it. Love is not quantifiable, it is not justifiable, it does not care for social norms or dictatorship. You should be responsible for your actions, you should be aware of your surroundings – your cultural habitat, but the root of all transcendental growth must come from that place of emotional vulnerability and truth. It must. I am growing ever more confident by the day that there is no other way to become wise, or to create great works.

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I Return from the Well

I return from the well, filled & replenished. Each year, this pilgrimage sets fourth a furry of inspiration, creation, and newfound curiosity; this year was no different. Many lessons have been learned, and I am still digesting all that I have felt and seen in what is truly one of the most magical places on earth.

I have the beginnings of a new name, a new act, new friendships, perhaps new love, and a shifted perspective which I hope stays intact over time. Expectations have been stripped, surprises encountered, challenges endured, blessings received.

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