“It’s an Art. It’s an Act. It’s almost a Religion.” –The New York Times
In the spirit of a Gospel Revival, Alpert Award-winning artist Billy Talen takes to the pulpit as Reverend Billy, a “pop-gnostic Jimmy Swaggart,” to deliver an electrifying and poignant Obie Award-winning performance. Directed by Savitri D., Reverend Billy and the joyous 25-voice Life After Shopping Gospel Choir draw upon their “retail interventions,” staged inside Wal-Marts and Starbucks, to transform consumer nightmares and biblical narratives into an inspirational showdown. Appropriating the style of some of America’s most reactionary icons, Reverend Billy proselytizes with supreme power and delivers the tenets of his Church of Stop Shopping with such infectious passion that your experience of shopping may never be the same.
Funded in part with generous support from The Herb Alpert Foundation. The Alpert Award in the Arts, a fellowship program that supports innovative practitioners in the fields of dance, film/video, music, theater and visual arts, is administered by CalArts on behalf of The Herb Alpert Foundation.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei carpeted the floor of the Turbine Hall with 100 million porcelain seeds and invited the public to walk across them.
But within days of the work’s grand unveiling, staff reported a fine dust rising from the seeds as people crunched them underfoot. According to health and safety experts, prolonged exposure to the dust could exacerbate conditions such as as asthma.
I’m a 27 year-old graduate student in acting, at CalArts. I’ve just embarked on the final year of my master’s degree and the fun and games are over in class. The focus has shifted from voice classes , movement and Shakespeare scene-study, to entrepreneurship. In less than a year, my classmates and I will be classically trained professional actors. But before we graduate we’ve got a whole lot to learn about the business of acting- these days it’s all about “booking the job”.
On evenings and weekends, however, my mind is elsewhere– you’ll find me on the lower parking lot, renovating my 1951 Spartan trailer.
I’ve convinced the school to let me park the 36 foot monster on campus. This gives me easy access to the Institute’s scene-shop and mostly importantly, to the theater school’s technical designer, Michael Darling. My carpentry skills are basic, at best, and Michael’s mentoring has been absolutely essential to the project.
Sculptor and faculty member, Michael Darling works with CalArts students in the scene shop.
In exchange for letting me house the Trailer Trash Project on campus, I’ve offered to put the Spartan to good use. Once finished the trailer will be a home for my mother, a journalist and Katrina evacuee, but while it is being built I want it to serve as a work and performance space for the artist community at CalArts and beyond.
The notion of displacement is one that my mother and I are all too familiar with. As I began my studies in art school it became clear to me:
…all artists are, at one time or another, displaced. We’re perpetually confronted with the reality of having to leave home to pursue our craft. Art-making can often distance us from our families. And when we’re away, the feeling of longing inspires us to make more art.
Over the course of 7 or 8 months, the Spartan will take the form of a mobile performance space/ make-shift classroom/ screening room, used to explore how displacement and artistry go hand-in-hand.
Evelyn Serrano, a member of CalArt’s faculty in the Art School is onboard with this idea. Evelyn is an artist who means business. She’s a staunch supporter of education through the arts and teaches a class at Calarts, Arts and Activism, designed to
From the Nomad Lab web site: “The “NOMAD LAB is a program created to support the goals of the Valle del Oro Neighborhood Committee in partnership with the City of Santa Clarita Community Services Division, The Village Apartments and the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission. As an initiative of the Valle del Oro Neighborhood Committee, NOMAD LAB is devoted to building a better neighborhood through programs and activities for youth and their families.”
help her students develop and pursue their own social agenda. One of her latest projects is Nomadlab in nearby Newhall, which offers free creative writing classes to young students in the Valle del Oro neighborhood, who are at risk of gang activity. She’s offered to make the Trailer Trash Project a key element of her Arts and Activism class this year. Her students and I will be devising ways to use the Spartan as a means to collaborate with Nomadlab. But ultimately, I want to leave it up to the kids of Nomadlab to come up with ways in which the trailer can best serve their cause.
Another source of inspiration for my project has been Side Streets, a community arts project co-founded by Cal Arts, alum, Karen Atkinson along with RIDS grad Joe Luttrell, two artists committed to the belief that the creative process belongs in the streets as well as in studios and galleries. More on Side Streets in future posts.
My mother, who has been researching and writing about the green revolution sees this trailer as an opportunity to display mobile, sustainable living. So we’re going eco!
This is a former FEMA trailer turned into a mobile disaster art studio by Paul Villinski. The trailer has solar panels and a wind turbine. We’ll use both on the Spartan, along with a composting toilet, and sustainable building materials. Credit: http://www.emergencyresponsestudio.org/
My Trailer Trash Project will be carried out in collaboration with The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, founded by CalArts alumni, Miranda Wright and Ian Garrett. The CSPA is a network providing artists and arts organizations with resources to help them adopt more sustainable practices in their work.
The Trailer Trash Project will be carried out using safe, clean and renewable materials as much as
feasibly possible. (See for instance, posts on “green” insulation materials.) Believe me this is no easy task. To give you an example, I was convinced bamboo flooring and cabinetry was the way to go. It’s super renewable (it only takes bamboo 3-5 years to reach maturity) but in recent years controversy has surfaced over the use of bamboo: it has to be flown over from China, lots of chemicals are used in the manufacturing process, deforestation and others.
Keeping up with this has been a little too much for me to handle right now– I’ve got my hands full as it is. So I’ve charged my mother with this task. This blog has lots of interesting info about sustainable materials, information that Michael and I use when deciding how to proceed. Perhaps it will be of interest to you as well.
The National Science Foundation has awarded a $700,000 grant to the Civilians, a New York theater company, to finance the production of a show about climate change. “The Great Immensity,” with a book by Steven Cosson “This Beautiful City” and music and lyrics by Michael Friedman “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”, tells the story of Polly, a photojournalist who disappears while working in the rain forests of Panama.