Emily Johnson / Catalyst (USA)
Then a Cunning Voice and A Night We Spend Gazing at Stars
Then a Cunning Voice and A Night We Spend Gazing at Stars weaves together stories and performance with the exchange of ideas, the sharing of food, and the endurance of spending a night together outside under the stars and sky. Taking place at Randall’s Island Park, beginning at dusk and continuing until after sunrise, Then a Cunning Voice… invites audience members into a multilayered, participatory work that focuses attention on the space we share and on envisioning the future.
Then a Cunning Voice… asks: “What do you want for your well-being? For the well-being of your chosen friends and family? For your neighborhood? For your town, city, reserve, tribal nation, world?”
Throughout the night the audience will be guided through a series of richly crafted events—part ritual, part lyrical adventure—created by Johnson in collaboration with performers Tania Isaac and 12-year-old Georgia Lucas. The performance will begin with an opening ceremony and a group walk that arrives at the shores of the East River and unfolds on 4,000 square feet of quilts. Designed by textile artist Maggie Thompson, each quilt has been hand-made by volunteers at community sewing bees around the U.S. and in Taiwan and Australia over the last three years. The quilts serve as audience seating, performance area, resting area, and “home” for the duration.
The night creates much-needed space for connection between people near and far, between youth and elders, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and between urban and rural experiences, with an emphasis on engaged citizenship.
It is celebratory, to come together like this.
Created by Emily Johnson in deep collaboration with the performers
Directed by Ain Gordon
Tania Isaac, Georgia Lucas, Emily Johnson
Visual Design by Maggie Thompson
Quilt construction by volunteers in:
Minneapolis; North Adams, Pittsfield, Williamstown, MA; San Fransisco and Fountain Valley, CA; Tennessee; Tallahassee; Richfiled, MN, Melbourne, Sydney and Natimuk Australia; New York City; Chicago; Anchorage, AK; Tuscon, AZ; Standing Rock; Hualien Taiwan; Guilford VT; Seattle, WA; Nashville, TN
Research and Company Manger: Yumi Tamashiro
Project and Stage Manager: Wally Gunn
Creative Producer: Meredith Boggia
Emily Johnson is an artist who makes body-based work. A Bessie Award winning choreographer and 2015 Guggenheim Fellow in Choreography, she is based in Minneapolis and New York City. Originally from Alaska, she is of Yup’ik descent and since 1998 has created work that considers the experience of sensing and seeing performance. Her dances function as installations, engaging audiences within and through a space and environment—interacting with a place’s architecture, history, and role in community. Emily is trying to make a world where performance is part of life; where performance is an integral connection to each other, our environment, our stories, our past, present, and future. She receives inspiration from the annual migration of salmon, who swim upstream for thousands of miles because they must. She has watched these salmon swim up waterfalls and she believes humans can also be called to do amazing things. She has been told that she makes dance for “dance-lovers” and she makes dance for “people-who-generally-don’t-like-dance.” She would like to think that this is true; she would like to think that her dances are for every body and that maybe they enlighten small aspects of our existence. Emily received a 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award and her work is supported by Creative Capital, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, Map Fund, a Joyce Award, the McKnight Foundation, New England Foundation for the Arts, and The Doris Duke Residency to Build Demand for the Arts. Emily is a current Mellon Choreography Fellow at Williams College and was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota, 2013 – 2015, an inaugral Fellow at the Robert Rauschenberg Residency, a 2012 Headlands Center for the Arts and MacDowell Artist in Residence, a Native Arts and Cultures Fellow (2011), a MANCC Choreographer Fellow (2009/2010/2012/2014/2016), a MAP Fund Grant recipient (2009/2010/2012/2013), and McKnight Fellow (2009, 2012). Her new work, Then Cunning Voice and A Night We Spend Gazing at Stars is an all night, outdoor performance gathering. It will premiere in 2017 and tour to Williamstown, MA; New York City; San Francisco; Chicago; and Melbourne, Australia.
About the Randall’s Island Park Alliance
The Randall’s Island Park Alliance (RIPA), founded in 1992, is a public-private partnership with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation. Celebrating 25 years as the dedicated steward of Randall’s Island Park, the Alliance working with the City and local communities to sustain, maintain, develop, and program the Park to support the well-being of all New Yorkers. The Park offers miles of waterfront pathways, 20 acres of natural areas and wetlands, an urban farm, a track and field stadium, a golf center, a 20-court tennis center and dozens of new playing fields, as well as the Harlem River Event Site.
Featured image from Emily Johnson’s “Then A Cunning Voice” residency provided courtesy of MANCC
Emily Johnson/Catalyst’s Then a Cunning Voice and a Night We Spend Gazing at Stars is supported by a National Dance Project Touring Award from the New England Foundation for the Arts, MAP Fund, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The world premiere is presented by Performance Space 122 with support from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the Jerome Robbins Foundation, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York State Legislature.
Development support for Then a Cunning Voice and a Night We Spend Gazing at Stars was made possible through residencies at Push Festival (Vancouver, BC), Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (Tallahassee, FL), and a Forecast Public Art/RARE Residency (Richfield, MN). Development support for activities at Williams College are supported by the Mellon Foundation.