Our ninth annual ReVIEWING Black Mountain College international conference, in partnership with UNC Asheville, gathers artists and scholars who explore the history and legacy of Black Mountain College.
This Year’s Conference Introduces two new programs:
- The BMCM+AC Performance Initiative, a multi-part project offering new dimensions to the museum’s visual art exhibitions, including Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ multimedia stage work Black Mountain Songs, curated by Bryce Dessner (The National) and Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire) and performed during the conference; and Dance Heginbotham’s The Principles of Uncertainty, a new dance theater work from choreographer John Heginbotham and author/illustrator Maira Kalman, in March 2018
- The Active Archive, a stream of programs pairing the museum’s extensive collection with contemporary artists, curators and thinkers, beginning with an exhibition curated by interdisciplinary artist Martha McDonald
ReVIEWING Black Mountain College will feature over 60 interdisciplinary presenters from across the United States as well as Lithuania, Russia, and Canada. Topics addressed will include the artistic practices of BMC artists Josef and Anni Albers, Ruth Asawa, Ray Johnson, Merce Cunningham, and John Cage as well as the poetics of Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Hilda Morley, and John Weiners. The conference will feature two keynote addresses: one by conceptual artist Mel Chin, on Friday, September 29, and another, about the composition and performance of Black Mountain Songs, in the form of a panel discussion with members of the creative team and others, on Saturday, September 30.
Ticketing and Locations
Most of the events comprising ReVIEWING Black Mountain College 9 will take place on the UNC Asheville campus at the Reuter Center. Advance tickets are $40 for current members of BMCM+AC and UNC Asheville’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and $75 for non-members (BMCM+AC annual membership included). This price will increase to $100 for non-members at the door on September 29. Optional discounted tickets to the Black Mountain Songs performances, on September 29 & 30, are available to conference attendees for $10, along with an optional tour of the BMC Lake Eden Campus on October 1 for $15. Both add-ons can be purchased with conference admission at reviewing.brownpapertickets.com.
The Black Mountain Songs performances will take place at the Diana Wortham Theatre in downtown Asheville. Tickets can be purchased for $20 ($12 for those aged 18 and under) here.
The BMCM+AC Performance Initiative
Amidst a recent resurgence of public interest in Black Mountain College, BMCM+AC and UNC Asheville have launched a new Performance Initiative to offer residencies, workshops and performances of world-class interdisciplinary works that offer new dimensions to the Museum’s ambitious visual art exhibitions and illuminate and carry on the College’s legacy.
The BMCM+AC Performance Initiative kicks off during ReVIEWING Black Mountain College 9 with the Southeast Premiere of the acclaimed work Black Mountain Songs. Commissioned and produced by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and BAM, and curated by Bryce Dessner (The National) and Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), Black Mountain Songs is inspired by Black Mountain College, its prolific community of artists, and their work, and rekindles the College’s utopian spirit. The Chorus performs music written for them by eight composers: Dessner and Parry, as well as Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw, Nico Muhly, Aleksandra Vrebalov, John King, Tim Hecker, and Jherek Bischoff. Featuring contributions from filmmaker Matt Wolf (Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell) and acclaimed dancer/choreographer Gus Solomons Jr. (of the Merce Cuningham Company 1965-1968), Black Mountain Songs is an expansive choral and visual work. This exquisite production premiered at BAM in 2014. New Amsterdam Records released an acclaimed recording of the work—Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ first album—earlier this year.
The BMCM+AC Performance Initiative will continue during the week of March 13, 2018, when BMCM+AC and UNC Asheville present The Principles of Uncertainty, a new evening-length dance theater work by choreographer John Heginbotham and author/illustrator Maira Kalman. Heginbotham will direct and choreograph the work, while Kalman will oversee all elements of design—sets, props, projections and costumes. Kalman will also be present on stage, alongside the seven members of Dance Heginbotham, an actor and live musicians. Composer Colin Jacobsen—a member of string quartet Brooklyn Rider, chamber ensemble The Knights, and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble—serves as Music Director of the project. Members of The Knights will perform live.
Active Archive: Martha McDonald
“We do not always create ‘works of art,’ but rather experiments; it is not our ambition to fill museums: we are gathering experience.”—Josef Albers, Artist, Black Mountain College Faculty 1933-49
The Active Archive represents an ambitious new direction for Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (BMCM+AC), both programmatically and artistically. While BMCM+AC has included contemporary work in past exhibitions, this will be the first time it commissions new work and offers an artist residency.
The Active Archive Initiative will give interdisciplinary artist Martha McDonald time to conduct research, incubate ideas, and make new work. In the research and planning phase of the project, she will explore how objects and ideas from the museum’s collection, the historic Lake Eden campus, and the city of Asheville itself can be stitched together to reveal new dimensions of the Black Mountain College (BMC) story, and how it connects to contemporary culture and art practice.
Martha McDonald is an interdisciplinary artist whose performances and installations feature handcrafted costumes and objects that she activates through gestures of making, unmaking and singing to transmit narrative. McDonald’s practice often focuses on site-specific “interventions” in historic house museums, rare book libraries, cultural institutions, and botanic gardens to investigate the sites and their stories in order to explore how public places connect with personal histories and emotional states. Her work involves deep archive/collections research in order to uncover hidden or forgotten histories. She invites audiences to experience sites and collections from an artist’s perspective.
McDonald brings the ideas of Black Mountain College alive through an exhibition of artwork and ephemera from BMCM+AC’s collection and a live performance drawing on the rich history of experimental performance at BMC. The exhibition, across both galleries, focuses on the importance of process and material exploration at BMC. It includes student color studies from Josef Alber’s influential Werklehre courses; paintings, sculptures, textiles and ceramics by BMC faculty and students reflecting this legacy of material and color study; and a selection of idiosyncratic, hand-printed programs highlighting the history of collaborative performance at BMC.
McDonald’s performance will activate her installation of objects and costumes drawn from Xanti Schawinsky’s 1936 experimental theater piece, Spectodrama, which formed the basis of his Stage Studies course at BMC. McDonald’s piece features music inspired by John Evarts’ collaborations with Schawinsky at BMC from 1936-38.
About the Artists + Speakers
Mel Chin (keynote speaker) was born in Houston, Texas, in 1951. Chin’s art, which is both analytical and poetic, evades easy classification. He is known for the broad range of approaches in his art, including works that require multi-disciplinary, collaborative teamwork and works that conjoin cross-cultural aesthetics with complex ideas.
Chin also insinuates art into unlikely places, including destroyed homes, toxic landfills, and even popular television, investigating how art can provoke greater social awareness and responsibility. He developed Revival Field (1989-ongoing), a project that has been a pioneer in the field of “green remediation,” the use of plants to remove toxic, heavy metals from the soil. From 1995-1998 he formed the collective the GALA Committee, which produced In the Name of the Place, a conceptual public art project conducted on American prime-time television. In KNOWMAD, Chin worked with software engineers to create a video game based on rug patterns of nomadic people facing cultural disappearance. His film 9-11/9-11, a hand-drawn, 24 minute, joint Chilean/U.S. Production, won the prestigious Pedro Sienna Award for Best Animation from Chile’s National Council for the Arts and Cultures, in 2007. Chin also promotes “works of art” that have the ultimate effect of benefiting science, as in Revival Field, and also in the recent Operation Paydirt/Fundred Dollar Bill Project, an attempt to make New Orleans a lead-safe city. These projects are consistent with a conceptual philosophy that emphasizes the practice of art to include sculpting and bridging the natural and social ecology.
Chin’s work was documented in the popular PBS program “Art of the 21st Century.” He has received numerous awards and grants from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council for the Arts, Art Matters, Creative Capital, and the Penny McCall, Pollock/Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Rockefeller and Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundations, among others.
Brooklyn Youth Chorus (co-commissioner, producer, performer, Black Mountain Songs) is a collective of young singers and vocal ensembles re-envisioning choral music performance through artistic innovation, collaboration, and their distinctively beautiful sound. With an incredibly versatile range and repertoire, Brooklyn Youth Chorus combines intensive voice training and music study with exceptional performance experiences. Founded in 1992, Brooklyn Youth Chorus’s after-school program encompasses over 500 students in multi-level training divisions and advanced performing ensembles. With an emphasis on commissioning, the Chorus’s repertoire includes more than 70 original works and world premieres.
Bryce Dessner (creator, co-curator, composer, Black Mountain Songs) is a Brooklyn-based composer, guitarist, and curator who is also a member of the Grammy Award-nominated band the National. Dessner’s recent commissions include pieces for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Audiovisual Institute of Poland, the Grammy Award-winning Kronos Quartet, and the new music ensemble eighth blackbird, among others. The first recordings of Dessner’s compositions, performed by Kronos Quartet, were released in 2013 by Anti on an album entitled Aheym. In 2014 Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music Classics released St. Carolyn By the Sea; Suite from the Paul Thomas Anderson film There Will Be Blood, which features three of Dessner’s orchestral works performed by the Copenhagen Philharmonic and conducted by André de Ridder.
Richard Reed Parry (co-curator, composer, Black Mountain Songs) is the red-headed musical polymath at the heart of the inventive art rock band Arcade Fire, but his work and story reach far beyond. Born in Toronto and raised in a community of ex-pat British isles folk musicians, Parry studied electro-acoustics and contemporary dance at Concordia University. As well as contributing to Arcade Fire’s success over the past 10 years, he also released his debut album as a composer this year entitled Music for Heart and Breath on Deutsche Grammophon. Parry has also written commissioned works for Kronos Quartet, yMusic, and Bryce Dessner, and his chamber works also have been performed by the Calder Quartet and Who’s WhoWho’s Who Warhol Dervish. He has also collaborated and performed with artists like David Bowie, The National, the Unicorns, Neil Young, Mick Jagger, Sam Amidon, Nadia Sirota, Colin Stetson, Little Scream, La La La Human Steps, and Islands.
Maira Kalman (co-creator, designer, The Principles of Uncertainty) is the author and illustrator of 18 children’s books including Fireboat, Looking at Lincoln, and What Pete Ate, as well as five books for adults. Her online columns for the New York Times were compiled into two volumes, The Principles of Uncertainty and The Pursuit of Happiness. Her two most recent books about design, My Favorite Things and Ah-Ha to Zig Zag were recently released in conjunction with Maira Kalman: My Favorite Things – the exhibit she curated for the re-opening of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. Maira’s recent publications include Girls on Lawns with text by Daniel Handler, in conjunction with the photography department of the Museum of Modern Art, and Beloved Dog.
Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, John Heginbotham (co-creator, choreographer, The Principles of Uncertainty) graduated from The Juilliard School in 1993, and was a member of the Mark Morris Dance Group from 1998 – 2012. In 2011 he founded Dance Heginbotham (DH). The ensemble has been presented and commissioned by Bard College, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, The Joyce Theater, The Kennedy Center, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, among others. In the spring of 2016, DH toured to Indonesia, Laos, and the Philippines DanceMotion USASM, a project of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), produced by BAM. A frequent collaborator with live music, John has worked with numerous composers and musicians including Alarm Will Sound, American Classical Orchestra, Brooklyn Rider, Fischerspooner, Tyondai Braxton, Colin Jacobsen, Gabriel Kahane, and Shara Worden.
Martha McDonald (curator, Active Archive exhibition) is an interdisciplinary artist whose performances and installations feature handcrafted costumes and objects that she activates through gestures of making and unmaking and singing to transmit narrative. McDonald’s practice often focuses on site-specific “interventions” in historic house museums, libraries and gardens which investigate the sites and their stories to explore how these public places connect with personal histories and emotional states.
McDonald’s work has been produced in Berlin at Brotfabrik; in Melbourne, Australia at Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts and Craft Victoria; in Sydney, Australia, at Elizabeth Bay House; in New York at P.S. 122, The Joyce SoHo, HERE Center for the Arts and Galapagos Arts Space; in Washington, DC, at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery; in San Francisco at Theatre of Yugen; in Chicago at Links Hall; in Baltimore at the Evergreen Museum & Library and 14K Cabaret; and in Philadelphia at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Painted Bride Art Center, The Prince Music Theater and the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. She has been selected for artist residencies at Monash University (Melbourne, Australia), The MacDowell Colony (Peterborough, NH), Evergreen Museum & Library at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD) and The Rosenbach Museum & Library (Philadelphia, PA). She has received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Independence Foundation. She completed a Masters of Fine Art at Monash University through a Monash Research Graduate Scholarship.