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Mar 21, 2019 at 7:30 pm

Refracting Realities: Performance and Presence as Documentary

With Lynne Sachs, Walis Johnson, Lizzie Olesker, & Miao Jiaxin

Join us to investigate the intersections of documentary and performance and ask how we can interpret reality through a lens of presence, refraction and invention.

The nature of documentary exploration relies on a keen sense of observation. If a person is conscious of being in front of a camera, then every movement, gesture or word spoken is a form of willing collaboration in performing the self. With this in mind, this program will dive into the confluence of performance and documentary by engaging with artists with a range of backgrounds and intentions. From staging public conversations, to reenactments or reimaginings of our own realities, these examples intend to imagine how performance can be a reflection or a response to our everyday. Tonight, we bring together three New York City artists who will each present their own live performance and then join us for a conversation around how mirroring reality or speaking back to reality can be an embodied practice. Lynne Sachs will lead the conversation with artists Walis Johnson, Lizzie Olesker and Miao Jiaxin following their presentations.


The Red Line Archive [ excerpt ]

20 mins

Artist Walis Johnson engages New York City residents in a conversation about race and the history of the 1938 Red Line Map that helped create the segregated urban landscapes of the city. Her “cabinet of curiosities” is wheeled along city streets, inviting people to freely associate about personal artifacts and documents from the artist’s family history in gentrifying Brooklyn and ephemera collected during four artist walks in and along the periphery of redlined neighborhoods.

Infinite Miniature

20 mins

Lizzie Olesker’s solo play INFINITE MINIATURE looks at the richness of memory and story contained within everyday objects and gestures.

On the stage of a kitchen table, the rendering of a scene: Middle of the night, a mother can’t sleep as she waits for her teenage son to come home… “Ladies and gents, welcome to the Tiny Universe Theater!”

Fund of Trust, Brooklyn NY (excerpt)

20 mins

$1000 cash was stashed in the ceiling of a gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The ceiling was sealed with plaster and painted seamlessly.
Years later, the gallery had to move as gentrification took place and the rent was doubled. But what happened to the cash in the ceiling? A presentation and performance from Miao Jiaxin.

60 min

Lynne Sachs makes films and writes poems that explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences. Strongly committed to a dialogue between theory and practice, she searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in her work with every new project.  Between 1994 and 2006, her five essay films took her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel, Italy and Germany — sites affected by international war – where she looked at the space between a community’s collective memory and her own subjective perceptions. Lynne discovered her love of filmmaking while living in San Francisco where she worked closely with artists Bruce Conner, Ernie Gehr, Gunvor Nelson, Barbara Hammer, Craig Baldwin and Trin T. Min-ha. Recently, she began integrating live performance into her work. Both Your Day is My Night (2013) and The Washing Society (2018) evolved from two-year New York City performance tours.

Sachs has made over 25 films which have screened at the New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto’s Images Festival amongst others. Her films have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, Walker Art Center, Wexner Center for the Arts and other venues nationally and internationally. The Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, Festival International Nuevo Cine in Havana and the China Women’s Film Festival have all presented retrospectives of Sachs’ films. Lynne received a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts.  She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband filmmaker Mark Street. www.lynnesachs.com

Walis Johnson is a multidisciplinary artist/researcher and educator whose work documents the experience and poetics of the urban landscape through oral history and ethnographic film, performance and artist walking practices.  She is particularly interested in the intersection of documentary film and performance. Her practice consists of multiple works, in a range of different media, grouped around specific themes and meanings. The Red Line Archive was exhibited in the Art in Odd Places Festival 2016.

Walis has an MFA from Hunter College in Integrative Media and Documentary Film and taught at Parsons School of Design. She has extensive experience in policy and philanthropy, collaborating with community-based organizations citywide, in New York City, San Francisco and nationally.

Lizzie Olesker is a playwright, performer, and director whose hybrid work has been developed and presented in New York at the Public Theater (Alcestis/Adaptation); Cherry Lane (Razing Houses); Clubbed Thumb (A Kind of Mother); Brooklyn’s Old Stone House (Gowanus Girl & 10,000 Species); Sightlines Theater (Dreaming Through History) and in Seattle at ACT and Intiman. Collaborations include the multi-media, site-specific Every Fold Matters (w/award-winning, documentary filmmaker Lynne Sachs) in neighborhood laundromats around the city; and Tiny Lights: Infinite Miniature (w/ Lenora Champagne) at the Ohio Theater, Dixon Place, and Invisible Dog. She began writing for theater with the Winter Project directed by Joseph Chaikin at La Mama and has also worked with the Talking Band (New Cities; The Necklace; Obskene), touring internationally. Her play Embroidered Past was recently seen at New Georges, where she is an Affiliated Artist. Currently completing a film version of Every Fold Matters with support from Fandor Films, Lizzie has also taught at the New School, CUNY, and Swarthmore College.

Beginning in Shanghai, where his photography works expressed the universal theme of urban angst, Miao then immigrated to New York, expanding his view of urban streets towards a more conceptual public stage. Among his performative practices across different media, Miao has blended his naked body into the bleak streets of a midnight New York City, traveled inside a suitcase hauled by his mother through urban crowds, made live-feed erotic performances on an interactive pornographic broadcasting website, and dressed as a Chinese businessman for an entire year when working towards his MFA at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is more widely known for converting his New York studio into a jail and charging $1 per night as accommodation on Airbnb. The same studio later was converted again to be a blind dating (meeting) spot, as well as a massage therapy clinic. Miao’s works often express the ambivalent and sometimes antagonistic tension that always exists between the individual and governing or cultural authorities, questioning assumptions about power in relation to identity politics. He posits the artist’s nature as one who transgresses boundaries, challenges consensus, and stays distance from authorities.

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Mar 21, 2019
7:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Free – $10.00


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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