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The Visit to Gettysburg

Here we are on the train from Philadelphia airport to go to downtown. So excited that Tanya from the National Arts Parks Foundation has set us up for an adventure to meet with the Gettysburg Foundation and the Gettysburg National Military Park for a possible art collaboration in the future. We did not know what to expect, so we decided to ride the wave to what it might bring us as an incredible adventure. I must say, coming from Seattle, it was so refreshing to see that culturally, the city of Philadelphia and the people on the train were so mixed wow! and it felt like "now I am in real America..! "  -Crow

Here we are on the train from Philadelphia airport to go to downtown. So excited that Tanya from the National Arts Parks Foundation has set us up for an adventure to meet with the Gettysburg Foundation and the Gettysburg National Military Park for a possible art collaboration in the future. We did not know what to expect, so we decided to ride the wave to what it might bring us as an incredible adventure. I must say, coming from Seattle, it was so refreshing to see that culturally, the city of Philadelphia and the people on the train were so mixed wow! and it felt like "now I am in real America..! "  -Crow

After a late night drive from the Philadelphia airport we arrived at a very patriotic hotel with carpets like this. With Lincoln portrait paintings every where.

After a late night drive from the Philadelphia airport we arrived at a very patriotic hotel with carpets like this. With Lincoln portrait paintings every where.

 Here, our chihuahua Mondo also had to strike a pose!

We drove late night to a hotel with rent-a car and it was off to Gettysburg early the next morning. We had an appointment in the Gettysburg museum with Tom Forsythe who was our host. Our schedule was beautifully orchestrated by him every day of the time we were there. Tom is the Deputy Superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park. It felt appropriate to have this blurry photo as he was always on the go from the start, he is a very warm, charismatic and engaging and passionate about the stories he shared with us.  Being from the South, he has a very interesting perspective on the place, on the relationship between the North and South and how perceptions have changed over time.  He shared his personal stories with us which gave us many new angles to think about and explore.  We have spent a lot of time exploring peoples personal stories in our recent projects.  As a country we still have so little understanding between the North and South.

THIS!! was the beautiful and spectacular CYCLORAMA PAINTING a 360 degrees painting in the museum that was activated by light and sound and a historical sequence of the civil war story told as you walk around and see the highlighted and detailed paintings.  There are only few of these glorious and gigantic paintings left in the United States and the world..

"The painting is the work of French artist Paul Dominique Philippoteaux. It depicts Pickett's Charge, the failed infantry assault that was the climax of the Battle of Gettysburg. The painting is a cyclorama, a type of 360° cylindrical painting. The intended effect is to immerse the viewer in the scene being depicted, often with the addition of foreground models and life-sized replicas to enhance the illusion. Among the sites documented in the painting are Cemetery Ridge, the Angle, and the "High-water mark of the Confederacy". The completed original painting was 22 feet (6.7 m) high and 279 feet (85 m) in circumference.[3] The version that hangs in Gettysburg, a recent (2005) restoration of the version created for Boston, is 42 feet (13 m) high and 377 feet (115 m) in circumference."

And then we met with Sue Boardman – a licensed guide and historian who wrote a book on the Cyclorama.

  The mood of the day completely changed.  She took us on a moment by moment, move by move, blow by blow account of the three day battle of Gettysburg. Taking us to each of the sites allowing us to view each event from different vantage points.  The initial surprise sneak made by the Confederates behind the Blue Ridge Mountains, approaching Gettysburg from the North.  The Union finally getting word and beginning to move forces to the area.  The Confederates swarming to the edge of the town and pushing the Union through town and into the hills beyond town.  We traced all of the movements, all of the cannon lines and tragic mass deaths.  The Union soldiers who ran out of ammunition and their commander ordered them to run into a line of Confederate soldiers with their bayonets.  The final mishap by General Lee which resulted in thousands of his troops piling up dead upon dead on the fences.  At the start of the tour it felt lighthearted and entertaining.  But as it wore on, the places, events, people, men, grass, trees and rocks  became imbued with those fleeting horrific three days and all of the groans and cries and tears and bone shattering cannons and futile running across an open field directly into the face of death.

We were so curious about what drives the historians that work day in and day out at the Battlefield.  What brought them there?  Below is a lovely mini interview with author Sue Boardman on the story of what brought her there and what keeps her there. We asked her to explain how she came to work at and love Gettysburg. CLICK BELOW FOR HER WORDS:

Sue Boardman who is an author of the book The Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama.

We are struck by the ceremony of remembrance here.  The marking of lines.  The tracing of steps.  The calling out of names.  The regiments from New York, Philadelphia, Minnesota for the Union.  Alabama, Virginia, Mississippi for the Confederacy.  Just groups of friends and neighbors led by moneyed sponsors who had the cash for guns and the thirst for fame and a passion for an ideal and their homeland. 

The effort to preserve this place, regulating stands of trees, lines of sight, tracing, re-tracing, telling and retelling.  Keeping the memory alive in every detail.  Repeated and iconographized.  And I wonder what we are actually doing.  And I wonder if we are getting lost in the details?  Are we so obsessed with form, that we lose the very moment we are attempting to immortalize?  

The Gettysburg Museum has a collection of 1.5 MILLION objects connected to the Battle and the war.  The Journals of fallen soldiers, uniforms, weapons, a baby cradle that was left behind after its owners fled with their baby in their arms.  General Lee's flag that was left behind.  They even have John Wilkes Boothe's jacket that he left at his girlfriends house the night before he assassinated Lincoln.  The row upon row of guns, and the horrific exploding canon balls that as Tom described leave only a pair of boots and a red mist in their wake.  We saw the legendary abolitionist John Brown's Pike that he used when attacking the Armory at Harper's Ferry.

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A Witness tree

A Witness tree

Tom Forsythe (deputy Superintendent) and Ed Clark (Superintendent) at the Armory

Tom Forsythe (deputy Superintendent) and Ed Clark (Superintendent) at the Armory

We spent some time with Ed Clark, Superintendent of the park.  Ed had just returned from Japan for two weeks.  He was being consulted by the Japanese Park system who are creating a National Park on the site of the Last Samurai Battle; The Satsuma Rebellion (1877) and taking inspiration from the Gettysburg National Park!  Apparently the two distant civil war battles and political situations have much in common. 

Witness Trees

We saw “witness tress”.  Trees who have stood witness to the war and are still living.  Their witness is one devoid of black and white, of Union and Confederate, of hero and victim.  A tree that witnessed great human tragedy.

At a monument we create icons and heroes and statues.  But the true moment that was had is gone forever.  Reflecting on the ceremony of remembrance.  Of this retracing of steps.  Of reliving for generations.  Hidden under all of the facts and figures, monuments and enactments perhaps there is a ceremony.  A collective processing of a terrible moment in time.

We were given the beautiful Sherfy house on the Sherfy Farm to stay in for our three nights in Gettysburg.  The family farm was at ground zero during the battle.

The Sherfy's walls are filled with Bullet holes that go through the bathroom doors and the bedroom walls.

The Sherfy's walls are filled with Bullet holes that go through the bathroom doors and the bedroom walls.

 Little Round Top

 Little Round Top

The GB Parks caretakers feel that there could be many more stories told to a much broader audience.  Their interest in bringing artists to the park is inspired by this desire for more perspectives.  The questions that came to our minds; Is there room for more stories?  Are they comfortable with the messiness of opening up the current narrative to new perspectives?  What kinds of stories would be revealed?  How will this place resonate to people from different communities, demographics and generations?  

Starting to think about how a project might start to take shape here.  Beginning the phase of research and dreaming.  We were wondering what the soldiers were really thinking about.  We say they "died for" various things.  But what was really on the minds of each of those men.  Just as a random exploration, we went online and collected a bunch of civil war letters in text and created a WORD CLOUD out of them.  What can we find in common with many letters.  what words bubble up to the top?  In this word cloud, the more common the word, the larger it appears on this graphic.  So many ways to dig for larger patterns.

A word cloud created from a dozen or so random civil war letters.  Each time we tried this the word "HOME" is always big.

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A searing and intense two week residency

We spent two weeks at Cornish College of the Arts in October with 12 Students from the college as well as 9 students from the inspiring organization Path With Art (an incredible Seattle organization providing art experiences for people transitioning out of homelessness) in the fifty foot by fifty foot rehearsal room of the Cornish Playhouse.  

Working in the space from 9am to 3am hammering out choreographic details, testing architectural ideas, brainstorming, composing music as well as running workshops with the students, the time was extremely productive and equally exhausting.  Residency time is magical.  More work can get done in a residency week than in an average two months.  Get in the zone and stay there!  Our Path With Art Students blew our minds with their willingness to dive into unknown territory, studying the art of interrogation with us and the mining of truth.  We are trying to find ways that interrogation can be used to discover important human truths.  This group of people ranging in ages from 17 to 75 carry with them such a wealth of wisdom and experience, and their questions and stories and explorations were very moving.  Eventually the Path With Art students became the interrogators in the performance to interview the audience.  During the training process, the Cornish College students were their guinea pigs - and it is difficult to express how moving these conversations were.  Between generations, between people with such vast life experiences, but with the common struggle to discover self, to find their voice and to find their place in a world that often has different plans for them.

 

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Predator Songstress research continues

I met with Sarah Lippek and Joshua Kohl on December 7th along with several volunteer subjects at Olson Kundig Architects' offices to continue the process of finding the materials for the anti Heroine series DICTATOR chapter. Sarah Lippek is a private investigator and a lawyer who has joined us for one of these first and early development sessions of the creative process, in which she is helping us to develop techniques of questioning our subjects. She has been extremely generous in meeting and brainstorming some of the trials we are having- She tested me on her techniques :) Joshua was the first one, in her apartment, and I video taped. It was like a confession, I found it uneasy.

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

Ken Rowe, who is taping our session in these photos at Olson Kundig Architects, is a cinematographer helping us create some versions of the images that we would project in the ritual performance for finding the particular look of the each subjects. I have been working with people in this way since June, groups of 25- 30 invited public to 4- 7 fellow local artists invited through facebook to emails, and now half our team, one audience member and Sarah, who I have officially met in one of our work in progress show/parties.

(I have been  flying the drone too for test drives after our videographer Leo played with it for a while and now has passed it over to me.) I have been interviewing social activists and conducting these experiments with my fellow artists.. I started to feel I am really guided into the right direction. Yes, its TOO MUCH ideas and things that don't and should'nt make sense together, as if the different planets I am creating seem like THEY ARE NOT in the same solar system- but I felt a glimpse of possibility that in the near future... IT WOULD :) :D I kind of wanted to cry.

I have met with our Degenerate member Alan Maskin this week to brainstorm further, met with others of the team and my head is a little bit full, but , BUT overwhelmed with joy- after so much feed back from fellow artists and friends - I felt like I found something like a tiny millimeter of gold in this last taping- it feels like a break through ! I want to deeply thank the people who helped all of this to come together.

I wanted to change the expected perspective, but it wasn't until actually doing these experiments that I am starting to feel like I am finding what I am looking for. I am looking forward to 2014 to jump start this very ambitious project.        -Haruko

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

photo: Joe Iano

 Mr. Drone test drive in the park  

 Mr. Drone test drive in the park
 

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In rehearsal with Kronos Quartet

(by Joshua)  I have to confess to have been very nervous to go into rehearsal with Kronos playing my music on Friday.  They have been my heroes for decades, and to have them in the room at the service of my score was pretty overwhelming and humbling.  But the nerves went away after about 5 minutes into the three hour rehearsal.  Their generosity, laser focus, clarity, alertness and humility set me immediately to the task of realizing what I had set out to achieve with this piece of music.  With Kronos, not a single second was wasted.  Literally.  David H's intensity made everything move forward so quickly, and the gentle and generous nature of John and Hank was extremely warming - as if they were holding out their hearts. There was nothing extra, just a full dedication to the music in the moment.  Each of them lend such a clear vision and selfless communication to their work.  John said to me at the after party, that at some point they realized that when we (the general we) find ourselves insisting on doing things a particular way - a down bow for example - most of the time, we are stuck to this idea because it is easiest for us.  But that if we make a habit of trying things other peoples way - or the hard way - we discover much more and find even much better ways of doing things.  So I come out of this magnificent experience inspired to bring this perspective of efficiency, generosity, focus and dedication to all of my rehearsals in the future.  Thank you to everyone who came and worked on this project and to everyone who came to witness it.

photos by Bruce Tom

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Singers Confirmed for Nov 16 Kronos show

So excited about our coming performance with the Kronos Quartet on November 16th!  We have confirmed our six singers, and each of them are multi-talented artists in their own right.

Dohee Lee: http://www.doheelee.com/

John Osebold:  http://josebold.com/ 

SoulChilde Okonamode:  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x8hxh6_fire-fly-by-okanomode-the-carousel_music

Paul Moore:  http://www.paulmatthewmoore.com/ 

Korby Sears http://www.tejastunes.com/ 

Campbell Thibo:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7by7NQSxvg

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Joshua Kohl's new CD available

Degenerate Art Ensemble's Joshua Kohl's new limited release "My Bronx" which is currently installed as a museum gallery installation at the Frye Art Museum is now available on CD from the Frye Art Museum StoreOrder Here.   This album is a collection of pieces composed to poems written by his father Herbert R. Kohl about his childhood in the Bronx in the 1940s.

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Gearing up for November 16

Haruko and I (Joshua) are in the studio getting a feeling for the Neptune stage by taping of the little stage size in the dance studio. The score has been revised and the stage is nearly cut in half from the previous version! Kronos Quartet and the singers will take up half of the already shallow Neptune stage depth! So we have to rework the choreography to avoid collisions. It is a challenge with this very athletic piece.

Transient
Transient

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Video Shoot "Warrior"

On Sunday we completed a video shoot for "Warrior" from our new work Predator's Songstress with filmmaker Ian Lucero at the gorgeous Triple Door in Seattle. This is the first cinema-like shoot of our work and it has really come out stunning! Can't wait to share this one. Finally a chance for Ian to really take artistic lead and produce a shoot the way he wants (without shooting over audience heads and around venue restrictions). A very exciting next step for us for sure.

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In the studio

We have been working at the Cornish College for the Arts' dance studio for the past month.  This has given us the amazing luxury of time for working on our newest project.  Its in that raw state.  We sometimes don't really know what we are doing.  Following a thread.  Following the seeds that we believe in but don't quite understand.  Yesterday we invited 20 mostly strangers into the studio with us to experiment on some ideas we have been throwing around.  We had an amazing group of people who took a chance and dove into the work with us. 

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DAE In Jönköping, Sweden

DAE Joshua and Haruko here in Jönköping, Sweden to receive the Music Theatre Award from the International Theatre Institute.  We gave our presentation yesterday and have been witnessing some incredible presentations from the other awardees. Marcos Franciosi and Valeria Martinelli's (Argentina) magnificently chaotic work El Gran Teatro De Oklahoma, Kirsten Dehlholm (Denmark) and her breathtaking visual piece War Sum Up inspired by Manga, Oscar Bianchi's Thanks to My Eyes (Italy)with one of the most incredible male counter-tenor singer / actors I have ever seen.  Can't wait for all of the other presentations coming over the next three days!

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Looking to June

We are currently in conversation with Seattle Theatre Group about putting together a work in progress showing of our newest Predator's Songstress chapter at the Moore Theatre / Moore Hotel in June. We had an amazing tour of the catacombs of the theater and the Hotel searching for a location.  What strange and amazing buildings!!! This weekend we are assembling the team for a 6 hour brainstorm session to figure out what this beast actually is.

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