Underbelly was part of a series of multi-discipline portraits of imagined iconic women examining power, transformation, and hidden phenomenon using music, dance, architectural site transformation and contemporary séance. Songstress fuses contrasting media and methods of storytelling into a single art environment, employing both time-based performance and music with time-static media such as portraiture and architecture to create a many angled looking glass on the subjects.
Predator Songstress' first three portraits were first presented as Underbelly in October 2012 in spaces around the Seattle Space Needle never intended to be seen by the public. Underbelly was a 4 part site transforming journey bringing the public to various locations around the Seattle Center as part of celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the 1962 World's Fair for which the Space Needle and the numerous public spaces and cultural facilities were constructed. Historically, World's Fairs were designed to project a vision of the future. These "predictions" were seldom accurate. Underbelly was offered a chance to reconsider that trajectory. We believed that the future will require new ways of looking at the 'underbelly" - the existing infrastructure, interstitial spaces, hidden, functional , mythological and secret spaces - the connective tissue that holds a city together. We wanted to investigate the spaces that were never intended to be seen or represent the world's fair iconography. Underbelly explores the spirit of the place and history. Much of our work is obsessed with the hidden parts of us all. Hidden powers, hidden perversions, the potential for the weak to find hidden powers from within, the concept of temporality, and the potential for enormous transformations. The dances are accompanied by live string quartet and a roaming amplified choir. Animation depicting these stories are projected on the surrounding architecture and each performance environment is fitted with moving sculptural portals made of fluorescent light.
"A place contains spirit, memory and the untold stories we've swept under our carpets. When given its sensory opportunity, a space begins to speak. In a tribute to this place we offer three meditations on characters both real and imagined whose spirits spoke to us through these walls. We are filled with wonder, fear, curiosity,rage, inspiration. We peel one layer, look deeper, inquire persistently and prop open our ears and senses to let the space, the spirits and the environment speak. "
-Degenerate Art Ensemble & collaborators Olson Kundig Architects
In 1962, Gracie Hansen, Seattle's underworld madam, created Sin Alley- a series of extravagant topless revues at the Seattle Center within the World's Fair. Hansen was a powerful business woman who wielded sexual powers with joy and mischief, greeting each night 's crowd with " Hi-ya, Suckers! ". Althought she raised $90,000 for the creation of her shows and enjoyed considerable public support her shows were eventually shut down amid a puritanical outcry. Hansen later ran for Governor of Oregon.
JOAN OF ARC
In 1962 - the year of the Seattle World's Fair - the Duwamish tribe , the original inhabitants of the land on which Seattle stands, were offered a cash settlement for the land taken from them, This offer amounted to just under $70 per person. The Struggles of the indigenous people here and across the world continue. We imagine an indigenous Joan of Arc, who against all odds takes back the city and restores it to its original nature. Streams begin to once again run under our feet, holy springs re-emerge and the great cedar forests rise again.
The 50th anniversary of the Seattle Worlds Fair invites asking what do we do with things or beings when they grow old? There are stories of famine times in old Japan in which elders, when they became burden on their desparate families, were carried on the backs of their children to be left in the mountains to never return. In our times, our elders are tucked away in institutional mountains- we never receive their wisdom, mentorship or spiritual powers. We imagine these abandoned elders as surviving in the mountains and transforming into wonderful monsters with powers of art and sorcery.
Dictator / Predator Songstress
This work is currently in development with more info HERE. The Dictator will be premiered at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco in the Fall of 2015 and in January of 2016 by Seattle Theatre Group and Cornish Presents, and will tour through 2017. This work is being created with the support of Creative Capital, the Guggenheim Foundation, MAP Fund and New Music USA. Warrior was also performed on a conventional stage in collaboration with the Kronos Quartet in their 40th anniversary concert in November 2013.