Manifesto

9 06 2010

Maren Hassinger notes, “The following is a manifesto I wrote for Senga [Nengudi] and myself, probably on the occasion of our visit to Paris in 2006.” Hassinger and Nengudi traveled to Paris to present their collaborative video, Side by Side, which explores their work together since the 1970s.  They presented the video at “Les soirées nomades: Nuits Noires” at the Fondation Cartier por l’art contemporain, Paris, France for which Hassinger also created Women’s Work.

Manifesto

Manifesto pg. 1

“We”

Since 1978 (during CETA, Title VI) we’ve been working alone and together as our paths crossed.  Sometimes it was a sculptural collaboration, but more often, we performed in each others works.  Events, process, ideas were shared in (list pieces).

What was the nature of the work done together?  A sense of play and improvisation was always at the core of our process.  Senga might say, “Oh, I saw this big hole where they demolished Broadway Wilshire.  We should see that.”  Then off we’d go to see the hole.  We all agreed it was a big hole.  Years later Houston made a cubic hole in the ground in Atlanta and filled its shored up sides with niches containing secrets.  I made swirling round wire rope pieces, etc.  Nothing explicit — but a shared moment individually interpreted.  Often these shared moments seemed incredibly awkward to me.  I didn’t always understand why I was looking at these exciting feats of (de)construction.  Senga’s process seems to have a lot to do with this unknowingness, but a feel for the rightness of the effort.  Maybe this stems from her dada/surrealist roots.

In cases like “Blanket of Branches,” (1986) I told Senga and Ulysses that I was doing this installation at the Contemporary Arts Forum in Santa Barbara and invited them to perform within (under) this canopy of branches at the opening.  We all (Frank Parker was also in the cast) appeared in Senga’s piece, “Nature’s Way.”  Ulysses piece was (discuss his piece).

In 1984 I told everyone I had written “Voices.”  We had been working with Rudy Perez (in Ulysses’ studio) and we all gathered as personnel for “Voices.”  Other performers included classmates from Lester Horton dance classes and a student from Cal Arts. (get names)

Conceptually all these pieces are marked with a distinctive physicality probably derived from our shared interest and pursuit of dance.  Senga’s humor and quirky (psychologically and sexually charged) interpretations of reality surface in “Las Vegas Ikebana.”  Maren’s desires for unity are apparent in “Voices.”  A shared romanticism is apparent in Senga’s poster of myself and Frank Parker dancing  and in Maren’s contributions to “Las Vegas Ikebana” and the installation of “Our Book.”

Post-modern commentaries on politics, the end of nature, etc., are apparent in our approaches in “Voices” and “Las Vegas Ikebana.” (others?).          Maren’s minimalist inclinations have brought a sympathy with architecture, repetition. and site inspired forays.  “Flying” is an example.

Now, as we celebrate 35 years in art, we haven’t heard of any other collaborations between African American women in the area of performance and installation.  We know of some individuals (Adrian Piper, Lorraine O’Grady, et al), but never people working together.  So, we are unprecedented.  AND the collaboration is particularly important when you consider what exactly is commingled here.  We are nearly textbook examples of the art historical crossover from modernism to post modernism practiced during the past 50 years.  Senga’s roots are dada and surrealism, mine are minimalism.  We both shared a background in dance training (specificallly with students and company members of Lester Horton in Los Angeles).  We have both gravitated towards explorations involving sculptural objects, installations, performance.  I became enamored of using film and video.  Senga is obsessed with still images.

Because Senga’s work employs pseudonymous personalities who engage in diverse art

Manifesto  pg. 2

activities (e.g., Harriet Chin is a draughtsperson), her involvement with this collaboration can be seen as an extension of that impulse.  It is Senga, the dancer or talker/mail writer, who participates in these works.

Maren’s involvement probably stems from a desire to work communally towards goals with (possibly) wider connotation, application, and appreciation.  By combining efforts the total might be greater than the sum of either part.  Something actually NEW might happen, or at least, something inspiring….  These pieces together also are a concrete examples of the unity Maren has frequently cited as a goal of her recent solo work.

We’ve kept each other such good company all these years and we’ve had so much fun doing it, that it’s hard to separate the abiding friendship from the issues of theory and practice.  Finally, it seems we’ve collaborated and those times together have kept us making art, maintained our curiosity(when much else failed), and stepped up the ante in art history.  Our times together making work have healed many difficult moments wrought by (these only childs’) lives.

Senga — risky, spunky, sexy, outstandingly absurd — hanging stuff off the demolition site and Maren flopping around all this wire rope to make a row of steel trees mourning nature’s passing while proclaiming the authority of its replacements, combine to produce pieces of rare power and imagination.

(If this is text, show illustrations of each.  If this were a slide show, show these now on split screen.)

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Senga Nengudi Thematic Essay

14 12 2009

“I relish in Creating art wherever my I my lazy eye finds it,” writes Senga Nengudi as persona Lily Bea Moor in her poem, “Lilies of Valley Unite! Or not.” The line sings of an artist whose capacity to unleash the expressive power of quotidian materials has transformed spaces through performance and installation since the 1970s. Things torn and discarded—pantyhose, newspaper, masking tape— are imbued with metaphor in Nengudi’s hands. In R.S.V.P (1976) worn nylons stretch like spider webs from one wall to another. Weighed down by sections of sand, and sometimes a scrap of metal, the pantyhose reference the women’s bodies that they once garmented. Splaying nylons across the gallery until its multicolored skins are at the point of breaking, Senga Nengudi knits significance anew.

Interconnectivity is a thematic element within this oeuvre where materials and performance transcend artistic genre and tie together cross-cultural influences. In Nengudi’s sand-painting, From One Source Many Rivers (2004), pools of blue and currents of deep ochre drifted through the spot-lit museum interior.  Shown at Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburg, the site synthesized techniques from Tibetan mandalas, Navajo sand paintings, and aboriginal ground paintings. “I like to dance with space I occupy,” reports Nengudi, and this installation echoed that statement in the traces of sand, pigments and fossils that the artist left in her wake.

Rhythm underscores the play of sound, light, and innovation in works such as Warp Trance (2007), which was a project that she designed while Artist in Residence at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Pennsylvania. Weaving together themes of art and labor, this installation created a hypnotic environment by projecting audio and video recordings from textile mills onto recycled Jacquard punch card panels. As such, visitors were inundated with the collusion of the mechanical pasts and digital futures that the Jacquard loom signifies.

Nengudi also draws inspiration from interpersonal relationships, even as she creates them. For instance, her ongoing performance “Walk a mile in my shoes,” sends shoes to others in the U.S. and abroad with the request her recipients to walk/dance a full mile in the shoes and return their documentation. Collaborative projects are recurrent events; in addition to her long time friendship with Maren Hassinger, Nengudi has worked with performance artists such as David Hammons, Lorraine O’Grady and Houston Conwill.

by Diane Woodin





Senga Nengudi Biography

14 12 2009

Senga Nengudi has been a vanguard of contemporary performance art since the 1970s, when she exhibited at the Just Above Midtown Gallery with Houstan Conwill, David Hammons, Lorraine O’Grady. Confounding the barriers between the art of performance, dance, sculpture, and installation, she interjects herself as a third term in the relationship between space and found objects to explore the possibilities of each.  In so doing, Nengudi brings viewers into hybrid environments that disengage them from the practices of everyday experience and compel a new look at items both mundane and exotic.

Performances take place in galleries, of course, but she also stages events in poetry, film, and audio. Recently, she has created a variety of identities, each of which produces a specific creative enterprise. There are Propecia Leigh, Photographer; Harriet Chin, Painter; and Lily Bea Moor, Writer. As Nengudi explains, each name has personal and cultural significance.

Born in Chicago, Nengudi grew up in California where she stayed to study art and dance at CSU in Los Angeles.  She travelled to Japan after graduating where she was exposed to the Guttai performance groups whose multi-media techniques would later inform her work. Reflecting her desire to interact with the public, Nengudi worked first as a teacher in the arts before moving to Harlem in 1971. There she took part in a community of African-American artists who explored the boundaries of African and American cultures and philosophies.

Now an instructor at the University of Colorado, Nengudi is represented by the Thomas Erben Gallery in New York City. She divided her time between caring for her family, her relationships with loved ones, and her art-making. Nengudi’s performances and exhibits appear nationally and internationally.

For her innovative efforts and commitment to feminist educaton, Nengudi has received numerous awards since 2000. The Women’s Caucus for Art named her recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2010.  In 2005, she garnered both the Anonymous Was a Woman Award and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award.

by Diane Woodin





Blind Dates program 2

12 12 2009

http://vm8.cas.unc.edu/user/aaapa/senga-nengudi/blinddates_program2.tif

Artist: Senga Nengudi Current repository:
Location: White Dog Performance Studio, New York Source: Senga Nengudi
Title: Blind Dates Rights:
Medium: copy art Comments: The interior of the program from Blind Dates
Dimensions: 14 x 22 cm Date: 1982




Blind Dates program 3

8 12 2009

Blind Dates program 3

Artist: Senga Nengudi Current repository:
Location: White Dog Performance Studio, New York Source: Senga Nengudi
Title: Blind Dates Rights:
Medium: copy art Comments: The interior (verso) of the program from Blind Dates
Dimensions: 14 x 22 cm Date: 1982




Blind Dates program

1 12 2009

Blind Dates program

Artist: Senga Nengudi Current repository:
Location: White Dog Performance Studio, New York Source:  Senga Nengudi
Title: Blind Dates Rights:
Medium: copy art Comments:  Front cover of program for “Blind Dates,”  1982.
Dimensions:  15 x 22 cm Date: 1982




Blind Dates, “Smile” backside

1 12 2009

Blind Dates "Smile" backside

Artist:  Senga Nengudi Current repository:
Location: White Dog Performance Studio, New York Source:  Senga Nengudi
Title:  Blind Dates Rights:
Medium: text Comments:  Ephemera with a description of “Blind Dates” in the artist’s hand.
Dimensions: Date: 1982