LANDeSCAPES is a multi-media collaboration with printmaker Merrill Shatzman, and musician Jonathan Henderson that examines the fragility of our environment and how it is threatened by global warming, industrial exploitation, and overpopulation. In addition to raising awareness of these important issues, depicting the spiritual beauty that exists within the landscape, from the most minute species to ancient geologic rock formations and their life cycles is principal to our collaboration. Reacting to the impending downsizing and industrial abuse of select areas of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah, our installations celebrate the beauty of selected landscapes found within this barren environment and their ability to survive. The subjects and materials used in the installations display vulnerability as these endangered animals, plants, rock formations, and populations withstand extreme heat, erosion, flooding, fires, and profiteering by depleting rich underground natural resources through drilling and mining.
LANDeSCAPE is inspired by the Utah landscape and the many contrasts they present: These landscapes are large and grandiose, but if you look close, you can find so many numerous details in colors, texture, and form; These landscapes areas powerful but at the same time, exist in an very fragile ecosystem as the rock formations that basically consist of sand and sometimes can be destroyed by a single footstep; The population is very sparse and yet these landscapes are now threatened by civilization because they have recently been opened to the extraction of natural resources.
LANDeSCAPE includes multiple installations that combine laser-cut prints, silkscreen prints, paper, maps, light and video projections. Each installation is carefully orchestrated to emphasize the precarious nature of the environment it is describing and the impending threat to it.
Cornered is a video installation that represents the motivation and struggles of migrants leaving their home country and making an attempt, most often failed, to cross the border from Morocco to the Spanish cities of Melilla and Ceuta, the only European cities on Africa’s mainland.
The visual imagery focuses on the ambitions and struggles of the migrants, from the journey from their home country to the many attempts to enter Spain, and the frustration of the perpetual effort to reach their dream — the dream of a better life for their families.
Image Gallery here
Part sculpture, part light installation and video animation, Cornered is an immersive visual experience that represents the motivation and struggles of migrants leaving their home country and making an attempt, most often failed, to cross the border from Morocco to the Spanish cities of Melilla and Ceuta, the only European cities on Africa’s mainland.
The installation projects an original dance performance interlaced with stylized visuals on an intricately patterned and light-filled structure, which reminisces a carved Moroccan table, covered on top by a screened dome. The interior of the structure contains a short-throw projector, with the dome as a rear-projection screen. The visuals and the original scores are experienced by walking around the structure, immersing the viewer in the light patterns that emanate from it to cover floors and surrounding walls.
The visual imagery focuses on the ambitions and struggles of the migrants, from the journey from their home country to the many attempts to enter Spain, and the frustration of the perpetual effort to reach their destination. The visual style of the video projection is based on art from countries where the migration via Morocco often originates (Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali to name a few). The color palette focuses on black silhouettes that are faceless placeholders for the many human beings in a similar situation. These silhouettes represent the darkness and frustration of the journey and at the same time reflect the physical beauty and skilled craftsmanship of the African people, some of whom use black to symbolize wisdom. The black figures are contrasted by incorporating vibrant colors that are familiar from African fabrics, patterns, and paintings.
The video combines real footage and animation, and the projection scale varies by using different numbers of screens (the dome is framed with triangles). Sometimes, only one animation covers the entire projection surface. Other times, the multi-video utilizes each individual facet or just a few at a time. While the projection is playing, the light from numerous LEDs shines through the structure to paint the walls around the viewer with geometric light patterns. In this way, the installation inhabits the entire space it occupies.
Jonathan Henderson and his music group Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba composed the musical score for the installation. Jonathan is a North Carolina-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer currently pursuing a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at Duke University. Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba’s music is steeped in ancient West African griot traditions but propelled into the 21st century by the modernizing impulses of a rock band format.
Cornered creates an ambivalent atmosphere of frustration and hope. Through the video with dancers that are separated from identity and the audio with the emotion of Diali’s voice that is not translated from his native Wolof, Cornered provides an emotional perspective on the migratory issue, leaving the viewer with an impression of determination, deliberateness, and desperation. The intensity and mood of the audio track and the video rise and fall, reflecting the back and forth between emotional highs and lows, and the 8-minute animation then repeats itself, further mirroring the repeated failed attempts to cross the border.
Cornered was initially shown in the Fall of 2018 as part of “Art and Migration around Europe”, an exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art, the Rubenstein Arts Center and the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University, which was curated by theInTransitworking group at Duke. The completion of Cornered comes at an opportune moment when it complements a broader awareness of the humanitarian crisis at Spain’s southern border.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Valuable assistance provided by Lexi Bateman, Katy Clune, Estlin Haiss, Steve Milligan, Philip Moss, Gabriel Pelli, Victor Ribet, Mark Olson, Austin Powers, Robert Zimmerman, and Yuchen Zhao.
EXHIBITS/FILM SCREENINGS/PRESENTATIONS – Meraki Film Festival, Madrid, Spain. Berlin, Germany. April 16-17, 2021- Semi-Finalist – A Show for A Change Film Festival, Santa Monica, CA, USA. October 15, 2020 – Raleigh Film Festival, Raleigh, NC, USA. October 2, 2020 – Durham Art Guild Gallery, Durham, NC, USA. Aug 29-Sept 27, 2020 – postponed to 2021 due to COVID – Docs without Borders, Nassau, DE, USA. August 23, 2020 – The African Film Festival, Dallas, Texas, USA. June 2-6, 2020 – Ethnografilm Festival, Paris, France. April 21-25, 2020 – postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19 – Courage Film Festival, Berlin, Germany. April 21, 2020.- Semi-Finalist – Oxford Film Festival, Oxford, TN, USA. March 18-22, 2020 – Ann Arbor Film Festival: Off The Screen!, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. March 24-29, 2020 – North Dakota Human Rights Art Festival, Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Minot, ND. January-July 2020 – iGong, Alternative Video Art Fair, Sinchon boxquare, Seoul, South Korea. December 4-6, 2019 – International Film & video Festival “Cathartsis”, Moscow. December 7-16, 2019 – The IndieFEST Film Awards, La Jolla, CA – November 2019. Award of Recognition Liberation/Social Justice/Protest – Video Art Forum 2019, Damman, Saudi Arabia. August 2019 – FilmArte Festival, Berlin, Germany. October 2019 – African World Film Festival, Charles H. Wright Museum, Detroit, MI, USA. August 2019 – NeMaf: Seoul International New Media Festival, Seoul, Korea – August 2019 – Encuentro 2019: The World Inside Out, Mexico City, Mexico – June 2019 – Universidad de Valparaiso, Chile – May 2019 – Migration Panel Discussion: “What is Duke at Home in the World?”. November 8, 2018 – Murthy Agora Gallery, Rubenstein Arts Center, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA. October 2018 – Ruby Fridays, Rubenstein Arts Center, Duke University, NC, USA. September 28, 2018 Art & Migration around Europe Speaker Series, Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, NC, USA. February 1-2, 2018
If My Feet Have Lost The Ground, in collaboration with director Torry Bend is a toy theater play about flight, perspective, reflection and loss. Using the emotionally charged environment of an airplane this play investigates the self-reflection one experiences when seeing the world from the tiny window of an airplane. The play draws connections between landscape and body using both aerial photography and medical imaging to challenge the ideas of scale, power, relevance and importance, while highlighting the emotions of reflection: anticipation, love, loss and acceptance.
A variety of techniques are used in the performance: video projection, tabletop, Bunraku, shadow and toy theater. The main performance area is a pivoting table that rotates to become a rear and front projection screen maximizing the shows ability to mix live puppetry with video projection.
From concept development to performance, I worked closely with puppeteer and director Torry Bend throughout multiple workshops to develop the story. For the video design, we filmed, edited, post produced, used stop motion, visual special effects and animation to blend the worlds of reality and puppetry into one.
Development started in 2013 when Process Series at UNC provided space for two weeks to develop and experiment on a new piece. An excerpt of the performance can be found here.
It took us a few more workshops and almost two years to fully develop the piece. The final production was first staged and well received at Manbites Dog Theater in Durham in October 2014.
A new iteration of this piece will be performed at the National Puppetry Festival 2017 at Concordia University, St Paul, Minnesota in July 19th. We spent the spring and summer completely reworking the show, previous iterations of which already played at Manbites Dog Theater in Durham, North Carolina in October 2014 and at Open Eye Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2016.
Credits: Created and Directed by Torry Bend Video Design: Raquel Salvatella, Megan Reilly (2016), John Haas (2014) Lighting Design: Bill Healey (2016), Elizabeth Droessler (2014) Sound Design and Composition: Colbert Davis (2016-17), Jil Christiansen (2014) Puppet Design: Torry Bend, Anna Nickles, Sarah Krainin
Performances: National Puppetry Festival, Minneapolis, MN. July 2017.Open Eye Theater, Minneapolis, MN. February 2016 Manbites Dog Theater, Durham, NC. October 2014 UNC Process Series, History Playmakers theater, Chapel Hill, NC. 2013
This animation is a visual representation of an excerpt from prisoner Chris McBride’s letter to the newspaper Indy Week dated on July 4th, 2012. This piece attempts to visually communicate, in less than 2 minutes, the amount of time a prisoner spends in very small confinement, the minuscule amount of time spent outside the cell and the psychological impact this can have. The idea of illustrating written content with animations and (sometimes interactive) graphics, let’s call it visual journalism, interests me, and is gaining in popularity, for example in the online edition of the New York Times. My piece “Solitary Confinement” tries to convey not just the content, but also the mood of the article – or, more specifically, the letter.
Screenings: – Meraki Film Festival, Madrid, Spain. Berlin, Germany. April 16-17, 2021. – Semi-Finalist – Courage Film Festiva. Berlin, Germany. MAY 3, 2021. – Semi-Finalist – Defy Film Festival, Nashville, TN, USA. – Tarheel Shorties Film Festival, Wilmington, NC, USA. – Ethnograpfilm Paris, France. – International Film & Video Festival “Cathartsis”, Moscow. Semi-finalist – Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival, Gaza. – Carrboro Film Festival, Carrboro, NC, USA. – North Dakota Film Festival, Fargo, ND, USA. – La Femme International Film Festival, Los Angeles, CA, USA. – Respect Belfast Human Rights Film Festival, Belfast, UK. – Global Peace Film Festival, Florida, USA. – Five Continents International Film Festival, Venezuela. (best experimental short film) – Short to the Point Film Festival. – Low to No Int’l Film Festival, Las Vegas, NV. – Social Political Short Film Festival, Missoula, MT. – Magmart video under volcano, X Edition. – London X4 Seasonal Short Film Festival, London, UK. – Free Speech TV. 2016 • 12 Month Film Festival. (2nd winner) – Carmarthen Bay Film Festival, Wales UK. – UNSPOKEN Human Rights Film Festival, Utica, NY. – Athens International Film + Video Festival. Athens, OH. – Reel Teal Film Festival, Wilmington, NC. – Carolina Film & Video Festival, Greensboro, NC. – In Practice Exhibit. Power Plant Gallery, Durham, NC.
The Paper Hat Game, in collaboration with director Torry Bend, investigates the act of riding the train using puppetry and video. The performance allows us to explore integration of two starkly different media. Puppetry is ephemeral and uncanny offering a moment of connection between audience and performer in a three dimensional world. With it comes the uncertainty of improvisation, malfunction and physical and technological limitations. With computer graphics, in contrast, one can create almost anything, but the interaction is limited to 2 dimensions and rarely allows the performers to directly connect with the audience. Our goal was to determine ways by which a combination of the two media, video and puppetry, can capitalize on the advantages of each. We achieved this through projection techniques, graphic elements and video fragmentation, allowing the improvisation of live performance while blurring the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds to create a dream-like atmosphere.
After the successful first run a Duke’s Sheafer Lab Theater in September 2011, we completely reworked parts of the show. The second iteration was subsequently named Best Design and Best Production of Triangle Theater in 2012 by the Indy Week a regional alternative weekly newspaper. It has been nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. The nomination was announced on April 27 and is based on performances that took place at The Tank/ 3-Legged Dog in New York city in June and July of 2016 with a The New York Times review.
In July 2017, we were awarded a Citation of Excellence in the Art of Puppetry for our collaboration. The citation, presented by the American Center of the Union Internationale de la Marionnette (UNIMA-USA), was announced during the National Puppetry Festival in Minnesota this summer. Founded in 1929, UNIMA-USA is dedicated to promote international understanding and friendship through the art of puppetry.
Credits: Created and Directed: Torry Bend Video and Projection Design: Raquel Salvatella Cinematography: Steve Milligan, Raquel Salvatella Lighting Design: Jeanette Yew Sound Design: Colbert S. Davis IV Puppet Design: Torry Bend, Sarah Krainin, Tarish Pipkins
Performances: 3-Legged Dog, New York, NY – 2016 National Puppetry Festival, Uconn, Masfield, CT – 2015 The Den Theater, Chicago, IL – 2013 Open Eye Theater, Minneapolis, MN. – 2013 Great Small Works Toy Theater Festival, Brooklyn, NY – 2013 Manbites Dog Theater, Durham, NC. – 2012 Premiered at Sheafer Lab Theater, Duke University, Durham, NC – 2011
Veoveo is an online application with an educational focus that documents, visualizes and promotes traditional games across cultures through design and interactive visualization. The application relies on research as well as data sourced from the online community. The user can find information about the games, archive them, and contribute to new games.
The Letters Project is a collaborative multimedia installation that explores the interactive relationship between original visual artwork with original creative text. The installation, which features the poetry of Deborah Pope, the letterforms and digital prints of artist Merrill Shatzman and my animation, highlights the potential of digital media in translating the written word. The video connected the different art forms by creating a dimension of time and rhythm as well as visuals that interpret the atmosphere of the poem and reflect the physical creation of the letterforms. Art in all its rhythms of paradox, play, persistence, its rough turns, and joys: its restless circling, transcendent moments of ephemeral poise, and ceaseless seeking. The Letters Project was supported by a Duke University Council for the Arts Collaborative Development Grant.
Music by Bob M, from “Tribe: Gabrielle Roth and the Mirrors,” Raven Recording.
Screenings/Exhibits: Västerås Filmfestival, Västerås, Sweden. STIFF: Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival, Seattle, WA, USA. Five Continents International Film Festival, Venezuela. (best video art) South Film & Arts Academic Festival, Rancagua, Chile. New York Lift-Off Online Film Festival. Magmart Video Under Volcano International Film Festival, X Edition. Tokyo Lift-Off Online Film Festival. “ART” Exhibition, East Corridor, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA. Letters exhibition, LoDi Project, Mezzanine Gallery, Raleigh, NC, USA.