Few things are as fulfilling as seeing a large, creative project finally reach completion. For many artists, finishing can be as difficult as starting. Artists often toil away for months, even years on a project with no reassurance that the work will find an audience or receive any critical attention.
That’s why I was thrilled to see a number of artists who have been featured on Gwarlingo receive some well-deserved attention from the mainstream press this past week. I remember when these projects were nothing more than an idea, and most of these films and performances were years in the making. (Perseverance is an often overlooked element in the creative process.)
No. Not all deserving artists receive the attention they deserve. But creative projects can’t stay in “the draft” stage forever. They need audiences and feedback in order to have any hope of making an impact.
Here are just a few of the Gwarlingo artists who have been in the news recently and who currently have new work on view in New York and other cities….
Performance Artist Joseph Keckler
When I first saw Joseph Keckler perform two years ago, I was immediately convinced that he was going places. It was not a matter of “if,” but “when.”
Joseph’s new song and video “The Ride” has just been released and will be performed as part of I Am An Opera. (The video is a collaboration with filmmaker Laura Terruso, musician Dan Bartfield, and performer Edgar Oliver, a favorite on The Moth).
In his interview with Gerry Visco in Interview!, Joseph humorously describes the evolution of the song and video:
I envisioned the driver as an almost Charon-like figure. We called Edgar Oliver and asked him if he might want to play the part. He replied in his extraordinary bass-baritone voice, which is simultaneously soothing and foreboding, “Oh yes, I love the idea… but I only have a learner’s permit. Can I take you across the river Styx on a… learner’s permit?” [laughs] I was trying to think about purgatory, in between states. For some reason, this song came out of that. I was making work in between forms and I was trying to make work that was about being in between worlds…
I wrote it over the course of a couple weeks in the La Mama ETC Theater rehearsal studio on Great Jones Street. I didn’t know how to sing it; I was approaching it with a big lounge-singer baritone. Eventually I tried it in my falsetto voice, which I’m using more and more of for “pop” songs.
Joseph’s work may be difficult to categorize, as the Times acknowledges, but for my taste, this is what makes it so unique and unforgettable. A fascinating blend of actor, pianist, opera and blues singer, performer, cabaret act, and storyteller, you can get a taste of Keckler’s unusual style in these video segments featured on Gwarlingo back in 2011.
As the Times article explains, I Am an Opera is largely autobiographical and a mix of song, text, and video. According to the Times, the piece “has been nearly two years in the making and has garnered no small amount of buzz along the way.”
You can watch “The Ride” here and reserve tickets to the Dixon Place performance online. I’m looking forward to seeing this show myself on April 26th!
Filmmakers Jem Cohen and Sam Green
Jem Cohen’s new project, We Have an Anchor, is now at the top of my “Must-See” list for the fall:
For the filmmaker Jem Cohen, who has long straddled the film and music worlds, live cinema has the potential to induce “a kind of primitive enchantment,” he said in a recent e-mail. While most movies are too predictably scored, and while projections at concerts tend to double as “moving wallpaper,” as Mr. Cohen put it, live cinema permits “a more equitable balance or dialectic between sound and image.”
Mr. Cohen’s new live project, “We Have an Anchor,” which will be at the Brooklyn Academy of Music next fall, combines multiscreen projections of Nova Scotia landscapes with live accompaniment by musicians from Fugazi, the Dirty Three and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
“As an environmental portrait I wanted to make something fully immersive,” Mr. Cohen said.