Art Papers  

more from the
May/June 2015 issue:

Kahlil Joseph's Double Act
– Lilly Lampe

A Pilot for a Show
About Nowhere

– Martine Syms

– Travis Diehl

Revisiting Cyberfeminism
– Cornelia Sollfrank

The Sniffers
– Maija Timonen

Abra: BLQ Velvet

– by Sam Thorne

Web Exclusive:
Movement as Social Consciousness
Interview: Lauri Stallings

– Maggie Davis

May/June 2015
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Web Exclusive:
Movement as Social Consciousness
Interview: Lauri Stallings

Text / Maggie Davis

Studies for And all directions I come to you, 2015 [courtesy of Lauri Stallings]

Lauri Stallings is an Atlanta-based conceptual artist and choreographer, and the founding director of glo, a non-traditional performance platform that embraces civic action through movement. Stallings has created installations for the Georgia Museum of Art, the Michael C. Carlos Museum, the High Museum of Art, the Zuckerman Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. Her exceptional work has been recognized by numerous organizations and media outlets; she was a 2014 recipient of the Atlanta Artadia Award, and a 2013 recipient of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation SEED grant for her risk-taking, collaborative body of work with glo. From May 15-June 20, 2015, Stallings and glo will embody And all directions I come to you (2015), a new, nomadic work commissioned for Creative Time's Drifting in Daylight, a six week performance art festival in Central Park curated by Nato Thompson. Stallings spoke of glo's plans for New York from her studio, located at the Goat Farm Arts Center on Atlanta's Westside.

Maggie Davis: Can you talk about the process leading up to and surrounding the Creative Time commission?

Lauri Stallings: Anne Archer Dennington, the executive director at Flux Projects, brought Nato Thompson, chief curator at Creative Time, to Atlanta. We had just completed a set of five installations for historic places around [the city], and I extracted about two dozen systems for his studio visit. I think he meant to stay 45 minutes, but he stayed the rest of the day. We spent time wandering around the Goat Farm talking about performance art, philosophy and the Drifting in Daylight festival he was planning for Central Park. It was a few weeks later that he called and invited me to New York to meet with Creative Time.
      I arrived in New York with 3 movement artists [...]. The night before our meeting, Nato sent me a very dense list of sites in Central Park. There were twelve sites in which I imagined installations happening. We arrived at 8 am at the Warriors Gate and went to work. Nato and the production team arrived much later. We chatted for a while until he finally said I could bring glo out. I whistled and glo unfolded into the North Woods. In no time, about three dozen New Yorkers were following us. School was getting out, parents were coming through the park with children and soon we all were walking around with glo in the People Parade, everyone joining hands and walking in a circle. Later in a meeting, Nato said to me, "We are here to make your ideas happen." That was the first time a curator has ever said that to me. He then asked me, "How many artists do you need to make this installation?" No one has ever asked me how many dancers, so I told him nine. And that's how we created And all directions I come to you. The work with Creative Time has been a full emancipation for me as an artist and will possibly become emancipatory for the citizens of Central Park as well.

Lauri Stallings + glo, And all directions I come to you, 2015, Central Park, NYC [courtesy of Creative Time]

MD: You have spoken about referring to systems theory in your creative process—what are these systems, and how are they constructed?

LS: [...] In systems thinking, the idea is immediately mixed and proposed side by side with other ideas. That allows for a swift generative opening to happen to that idea. Suddenly it's not just that one idea; it's about big other things. The public, an essential participant, bends us and opened us to that. [Coming across this old way of systems thinking] was a huge opening, a major crack in the platform. It's allowed me to understand a fundamental property of the work: that we are essentially mixing, with my teachers, through inspiration, then mixing with the dancers. The dancers are mixing with the public, and I am mixing with the community. It is liberating to let someone in with their own ideas, their own vision. We are working toward harmony, a great sense of purpose. We are sharing a mission but retaining our own identity. We are deeply invested in people owning their identities.

MD: Some of the movements include the artists laying belly down on a bridge, obstructing foot traffic. Others seem more animal than human. What is the significance of this proximity to the earth?

LS: I am fascinated with this one moment in time, the second that man on all fours stood erect. That moment [...] happened in the wild. Look what it's done to our species. There are those shifts in consciousness led by man, the ego, and the power of the human species. That moment changed everything about nature and our possibility as a species to be sincere and to care. We walk along all day erect and in a power position. I am always trying to bend away from that place of power. My place of power is vulnerability. The belly being tactile to the ground is incredibly fragile, intentionally naive, so the body can experience, taste, and hear the sensation-based happenings in the work.

MD: Glo performances have been described as "dismantling hierarchies of traditional performance." How else are you breaking with tradition?

LS: The dance is a means for getting to the mission, which allows for a deep level of social consciousness [...]. It is about ideas of equality. The choreographic elements and the systemic experiments are the [...] tools to arrive at this place of vulnerability. People are necessary for the work to happen inside that consciousness. Through all of this positioning we are literally letting people know they are important. Glo is a free, open public art performance. This is what makes it exciting: social, economic, and racial barriers dissolve. I am interested in flipping people into a consciousness where we recognize our respective humanity without losing our individual identity. [...] I am hoping for the smallest change, in the biggest issues.

– Maggie Davis is an artist, writer, and arts advocate living in Roswell, Georgia.

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