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April 26, 2001 Press Contact: Karen Reimer
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Catherine Sullivan: Five Economies (big hunt / little hunt)

Catherine Sullivan:
Five Economies (big hunt / little hunt)
May 5-June 16, 2002
Opening Reception Sunday, May 5 from 4-7 pm

The Renaissance Society is delighted to present a multimedia installation by Los Angeles-based artist Catherine Sullivan. For the past few years, Sullivan has created performances combining installation art, video, dance and traditional theater dialogue. Five Economies (big hunt / little hunt), a new work created for The Society, will feature a multiple channel video projection, a video work for one monitor, and a performance to take place at the opening. The exhibition, a collaboration with the UCLA Hammer Museum in California, will be accompanied by a catalogue.

Five Economies is a two part work whose main component, Big Hunt is a five screen video projection (15 min) spanning a single wall the length of the gallery. The silent, black and white footage consists of restaged and choreographed scenarios based on a variety of sources including several popular films. These performances examine the process by which a performer literally inhabits emotional memory. But Sullivan is less interested in deconstructing theatrical conventions than she is in reconfiguring codified forms of expression to explore, in her words, "the body’s capacity for signification."

Five Economies (big hunt/ little hunt) is a particularly elaborate work drawing on scenes from films as diverse as The Miracle Worker, Marat/ Sade, Tim, and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? as well as imagined episodes from the true story of Birdie Joe Hoaks, a 25 year old woman who tried to pass as an orphaned 13 year old boy to receive welfare benefits. Each mise en scène contains a permutation of these characters performing simultaneously. The drama is reduced to movement and facial expression and character groupings are arranged according to emotional effects and affectations. This is offset by yet another layer of activity, in this case choreographed movements whose source is antiquated Irish funerary games. The result is a baroque, hybrid theater for which the term postmodern is an understatement. What Sullivan’s performances reveal through their quirkiness, however, is a fundamental alienation which the craft of acting seeks to dispel, namely the alienation between the body as a vehicle of perception and the body as a vehicle of expression.

In the theatre work Grisly Notes and Tones (1997/2001) the animating structure was style itself - a grizzly bear attack was restaged in three styles with an ideological stake in notions of artifice and verisimilitude -- Naturalism, Minimalism and Expressionism. The leitmotif of "playing dead" - feigning death to stay alive, became a metaphor for contingencies and paradoxes within the task of performing itself. The scripts for these works usually anticipated and calculated mistakes the performers might make, or animated them through stylistic conventions that shaped their personas over time. Sullivan developed a new structure with which to tease out these conventions in Gold Standard (hysteric, melancholic, degraded, refined), 2001, wherein a virtuoso scene from Arthur Penn’s 1962 movie The Miracle Worker is staged in two distinct styles–hysteric and melancholic–which are then projected side by side. This structure has been adapted and expanded for Five Economies.

Catherine Sullivan (b. 1968, Los Angeles) began her work in the theater as an actress, performing in numerous stage productions. Since then she has worked in a variety of media, but is primarily focused on creating original theater and video works which she writes, directs and designs. In 1992 she received a BFA in Acting from California Institute of the Arts and continued her education in Japan studying theater and dance forms such as Noh and Butoh. In 1997 she received a Master's Degree in fine Art from Art Center College of Design. Her performance work has been presented at independent venues in Los Angeles and Tokyo and at Trapdoor Theater in Chicago, Illinois. Video works have been screened at the Vienna Secession, Austria; Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany; Galerie Christian Nagel, Cologne, Germany, 123 Brussels and at the Nouvelles Scenes festival at Le Consortium Art Center in Dijon, France.

Related Events

Gold Standard
Sunday, May 5, 6:30 pm

Catherine Sullivan’s "second order dramas" are steeped in the emotional excess of theatrical convention. For this performance, Sullivan wrote an open letter to all of the theater companies in Chicago asking them to participate in the restaging of the classic scene from Arthur Penn’s 1962 movie The Miracle Worker in which the deaf, blind and mute Helen Keller is being socialized through force applied by her teacher Annie Sullivan. The scene will be restaged in a number of different theatrical modes (hysteric, melancholic, manic, paranoic) by ten sets of Helens and Annies, en masse.

Frances-Marie Uitti, cellist
Wednesday, May 8, 8:00 pm

The Society is excited to host an encore performance by one of the most sought after talents in the world. Uitti has performed definitive interpretations of works by some of the late 20th century’s greatest composers including Kurtag, Scelsi and Nono. In 1975, she developed a double-bow technique that transformed her cello into a truly polyphonic instrument capable of sustained chordal and intricate multivoiced writing. The bill features her own compositions which will incorporate the gallery’s echo as raw acoustic material.

Lotta Melin, dancer/ choreographer; Terri Kapsalis, performer/ writer
Sunday, June 16, 5:00 pm

Melin’s solo choreography and Kapsalis’ wit and violin work make for performances that are lyrical and spikey, moving and humorous, but above all precise and intelligent.

Lotta Melin currently resides in Stockholm. She is working as a choreographer for the German ensemble "Die Audiogruppe" and as an improvising dancer in collaboration with such artists as Sonic Youth, Mats Gustafsson, Barry Guy, Michael Zerang, and Leif Elggren.

Chicago-based Terri Kapsalis is a founding member of Theater Oobleck. Her voice and improvised violin can be heard on CDs such as "Van’s Peppy Syncopators" with John Corbett and Hal Rammel and Lou Mallozzi’s "Whole or By the Slice" (Penumbra), John Corbett’s "I’m Sick About My Hat" and Sebi Tramontana’s "Night People" (Atavistic), and Tony Conrad’s "Slapping Pythagoras" (Table of the Elements).

Stills from Five Economies (big hunt/little hunt)
Click each image for a print-quality version.


Video from Five Economies (big hunt/little hunt)
Installation view
Single-channel view


Established in 1915, The Renaissance Society is Chicago's oldest contemporary art museum. Focusing on the forefront of the visual arts, The Renaissance Society maintains an international reputation as one of the finest resources for contemporary art. In addition to exhibitions, The Renaissance Society also sponsors concerts, performances, film and video screenings, and talks by noted artists and critics.
Museum Hours: Tues-Fri 10 am-5 pm, Sat & Sun 12-5 pm. Closed Mondays.
Admission to the gallery and all events is free.
Last modified at 09:53 AM CST on Wednesday, May 15, 2002.

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