BEAR is the fourth chapter in a life-long project, The Unreliable Bestiary - a performance for every letter of the alphabet, each letter represented by an endangered animal or habitat. Fueled by our precarious moment in natural history, the work is bracing, haunting, and very funny. The ridiculously ambitious gesture of creating 26 full-length performances is presenting a tiny sliver of our current catastrophic loss of habitat and biodiversity.
BEAR will be staged in three parts - a hibernation cycle. BEAR’s Fall Chapter (Sept. 21 - Oct. 2, 2016) will lead small groups on walks through the woods and prairies of Urbana, Illinois’ Meadowbrook Park, past six stations (one for each month of bear hibernation) made from recycled materials, each station representing a particular bear species. At the end of the walk, the audience members will crawl into a “den” for a final story. The Winter Chapter (Nov. 2016 - Jan. 2017 will launch six online videos with embedded clues to geocached map-making events linking BEAR’s Fall and Spring performances. The Spring Chapter (Feb. 2017) will seat audiences and performers at a huge table covered with cake, wine, and candles. Accompanied by live music and shadowplay, two intertwining tales will be told: a human becoming a bear, and a bear becoming a human.
The Unreliable Bestiary’s team of artists, performers, and designers has made three performances so far. MONKEY opened in February 2009 on Darwin’s 200th birthday. 2010’s ELEPHANT premiered in the Univ. of Illinois Stock Pavilion, a cavernous arena chosen for its associations with circuses, state fairs, and Roman amphitheatre battles. This huge performance featured video projected on two 90-foot long screens, live music, dance, and a 12-foot high, life-sized elephant puppet. Rangers told stories about wolves on a 40 minute bus ride to Allerton Park in 2013’s WOLF. Arriving at sunset, audiences were led through the woods to a barn - a “visitor’s center” that felt a little cultish - for a series of stories fortified with dance and projections.
While these one-of-a-kind events are being staged in the United States’ East Central Illinois, translations of the work make their way to all kinds of venues. Solo versions - part live performance, part cinematic documentation - tour theaters, auditoriums, living rooms, and film festivals. Shatterglass Studios have shot gorgeous video footage at each of these performances. With this footage I edit a film documenting each performance. DVD’s and digital files are available from these events, giving them longer life and making them accessible to a wider audience. Finally, for each Unreliable Bestiary performance I’m making a book. When I finish the last performance of this life-long project, there will be an encyclopedic collection of 26 delicious, gorgeous little books.
Supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship, my three years of research for BEAR has taken me to Yellowstone, northern Minnesota, and residencies at the MacDowell Colony (New Hampshire), the Ucross Foundation (Wyoming), and the Taft-Nicholson Environmental Humanities Center (Montana).
We’re very excited to launch BEAR, a six month, three part performance.
WHO AM I?
I’m Deke Weaver. I am a writer-performer, designer, theater and media artist. My performances and videos have been presented in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Europe, Russia, and the United States in experimental theater, film/video, dance, and solo performance venues such as Channel 4/U.K., the Sundance Film Festival, the New York Video Festival at Lincoln Center, The Berlin Video Festival, the Museum of Contemporary Art/LA, The Moth, and many others including livestock pavilions, night clubs, and backyard sheds. A resident at Yaddo, Ucross, Isle Royale National Park, the Taft-Nicholson Environmental Humanities Center, and the MacDowell Colony, my work has been supported by commissions, fellowships, and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, Creative Capital, the city of San Francisco, the states of Illinois and New York, the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and other public and private foundations. The text of both MONKEY and ELEPHANT are included in the University of Michigan Press book Animal Acts: Performing Species Today, edited by Una Chaudhuri and Holly Hughes. From 1999-2005 I was the Senior Animator for the Showtime Networks’ Broadcast Design Group. I am currently an associate professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign with appointments in the School of Art & Design and Department of Theater.
WHAT IS THIS MONEY FOR?
Your money will help pay artist/designer/technician fees, materials needed for sets, props, and costumes, and offset travel costs for our out-of-town artists. Other big BEAR costs include documentation (video and photographic) and marketing (posters, cards, web fees). We’ve got support from some fantastic funders – and it would be great for you to be part of it.
WHY SHOULD I SUPPORT THIS?
Ultimately these Bestiary performances are about change. Finding ways to bring us together to think outside the box. Here's why you should support this project:
A “black elephant” is a cross between “a black swan” (an unlikely, unexpected event with enormous ramifications) and the “elephant in the room” (a problem visible to everyone that no one wants to address). Environmentalist Adam Sweidan points out that there’s a “herd of environmental black elephants” on the brink of stampede: global warming, deforestation, ocean acidification, massive fresh water pollution, and mass extinction. Sweidan says, “When they hit, we’ll claim they were black swans no one could have predicted, but, in fact, they are black elephants, very visible right now.” The Unreliable Bestiary is finding ways to talk about the elephant in the room. Through our rich, emotional stories of animals, climate, and people, we’re creating experiences that subtly draw out the connections between wildly disparate local and global dots, experiences that continue to illustrate how the personal is political. By making environmental, psychological, social degradation tangible and present, by linking these stories to cultural origin myths and our fantasies of the future, remixing them, rewriting them, weaving them from whole cloth and telling them in unusual contexts - we hope to remove our audiences from the daily grind and remind them to wake-up, take stock, and climb back on a new horse.
Like water and air, the human imagination is elemental to natural systems. It transforms things. We work with humor. Silence. The ridiculous. Wonder. Our live performances slowly, quietly insist on re-enchantment and the dismantling of the status quo.
Jennifer Allen (codirector, choreographer, performer) has been creating densely layered performance works described as “enigmatic - thoughtful and compelling” for the past 20 years. Her work has been seen all around NYC as well as venues on both coasts and Chicago’s Millennium Park. She enjoyed residencies through PICA (Portland Institute for Contemporary Art) and The MacDowell Colony. As a performer in NYC she worked with many influential artists: John Jasperse, Donna Uchizono and DD Dorvillier to name a few. She has been part of The Unreliable Bestiary’s collaborative team since it’s inception.
Toby Beauchamp (assistant ranger) is Assistant Professor of Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses the critical lens of transgender studies on questions of state power, science, and technology, and on transnational flows of knowledge, bodies, and capital. His current book manuscript, Going Stealth: Transgender Politics and U.S. Surveillance Practices, examines state uses of surveillance and security mechanisms to regulate gendered and racialized populations within and across U.S. borders. He is also developing new research on the transnational production and circulation of synthetic hormones in relation to gender nonconformity. Prior to coming to Illinois, Beauchamp was a faculty member at Oklahoma State University and the Lionel Cantú Memorial Fellow in the UC President's Postdoctoral Fellowship Program at UC San Diego.
Susan Becker (costume design) works as a designer, artist and educator in the field of fashion and costume. For the past twenty years she has designed for traditional and experimental settings, from the fashion industry to collaborations on stage, film, and site-specific projects. Recent collaborators include artists Deke Weaver and Jennifer Allen (ELEPHANT, WOLF), choreographers Tere O'Connor (Sister), Sara Hook (Bored Houseguest), Cynthia Oliver (Boom!) and Jennifer Monson (Live Dancing Archive). Her work with Monson also includes investigations and performances with the collaborative (In Tow), which includes among others, D.D. Dorvilier, David Zambrano, Zeena Parkins, and Valerie Oliveiro. In addition to her design work, Susan has also taught courses on fashion and dress for the Rhode Island School of Design and is currently a lecturer in fashion and the costuming of dance at the University of Illinois.
Thomas Brown (assistant ranger) age 22, is a Chicago/Urbana artist and University of Illinois student. He focuses mostly on comic based art as well as music.
Laura Chiaramonte (performer), a Chicago based dance artist, has been performing and producing work professionally for the past 15 years throughout the US and abroad. Laura received her MFA in dance from the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign in 2009 and completed her Alexander Technique Teaching Certification in 2013.
Mike Collins (artist) was born in Charleston, Illinois, in 1979, and grew up in rural central Illinois. He attended Eastern Illinois University, receiving both a BA in Sociology in 2003 and an MA in Sculpture in 2005. Collins earned his MFA in Sculpture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009. He is currently employed as the Fabrication Lab Coordinator in the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois in Champaign Illinois. Collins is responsible for the technical/safety training of all incoming students in the School of Art & Design, as well as for coordinating the activities of labs and classrooms supporting a broad range of resources from hand tools to CNC routers.
Jessica Cornish (performer) has been a part of The Unreliable Bestiary since 2010 when she performed in ELEPHANT. Since then she has performed in WOLF and is thrilled to be back for BEAR! Cornish currently lives in Chicago as an independent dance artist making her own work as well as collaborating and performing with others. JessicaCornish.com
Joe Coyle (assistant ranger) is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was an assistant ranger in WOLF.
Ellen Hartman (assistant ranger) is a trained architect and landscape architect researching the intersection of social and environmental networks in urban areas.
David L. Hays (ranger) is Associate Head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, founding principal of Analog Media Lab, and co-editor of the journal Forty-Five. Trained in architecture and history of art, his scholarly research explores the history, theory, and practice of landscape architecture. As a designer, his work explores the production of environmentally responsive objects using low-cost, low-tech materials.
Karin Hodgin-Jones (artist) is an artist, educator, outdoor enthusiast, e-waste researcher, environmental activist and transnational planner. She received her MFA and MUP degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her BFA from the University of Utah. She currently lives and works in Urbana IL.
Jorge Lucero (ranger) is an artist who currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Art Education in the School of Art + Design at The University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. In his current work, Lucero is investigating contemporary art practices with distinctly pedagogical properties (e.g. conceptual art, live art, and civically engaged art). Lucero's work has been shown, published, and presented internationally and across the United States. He holds degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pennsylvania State University. Through the permissions of conceptual art, Lucero now sees the potential of being in the academy.
Maria Lux (artist) earned her MFA in studio art from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012 and her BFA from Iowa State University in 2006. She currently lives and works in Walla Walla, Washington.
Guen Montgomery (ranger) is an artist and performer whose work investigates identity through studies of gender, regional narrative and family mythology. Guen received her BFA from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and her MFA in printmaking from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Currently Guen lives in Urbana, IL, where she teaches art foundations and printmaking at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Valerie Oliveiro (lighting design) is an artist, performer, photographer, image-maker and all round arts worker. Singapore born and based in Minneapolis, MN, she works nationally and internationally with performing and visual arts projects and has collaborated with Ong Keng Sen, Jennifer Monson, Meredith Monk, Morgan Thorson, Julie Tolentino, Bebe Miller, Mikel Rouse, Song Dong, John Heginbotham, Deke Weaver, Kyoko Ibe and others. She received her MFA from Yale School of Drama.
Phil Orr (artist) enjoys building and transforming materials. For awhile he made art - sculpture, photography. Then it became construction - carpentry, remodeling. Now it's both, but usually separate, and this seems altogether too confusing to him sometimes. His work values simplicity, often utilizing common building materials, with an emphasis on creative manipulation that respects craft. He gets most excited working with materials with a storied past - the discarded, salvaged, and forgotten. Phil and his family live in Urbana, Illinois.
Jason Patterson (artist) is an Illinois based artist whose work predominately deals with the African American condition and history. Patterson employs portraiture to chronicle lives, time periods and cultural significance, of the African Diaspora’s presence in The United States. He re-creates significant imagery with an original utilization of soft pastel. These works not only represent the people they depict, but also the visual media of which the original image was created. His work makes reference to the cultural and historical importance of photographs, film, and video. The technical tools we use to see and represent our past, and what we use to visually organize and archive culture.
Chris Peck (composer/sound design) is a composer, computer musician, and improviser who often collaborates with contemporary dance and theater artists, including Deke Weaver, Jennifer Allen, Beth Gill, John Jasperse, RoseAnne Spradlin, and David Dorfman. MASS, his collaboration with choreographer Milka Djordjevich for singing dancers and electronic sound, premiered at The Kitchen (NYC) in May 2015. Peck performs as an improviser with Jon Moniaci and Stephen Rush under the name Crystal Mooncone. The trio is currently completing its fifth album using material recorded in performances at the CCRMA (Stanford) and the Klowden Mann Gallery (LA) in 2014. Peck is also working on the new music theater piece Meyoucycle (premiered in Paris, May 2016) with Brussels-based choreographer Eleanor Bauer and the Belgian new music ensemble Ictus. He completed a Ph.D. in Composition and Computer Technologies at the University of Virginia in May 2015 and is currently a lecturer in Global Arts Studies at the University of California, Merced.
Tony Reimer (associate musical director) has 20 years of experience working in live theatre as a composer and sound designer. His work has been heard on stages and at festivals across the country and internationally. He completed his undergraduate work at Ball State University, received a Master's in Computer Music and New Media from Northern Illinois University and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Music Composition at the University of Illinois.
Andy Warfel (environmental design) has over two decades of experience as a designer and creative director crafting resonant storytelling environments around the world, through the mediums of theatre, film, music, television, retail and experiential marketing.
Jayne Wenger (dramaturg) is a director and dramaturg whose exclusive focus is on original material. She has developed the emerging work of acclaimed playwrights nationwide and her work has been recognized with numerous awards. She is the past Artistic Director of Bay Area Playwrights Foundation (San Francisco) and Women’s Ensemble (New York). Selected current projects include Director of Creative Process for the Playwrights Festival, Blues is a Woman by singer-songwriter Pamela Rose and Rose In America by Michelle Carter. She is an alumna of Djerassi Resident Artist Program; a guest artist and advisory board member for The Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska, and has taught at ArtWorkshop International in Assisi, Italy. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas and the League of Professional Theater Women. Jaynewenger.com
Nicki Werner (artist/ranger/stage manager) is returning to The Unreliable Bestiary after working on ELEPHANT in 2010 and WOLF in 2013. She is a sculptor who moonlights as a stage manager and master brewer. She earned her Master of Fine Arts from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2012. Recent career highlights include teaching stints at Illinois State University and Beloit College, and a summer artist residency at Figure One Gallery in downtown Champaign.
Hana Yaginuma (assistant ranger) was born in Tokyo, Japan, where she lived until immigrating to Chicago, Illinois at the age of 12. Currently, she attends University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing her degree in New Media and Advertising. Her art practices involve, but are not limited to, creating multi-media works using video, projection, paper, metal and ceramic.
BEAR Kickstarter Video/Photo Credits! Footage by Shatterglass Studio, Valerie Oliveiro, and Deke. Interview video shot by Thomas Brown and Willie Filkowski. Sound by Chris Peck. Edited by Deke.
Risks and challenges
O.k., so there’s always the general warp and woof of being alive. But with luck and the avoidance of asteroids, volcanic storms, and personal tragedy, with things continuing as they are right now: BEAR will happen with or without this funding. However, without Kickstarter funding, our budget will cramp. With your BEAR participation we’ll flesh out the skeletal artist honoraria, documentation, and material budgets. With the funding, we will all breath more easily. While the project has support from the University of Illinois (Campus Research Board, Center For Advanced Study, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and the School of Art & Design), the Urbana Park District, and the City of Urbana Arts Program, making our $11,000 Kickstarter goal is crucial.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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