January 24, 2008
Vol. 27 No. 8

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    A weekend of contemporary arts: ‘Adaptation,’ ‘Vox artisti,’ DBR provide mix of arts in showcase

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office


    Eve Sussman & The Rufus Corporation, photographic still from “The Rape of the Sabine Women (Girls at the Pool),” 2005.

    Photo by Benedikt Partenheimer, Courtesy Roebling Hall, New York.


    The University will showcase leading contemporary artists on Thursday, Jan. 31 and Friday, Feb. 1. Over a 28-hour period, the campus will welcome one of the music world’s most innovative performers, launch an exhibition that features some of the world’s leading video artists, present a dialogue on the creative process of adaptation and host a performance/conversation with one of Europe’s most inventive conceptual artists.

    The contemporary arts events will begin at the University’s Smart Museum of Art (5550 S. Greenwood Ave.) on Thursday, Jan. 31, resume on Friday, Feb. 1 at the Cochrane-Woods Arts Center (5540 S. Greenwood Ave.) and then move two blocks south to the University’s Mandel Hall (1131 E. 57th St.).

    “This winter contemporary arts showcase is all part of a huge range of contemporary arts coming to the University,” said Larry Norman, the University’s Deputy Provost for the Arts and Associate Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures, and the College. “We’re really excited about the synergies arising from these interconnected efforts.”

    The winter contemporary arts showcase will kick off a season of contemporary events at the University. For more information on upcoming events, please visit: http://arts.uchicago.edu.

    It’s a common practice in popular culture: Moviegoers and book lovers routinely debate whether the film version is superior to the book version of a story or play. But what is much less known is how adaptation works in the contemporary art world. How do visual artists reinterpret and re-imagine classical texts and musical scores? What obstacles and issues do they face?

    Beginning Thursday, Jan. 31, the Smart Museum of Art will feature “Adaptation: Video Installations by Ben-Ner, Herrera, Sullivan, and Sussman & The Rufus Corporation”—one of the first exhibitions to feature the adaptations of some of the world’s leading contemporary artists. These artists have transformed source materials to make their own adapted works of art, re-envisioning classic literature, painting, film, ballet and even e-mail as new video installations.

    The exhibition, which will run through Sunday, May 4, features one or two video installations for each artist. Installations will include: Guy Ben-Ner’s “Moby Dick” (2000), adapted from the classic 1851 novel; Arturo Herrera’s “Les Noces” (2007), an adaptation of Stravinsky’s ballet, and Eve Sussman & The Rufus Corporation’s feature-length contemporary retelling of the Roman myth, “The Rape of the Sabine Women,” which was inspired, in part, by Jacques-Louis David’s earlier interpretation of the myth in his 1799 painting, “The Intervention of the Sabine Women.”

    Adaptation” also will feature two pieces from Catherine Sullivan, Assistant Professor in Visual Arts. Her “Triangle of Need,” which she created with a composer and dancer/choreographer, is a multichannel, multilayered video installation that combines elements as seemingly disparate as figure skating, prehistoric communication and e-mail scams in a work that investigates evolution, wealth, poverty and the global economy.

    At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, the Smart Museum of Art will offer a panel discussion with three of the exhibiting artists. Stephanie Smith, Director of Collections and Exhibitions and Curator of Contemporary Art at the Smart Museum, will moderate. The 45-minute conversation, free and open to the public, will delve into the process used by the artists Ben-Her, Herrera and Sullivan to transform their sources into their own adapted work.


    Guy Ben-Ner, video still from “Moby Dick,” 2000.

    Courtesy of Postmasters Gallery, New York.


    Visitors will get a chance to gain insight into the practice of adaptation in contemporary art, Smith said, and how visual artists deal with issues of creativity and fidelity.

    A reception celebrating the exhibition’s opening follows the panel discussion. For more information, please visit http://smartmuseum.uchicago.edu.

    Just 24 hours after the opening of “Adaptation,” art aficionados will have a chance to hear from one of the most original-thinking curators, critics and artists in the European art world. Guillaume Desanges, who works with such magazines as Exit Express, Exit Book and Trouble Magazine, also co-founded the Paris-based Work Method, an agency for artistic projects.

    A performance artist himself, Desanges worked with Swiss artist Thomas Hirschorn on the 24th Foucault Project. He also developed several performance projects, such as “A history of performance in 20 minutes,” which was exhibited in the Centre Pompidou in Paris and De Appel Institute in Amsterdam.

    Desanges, who is the invited curator this year at the Centre d’Art Contemporain La Tolerie in France, will begin by presenting his 45-minute performance, “Vox artisti: His Masters’ Voices” at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1.

    Working with hundreds of excerpts picked up from sound archives, including everything from artists’ performances, to art conferences, interviews with artists, documentaries about artists, Desanges has created a unique conversation about art.

    “He’s included thousands of little trips of sounds from artists,” said Manol Georgieff, a graduate student at Chicago, who is coordinating the event. Conversations span the world of contemporary art, from a Marcel Duchamp interview in 1961, to a Yoko Ono podcast, to a 2006 conference at Washington’s Hirschorn Museum.

    “It’s a really unique opportunity for those who live and breathe contemporary art,” said Georgieff.

    Delivered in the format of a lecture and first presented last year at the “TROUBLE” festival in Belgium, the aim of “Vox Artisti” is to propose a personal statement about the relationship between the voice and the visual arts. It is an effect that Desanges describes as “an artificial dialogue between ghosts.”

    Immediately following the performance, Desanges will participate in a discussion. For more information on his lecture, please visit: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/contemporaryart/.

    A classical violinist paired with a disc jockey; a hip-hop infused opera. Chamber works, rock songs, electronica and funk. A multimedia collage of YouTube and MySpace clips paired with a six-string violin, piano and electronics.

    It’s all the product of an artist that The New York Times described as “about as omnivorous as a contemporary artist gets.” Daniel Bernard Roumain, or DBR, as he is known, is a composer, performer, classical violinist and bandleader renowned for constantly re-interpreting music. DBR will perform at a concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, in Mandel Hall.

    Immediately following the performance by DBR and DJ Scientific, Travis Jackson, Associate Professor of American Music in Music and the College, will moderate a discussion.

    “He’s fascinating,” said Shauna Quill, Executive Director of the University of Chicago Presents. “He performs, he composes. He’s a multimedia artist. He brings contemporary life into his program,” she said. “And everything he does is so thoughtful. For lack of a better word,” she said, “he’s at the pinnacle of cool in the music world.”

    As a composer, DBR’s pieces have ranged from orchestral scores and chamber works to rock songs and electronica. As a violinist, he has worked with artists spanning the gamut—from DJ Spooky and Vernon Reid to Savion Glover, Susan Sarandon and Cassandra Wilson. DBR also has collaborated with numerous orchestras and chamber ensembles.

    A native of Skokie, Ill., and a classically trained composer who earned a Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Michigan, DBR will be performing songs from his latest release etudes4violin&electronix. For ticket information, please call (773) 702-8080.