Screening & Conversation
with Eva Buchmuller, Anna Koos and Jay Sanders
EAI presents a special evening devoted to the work of radical art and theater collective Squat Theatre, whose performances in the late 1970s and early 1980s questioned role playing, the act of spectatorship, and the boundaries between art and life, the fictive and the real. The screening at EAI is presented in collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art, where an installation by Squat Theatre will be included in the exhibition Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan, 1970–1980, organized by Jay Sanders, the museum's Curator and Curator of Performance (on view Oct. 31, 2013 – Feb. 2, 2014).
The evening will feature a screening of the extraordinary two-part video Mr. Dead and Mrs. Free (1981, 83 min). Capturing one of Squat Theatre's key theatrical productions, Mr. Dead and Mrs. Free includes video documentation of their live show of the same name as well as a film by the collective (originally played at the beginning of the show) that provides an astonishing glimpse of New York's downtown underground in the early '80s. Afterwards, Eva Buchmuller and Anna Koos from Squat Theatre will join Jay Sanders and EAI's Rebecca Cleman to discuss the collective's legendary history and iconoclastic approach to theater.
Squat Theatre—whose core members included Stephan Balint, Peter Berg, Eva Buchmuller, Peter Halasz and Anna Koos—was a major presence in the downtown art and theater world of New York, where the group lived and worked from 1977 until 1985. The collective formed in Budapest, Hungary as an independent theater company in 1970, during the Cold War. After their performances were banned by the Hungarian government, they resorted to performing in members' apartments—a solution they embraced. In 1976 the authorities gave them the "choice" to either cease doing theater or leave the country and never return. Squat emigrated, first to Paris and then to New York. In 1977, the company presented their first storefront play, a commission by the Rotterdam Arts Council in The Netherlands, taking the name Squat Theatre. Partially inspired by the squatter movement in the West, the company's new name also grew out of their determination to occupy blank spots on the map of artistic and intellectual terrain.
The program at EAI on November 6th will feature the film Mr. Dead and Mrs. Free, described by Squat Theatre as "an open journey through situations, styles and moods; an 'Arabian Nights' with heroes and legends written on the New York wind whistling the melody of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.'" In an indelible sequence that typifies Squat Theatre's idiosyncratic cultural references, the underground pop icon Nico performs New York, New York, closing the play.
Since a 1996 retrospective at Artists' Space in New York, Squat Theatre's video work has been rarely seen. Buchmuller and Koos will appear in conversation with Sanders and Cleman at EAI for a discussion that will touch on their installation included in Rituals of Rented Island at the Whitney, as well as Mr. Dead and Mrs. Free (1981–83) and other important pieces from the period, such as Andy Warhol's Last Love (1978–82) and Pig, Child, Fire! (1977–1982), all three of which are in EAI's archive. Judith Halasz, a second generation member of the collective, and Sheryl Sutton, a performing artist and dancer who collaborated with Squat Theatre during this period and performed in the film and the live show of Mr. Dead & Mrs. Free, will be present to contribute to the discussion.
For more information about Squat Theatre, please visit www.eai.org
Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan, 1970–1980 will be on view October 31, 2013 – February 2, 2014 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. For more information, visit www.whitney.org
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About the Whitney
The Whitney Museum of American Art is the world’s leading museum of twentieth-century and contemporary art of the United States. Focusing particularly on works by living artists, the Whitney is celebrated for presenting important exhibitions and for its renowned collection, which comprises over 19,000 works by more than 2,900 artists. With a history of exhibiting the most promising and influential artists and provoking intense debate, the Whitney Biennial, the Museum's signature exhibition, has become the most important survey of the state of contemporary art in the United States. In addition to its landmark exhibitions, the Museum is known internationally for events and educational programs of exceptional significance and as a center for research, scholarship, and conservation.
Founded by sculptor and arts patron Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1930, the Whitney was first housed on West 8th Street in Greenwich Village. The Museum relocated in 1954 to West 54th Street and, in 1966, inaugurated its present home, designed by Marcel Breuer, at 945 Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side. While its vibrant program of exhibitions and events continues uptown, the Whitney is moving forward with a new building project, designed by Renzo Piano, in downtown Manhattan. Located at the corner of Gansevoort and Washington Streets in the Meatpacking District, at the southern entrance to the High Line, the new building, which has generated immense momentum and support, will enable the Whitney to vastly increase the size and scope of its exhibition and programming space. Ground was broken on the new building in May 2011, and it is projected to open to the public in 2015.
Founded in 1971, Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) is one of the world's leading nonprofit resources for video art. A pioneering advocate for media art and artists, EAI fosters the creation, exhibition, distribution, and preservation of video art and digital art. EAI's core program is the distribution and preservation of a major collection of over 3,500 new and historical media works by artists. EAI's activities include viewing access, educational services, extensive online resources, and public programs such as artists' talks, exhibitions and panels. The Online Catalogue is a comprehensive resource on the artists and works in the EAI collection, and also features extensive materials on exhibiting, collecting and preserving media art:
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This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts' Electronic Media and Film Presentation Funds grant program, administered by The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes (www.NYSCA.org www.eARTS.org).