Join us November 13 at 185 Nassau Street, Room 207 for a conversation with Princeton Arts Fellow Aaron Landsman and visiting guest artist Paul Shambroom. The artists will discuss their work in progress, SQUARES (working title).
Open to Princeton University students, staff and faculty only.
SQUARES is a visual installation and performance created by Minneapolis photographer Paul Shambroom, in collaboration with New York-based theater artists Aaron Landsman, Mallory Catlett, and Jim Findlay. Derived from a single uncut roll of 583 cast-off snapshots processed at one Minneapolis lab in the late-1970s, SQUARES includes a rotating analog projection device, built by Shambroom for a gallery space, and a theatrical work created with the images as source material. Together, the artists’ creative process combines approaches from devised theater and conceptual art. The work will be ready to premiere in 2017-18; we are currently seeking venue, development and commissioning partners.
SQUARES comes out of several shared interests among the collaborators: how the inherently theatrical nature of snapshots (often staged and performed for the camera) influences notions of truth and history; what any single image captures, and what it leaves absent; the impact of technological progress on culture and memory; the ethics of appropriation and the malleable nature of privacy; the slippery, often accidental stories we assemble about our own lives.
Our goal is to treat these photos as a kind of core sample, a rendering of a time and place that might be familiar, but can’t be recovered with any certainty. We are working to make the images, and the possibilities inherent in resurrecting them, potent to viewers now. How do we insert ourselves into the gap between what we see and what we can imagine about people and situations that are both familiar and foreign? What do these pictures – taken when each shutter click involved a specific intent, and a cost of 28 cents – mean now, when personal images are ubiquitous and valueless. How are we complicit in everyday histories we see but cannot touch?
The artists have been in conversation with their work for several years. Shambroom’s acclaimed Meetings series, large scale photographs of small-town government meetings, influenced Landsman, Catlett and Findlay’s previous collaboration City Council Meeting, a performance and book about empathy and the performance of civic power, presented in five US cities between 2012 and 2014. Shambroom made a guest appearance in the most recent presentation of that work, at Keene State College last fall, and introduced the three theater artists to his source material for SQUARES. Through three short residencies and conversations, the four have begun building a framework for the performance, as Shambroom creates the installation components.
In fall 2015, the artists will meet in New York or Princeton, where Landsman is an arts fellow, to work conceptually together. In spring 2016 they will work with a cohort of New York and Minneapolis actors, to rough together a possible form for the performance. Later that year they’ll do a second residency to hone their ideas. As Shambroom completes exhibition objects based on the original photographs, Landsman and his collaborators will meet regularly in New York to finalize an approach to the performance. Following one or two more developmental residencies, the project will culminate in a three-week production residency and premiere, with anticipated performances in New York and other cities to follow.