This Saturday, Andrea Hill and Kalika Farmer are organizing a nuit blanche festival of rarely seen art in the Berkshires, a community well-known as a beacon of creativity in the mountains. Taking its name from Arcadia, which means ‘utopia in harmony in nature,’ Arcadian Night is a salon style exhibit of 42 artists with an all-night long bonfire, party and pig roast. Showcasing many different mediums, the event places a specific focus on performance art and video, ranging from YouTube posts, soap opera, commercials and even screen savers. Most of the artists and attendees will come in from New York City and spend the night at either the Race Brook Lodge (which is already sold out) or nearby lodging, making this a sort of slumber camp of artists for the evening. We got to ask Andrea and Kalika a few questions about what one should expect to happen when you throw an art festival in the middle of the woods and give us a little visual preview of what’s in store.
Katherine Krause: Why did you decide to do this event in the Berkshires? Have you ever done an event like this before?
Kalika Farmer: Historically an inspirational region for artists, musicians, writers and filmmakers, the Berkshires offer a new context in which to view artwork afresh. By selecting a venue two and a half hours away from New York City, Arcadian Night requires audience commitment to the full program experience, whereas in a gallery space in New York, most people would stay for only a fraction of the material. That said, the videos are sequenced with breaks for performances, food, music and dancing. We don’t want to keep audiences captive. I’ve vacationed in the Berkshires for the last eight years. Last summer, after curating a well received exhibition in an abandoned car dealership showroom in the Berkshires entitled “Made in the USA at Pete’s Motors”, I realized the Berkshires are an ideal setting for artistic expression, a sentiment reflected by a number of local artstic institutions including Jacob’s Pillow, an international dance festival founded in the 1930’s by Ted Shawn, and MASS MoCA , a non-traditional museum model which has presented contemporary art exhibitions in North Adams for over a decade.
Martynka Wawrzyniak “Chocolate” 2010
Andrea Hill: Working outside of the white cube space presents limitless possibilities for the curator and artists, which I find extremely stimulating. This past summer, I curated One Acre Plot, an exhibition of installation, performance and video on 70 acres of farm property in Sullivan County, NY with short-term residencies for the 12 artists to develop site-specific work. The community members came to the show and invited everyone to a pancake breakfast sponsored by the local firehouse followed by a trip to a hidden swimming hole. These events weren’t planned but spontaneously happened around the exhibition. Arcadian Night is structured differently as a one-night event but shares the same community-driven sensibility.
Becket Bowes and Birgit Rathsmann “Txt-A” 2010
Katherine: How did you select the artists? Is there a specific process you used to pick the work? Is there any theme or thread tying these artists or these works together?
Andrea: We committed ourselves to a lengthy selection process by watching many hours of video and casting a wide net to view work by lesser-known and well-known artists alike. Through this experience, we were able to identify pieces that not only moved us but could make connections between artworks across subject matter, generational perspectives and intentions. Themes began to emerge almost immediately. There are 42 individual artists represented in Arcadian Night with 17 of them working in a collaborative model and 3 collectives (Yemenwed, Aids-3d and Bruce High Quality Foundation). This means that nearly half of the artists have a collaborative practice within their larger practice, which makes sense given the social structure of the art world which encourages artists to rely upon each other for criticism, support and camaraderie, and which has been institutionalized in academia.
Anna Gaskell, “Acts” 2010
Kalika: Many of the selections also introduce a sense of playfulness with the medium of video and its relationship with sculpture, photography, painting, performance and art history. There are pieces in Arcadian Night which blur these distinctions such as Xavier Cha’s “Ring,” in which a formation of photographers mechanically move through The Kitchen gallery shooting an absent subject, or Avery Singer’s “Nude Descending” in which the camera follows a figure wearing a sculptural costume descending and ascending a flight of stairs. These pieces shift between mediums of performance, documentation and video. The process of working with performance artists was a bit different than with the video artists. Without the ability to preview pieces, we necessarily relied upon a trusting relationship with the artists. Arcadian Night is meant to be a platform for new work to be tested, so there has to be a certain amount of faith in the artist’s vision and ability to pull it off, although a running dialogue and guidance on our part was certainly part of it.
Xavier Cha “Ring” 2010
Katherine: Is this a mixed-media exhibit?
Kalika: With few exceptions, including installations by Christian Wassmann and others, Arcadian Night is primarily a video and performance event. For many of the artists, video is their primary medium but many also maintain a parallel or primary practice in another medium. Gloria Maximo of Yemenwed, Becket Bowes, Birgit Rathsmann, Keil Borrman, Paul Jacobsen and Georgi Tushev are painters. Sam Falls, Anna Gaskell and Douglas Gordon are also well known for their photographic works. Anthea Hamilton, Joey Frank, Michael St. John, Tatiana Kronberg and Dustin Yellin make sculptures and installations. These artists bring to their video pieces these additional references, making for a highly integrated visual experience.
Sam Falls “Untitled (candle)” 2009
Katherine: How do the local businesses factor in to the evening?
Andrea: We have planned a pig roast courtesy of our sponsors Jeremy Stanton of Fire Roasted Catering and Sean Stanton of Blue Hill Farm and North Plain Farm (which jointly operate together). The Farms are small, sustainable Berkshire businesses, which are contributing an organically raised animal for the dinner. We are also delighted to be working with HimalaSalt and Domaney’s Wine & Liquors, both of whom are sponsors of the meal. The roast will be held at the Race Brook Lodge, our host sponsor, against the backdrop of an evening-long bonfire, accompanied by DJ sets by artists Grayson Revoir and Joe Kay. Most guests are staying the night at either our hosting sponsor the Race Brook Lodge, or at nearby inns.
Joey Frank, Charlotte Kidd, Wilmot Kidd, Taylor Nelson and Dustin Yellin “Little Grandfather” 2010
All images courtesy of the artists
December 18th, 2010
Race Brook Lodge, Sheffield, MA
Artists and friends dinner by Fire Roasted Catering, North Plain and Blue Hill Farms and Himalasalt at 5pm.
Performances and video program at 6pm
Trains depart Grand Central for Wassic, NY every two hours. Group pickups from Wassic to the event will be arranged for the 11:48am and 1:48pm departing trains arriving at 2:05pm and 4:05pm. Accommodations are available at Berkshire 1802 House.
Please contact Andrea Hill at andrea at sevenhillsadvisory or Kalika Farmer at kalika at thenewage.com for further information.