Curatorial Statement – L.A. Party/An Evening with William Shatner Asterisk
November 20, 2013
There is an informal policy where I work. It’s something of a caveat. You won’t find it written down anywhere. It’s not in the PuSh Festival Society’s constitution, nor is it in the bylaws, or even the organization’s HR policy. It’s not recorded in the minutes of any committee meeting, or the notes arising out of a production meeting. But it’s a rule nonetheless:
No assholes allowed!
I admit it’s my language, and no one else’s. I secretly hope there might be out there an international sign or symbol for it. There would be the obligatory red circle with a line across it.
The simple fact is that there is no correlation between being a jerk and creating good art. And when it comes down to who I want to invite into our city, who I would wish to introduce to various artists, who to ask staff and contractors to work with, and who I imagine will leave a lasting impact… well it’s easy. Give me someone just like Phil Soltanoff anytime.
Phil is one of the kindest and gentlest artists I know. Even more surprising given that he’s based in NYC, a city and artistic mecca that doesn’t normally encourage modesty or humility. He is the type of guy that months, even years, afterwards local artists will thank the Festival for having brought him to town—a form of persistence of person, if you will.
Phil’s artistic practice is translucent. His aesthetics are an idea made material. His artistic eye is patient, observant and wry. He’s a wizard and an alchemist. For some reason he conjures for me the German literary critic, philosopher and essayist Walter Benjamin. Phil is an old-style illusionist, who pulls off a trompe l’oeil, in which the aura of the original work and human presence is magically returned to surface of the video re-production.
As his website aptly puts it, “Phil Soltanoff is a theatre artist who creates innovative, hybrid, work in which the arts collide in compelling ways. He challenges familiar forms, builds links among seemingly incompatible media and materials, and employs new technologies in surprising and human ways.” Phil refers to L.A. Party and An Evening with William Shatner Asterisk as “video puppetry.” Sui generis. The PuSh Festival prides itself at presenting work that defies categorization. In this sense, these two pieces are tailor made. Bespoke art. They are also a perfect match for multidisciplinary mandate of SFU Woodward’s and the interdisciplinary spirit of School for Contemporary Arts.
As with Gob Squad, we have chosen to give you full sense of a particular artistic sensibility by presenting two works of Soltanoff’s. It’s not first the time we have presented multiple works of an artist in a single Festival. We have done this in the past with Forced Entertainment (Exquisite Pain, Quizzoola!) and Tim Crouch (An Oak Tree, My Arm). Some artists at a certain time in their career warrant it, having achieved a degree of maturity, a confident sense of their own inquiry.
I hope you take as much delight in the artistry of Phil Soltanoff as I have. Step right up and take a peek through the hole. The figures in the magic box are as real as the enduring lie of the theatre.