Performance artists explore aspects of ‘Care’ in show that brings Spaceus gallery to a close
Artist and curator Gemica Rosenberg has been organizing “Care”: Workshop and Performances since 2016, investigating how acts of care connect people. “Self-care” has created a healthy dose of buzz recently, but with this carefully curated event, Rosenberg and area performers illuminate the collaborative nature of the theme. Rosenberg spoke to us about the event coming Saturday to Harvard Square in a conversation that has been edited and condensed for publication.
Why performance? Is there something about the theme of care that lends itself to being communicated in real time? Or was it the work that generated the theme?
The answer is both! Although I grew up locally, I went to California College of the Arts, where I was exposed to painting, sculpture, book arts, community art … but not a lot of performance art. After moving back to Boston, I got connected with a small yet robust performance art scene. Having worked in so many different materials and media, I found the open-armed simplicity refreshing – all you really need is your own body. Fancy lighting and tech can enhance a project, but you come as you are to performance. And you learn, in the context of performing together, to take care of each other.
You mention confronting “grief,” “sickness” and “vulnerability” in your program description. How do you see the performances providing entry points for audience members around a difficult or sensitive subject?
We open with a work by local interdisciplinary artist Rosie Ranauro called “Back of My Head.” This piece addresses uncomfortable feelings and emotional states by eliciting mutual vulnerability on the part of performers and audience members, who are invited to participate. Ranauro uses drawing to involve audience members. And some of the other performances are also interactive, including “Water Blessing” by Silence Merry Roads and “re.TRANSVERBERATION” by Ellen Zahniser and Sasha Wolfe, a duo from Providence, Rhode Island.
I think it’s important to have people from all parts of the community both on stage and in the audience. With this in mind, I’m always on the lookout for spaces that are disability accessible as well as financially viable, which can be a challenge in the Boston area. Some of this show takes place on the ground level, which everyone can access, and the cost is only $5 to $15 sliding scale – money which goes directly to supporting artists in an artist-run cooperative. No one will be turned away for lack of funds, but we want people to be generous if they can.
It sounds like performers’ relationship with the audience is going to be pivotal. What should the audience look for within the performances?
The interpretations of care represented are very diverse. Ranauro explores mindfulness as “seeing” – drawing as a tool for calming the mind and body, and the conflict between disability and cultural values of independence and self-reliance. Silence Merry Roads is an artist visiting Cambridge from Seattle by way of an artist residency in New Orleans. They use sound as a tool for healing. Theirs will be an immersive experience exploring what it means to simultaneously have a body and be more than a body.
Ellen Zahniser is a gifted playwright who performs her own work in collaboration with dancer Sasha Wolfe. I created the sound for their performance. Ellen plays the role of an enthusiastic professor while Sasha has the quiet presence of a ghostly spirit. Together they explore the figure of St. Teresa. In keeping with the academic context of the story, there may be a pop quiz – these performances are experimental, and bound to be like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
An opening ceremony, “Flower Procession,” has just been added, led by local artist Jessica Caponigro of Snake Hair Press at 4:30 p.m. Beforehand, Caponigro will lead a paper flower-making workshop for those who are interested. This Saturday is not only the performance of “Care” – it’s also the closing reception for Spaceus on Brattle Street, so we’re going all out as a way to show our appreciation for the space and the support they’ve provided.
You describe the work of care as being personal and political, and politics can be divisive. Are there ways in which an experience of care brings us together?
“Care” takes inspiration from the softer side of politics, which isn’t mainstream. For example, I’m thinking of feminist ethics of care that are inspirational to all genders, like the reclamation of our emotions and vulnerability as a sign of strength and truth-telling rather than a sign of weakness.
It expands on the “healing arts” as a mode of becoming present with our bodies and minds. As a community event, I hope that it inspires and brings together people from all walks of life. It’s a friendly, relaxed environment we’re aiming to cultivate.
“Care”: Workshop and Performances runs from 2:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday at Spaceus, 20 Brattle St., Harvard Square. Suggested donations are $5 to $15. Performance artists include Jessica Caponigro, Rosie Ranauro, Silence Merry Roads, Gemica Rosenberg, Sasha Wolfe and Ellen Zahniser, organized by Gemica Rosenberg with Spaceus.
A paper flower-making workshop is 2:30 to 4 p.m., with a flower procession from 4:30 to 5 p.m. Performances are 5 to 7 p.m.