OVERLOOK is a clipboard lecture that turns into a dance with memory, a time machine, a dream of utopia. Using an amalgam of voices, historical accounts and essays, original texts, song and dance, Hélène Lesterlin embodies high-stakes musings on art-making, life, death, high jinx, and a rooted sense of belonging to a colony of dreamers. Created using interviews with artists and elders, and the explosively inspiring archives of the Woodstock Historical Society, this solo performance transforms local lore, personal narrative, and the stories of the unique characters populating Woodstock’s art colony heyday. Woodstock, a village laid out on the flank of Overlook Mountain in the Catskill Mountains of New York, became synonymous with Bohemia as artists settled its hillsides in the 1900s in a sweeping effort to create a thriving art colony and utopian community based on Ruskin’s ideals. Roaring through the 1920s and beyond, it became known as much for revelry as for art, culminating in the famous Woodstock concert in 1969. Through the lens of memory, on a foundation of first-hand accounts, this performance throws down radical propositions from 100 years ago, while igniting a flame in solidarity with utopia and hope for tomorrow. (Technical needs for this performance are flexible and light.)
Premiere: Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, 2015
“I am motivated by the subversive nature of the hand-made and the ephemeral amidst the world’s sophisticated cascades of mass-produced objects and experiences. I am committed to live performance as a way to cement nourishing and challenging communal experiences in the context of today’s political and social upheavals. Humor and satire are the sly tools of my trade, and I have embedded myself in archival materials, to bridge between the reconstructed past and the imagined future. I create visions of utopia as a salve for cynicism, while skewering that which needs it.” Hélène Lesterlin creates performances and time-based art works that span dance, theater, sound, installation and puppetry, working with a consistent group of collaborating artists. Founded in 2012, Studio Reynard is home base for her work as artist, director, performer, curator and instigator of collaborative projects. Current projects include a series of works steeped in medieval sources: Fox vs. Kingdom, a satiric puppet show, is performed as a feast; Darkling is a somber, transmogrifying solo dance performance with recorded voices and live interactive video. Two recent works are based in historical archives: Overlook, a solo dance-lecture is based on the art colony heyday of Woodstock, NY; and Geographica, a site-specific improvised dance duet with a radio-based sound-score, responded to both Olana, a Persian-inspired historic site, and current events in the Middle East. Her work has been performed in theaters, galleries, and site-specific outdoor locations in the US, France, the Netherlands and Taiwan.
Photo by: Derin Tanyol / Hélène Lesterlin
This post is part of a series of profiles on performance and performance makers from this year’s book, Contemporary Performance Almanac 2016, an overview of contemporary performance presented during the 2014/2015 season available for touring now. If you would like to be apart of next year’s book, Contemporary Performance Almanac 2017, you can join the project here.