No Longer the Hazardous Forest?
Liberty Memorial- Lamentation or 100 years after Armistice
Performances by Angela Dufresne, Jack Ferver and Juliana Snapper
In commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of the deeply flawed 1918 Paris Armistice interdisciplinary artists Juliana Snapper, Jack Ferver and Angela Dufresne will collaborate on performances that metabolize the ambivalences and tensions that arise when viewers contemplate the Liberty Memorial, the National WWI museum, and their anomalous context—housed as they are—within the queer history of the memorial’s surrounding park. The Liberty Memorial Park served as a popular, if illicit, gay cruising site for decades. These performances will take place within both the rich history of this site, as well as Angela Dufresne’s exhibition at the Kemper Museum in Kansas, City Missouri. Local residents will be invited to collaborate, such as members of the Heartland Gay Men’s Chorus, regional artists, and Kansas City Art Institute students.
The Liberty Memorial is a revival Neo-Egyptian Art Deco series of structures with a central tower carrying an eternal flame, which was finished in 1926. It houses the US National WWI Museum, which articulates the problematic aspects of WWI unsympathetically through objects, testimonials and rigorous historical reiterations. It addresses the political and cultural climate that birthed the war to end all wars, deeply informed by mis-guided ideologies such as colonialism, techno-industrialism, and imperialism , to name a few. The Museum also thoroughly presents the various Nationalistic platforms and media misinformation campaigns that perpetuated the War. Finally, the Museum expresses the tragic, lingering effects of the Treaty of Versailles (especially on Germany)—the devastation of national economies, the humiliation and fear invoked by massive demilitarization, the class, race, and gender/sexuality based hatred inspired by abject poverty and social fragmentation.
With this historical trauma as our touchstone, our collaborative team (Dufresne, Snapper, Ferver) will address these pinnacle events at the burgeoning of industrial modernism as central motifs in our performance-based events.
We are each deeply invested in avant guard innovations that form groundwork for contemporary art and performance born between and during the world wars. The political issues such as queer sexual emancipation (especially in Germany) to the most pervasive viral epidemics of modern history (the influenza of 1918 in commonly thought to have originated in Fort Worth, KS) to socialist, militarists movements to feminist suffragettes of the period are prescient social phenomena and actors that reverberate into our current divisive political climate.
With the Musuem and its WWI collection in mind, the artists will seek to conflate and contrast the overt history of the war monument with the counter history of the park that surrounds it. Besides its role as consensual gay sex hook-up spot, it was commonly known that married men from wealthier surrounding suburbs would visit the park in pursuit of homosexual encounters. The site was often referred to as The Big Penis in the Sky and was either loathed and affectionately acknowledged as a place where the hypocrisy of our supposedly free society played itself out through “immoral” homosexual acts. In the mid 2000’s, the Liberty Memorial park was “made safe again” by having its dense “hazardous” forest that had accumulated over decades of neglect and disinterest pruned.
Our project's goal is to throw into relief these seemingly disparate histories as they pertain to current social and political quagmires. Performances will be hosted by the Kemper Museum during Dufresne’s exhibition in October of 2018. Other potential performances would occur in October of 2018. Another round of performances will occur offsite in New York in 2019. Both Snapper and Ferver will write and direct performances based on Dufresne’s painting No longer the Hazardous Forest? which will be included in the exhibition at the Kemper. The painting encapsulates the social and political complexity of the Liberty Memorial site, Dufresne’s own experience as a young queer in KCMO in the 1980s and 90s , figures and customs she gleaned from the WWI Museum’s collection, as well as WWI research and contemporaneous superimpositions. The performances will be developed over a series of collaborative, written drafts. In Kansas City, the project will evolve through a series of workshops and rehearsals with Dufresne, her willing family members and local performative, musical and scenic collaborators. In 2019, the productions will be further developed in New York City and include more extensive set and costume design and include full-fledge performance and musical scores as well as conflating the LMKCMO history with the simultaneous narrative of the Chelsea piers legacy. (Locations TBD)
Sets will be in collaboration with the artist Jeromy Jacob. Jacobs work deploys similar complex figure ground conflations as Dufresne’s paintings-using fixtural components, mirrors, transparency and striations, challenging the bodies relationship to architectural and landscape framework apparatus.
Snapper will write a libretto, perform, and direct the chorus for a Lamentation. The year the monument was erected in 1926, the song Bye Bye Blackbird was at the top of the popular charts and carries a particular social resonance for the performance. It will serve as the melodic backdrop for Snapper’s score. Blackbird’s original narrative was about a prostitute packing up and returning home. As a manipulative ploy to address the inequities the Armistice posed to Germans,, the song was appropriated during World War II as part of Joseph Goebbels' propaganda campaign. The lyrics were changed to reflect the German political rhetoric intended to demoralize the United States and British troops, as well as British citizens. In Nazi Germany the song was not aired or played, because Nazis forbade "degenerate" styles of music, such as jazz. Ironically, segregationists opposed to the American Civil Rights Movement, notably at the Selma to Montgomery marches, played the song over loudspeakers as a taunt. Snapper is reclaiming the song, with its original, intended meaning as support for those who work “in the dark”— —for their safe passage home, for their right to have a life outside poverty, disease, exploitation and persecution.
Ferver will write, direct, and perform a multi-layered Rant. Ferver will not only be responding to Dufresne’s painting, but also the painting Himmel, by Marsden Hartley. Hartley’s Himmel is a favorite of Dufresne’s (and an inspiration to some of her own painting) and is housed locally at the Nelson Atkins Museum. The work embodies many of the problematic issues of that time, which Hartley struggled so profoundly with, as well as showcasing Wilhelmine Berlin (a space of sexual emancipation for Hartley). Ferver will be playing Hartley during his affair with and subsequent memorializing of German Lieutenant Karl von Freyburg, as well as playing Dufresne’s father, who told her a story of being hit on by a man at the Memorial park. His response was to threaten to castrate the man with his digging knife. The performance will juxtapose love, lust, violence, and hatred; exposing how human emotions migrate from personal experiences to global dimensions. Ferver’s performance will also involve a sculptural model of the Tower and Sphinxes being constructed by Dufresne, period costumes of the WWI era, and costumes based on Dufresne’s painting.
Juliana Snapper is an internationally recognized contemporary opera singer, recitalist, live performance artist, experimental theater director and voice scholar. She is best known for original techniques developed to extend the sonic and expressive palate of the operatic voice. Her career was propelled early on by a Grammy for her contribution to the Best Ensemble in Opera Recording, and by winning the Blanche Thebom/Metropolitan Opera award for Outstanding Young Singer of the Year in 1990. Her works have included "Judas Cradle" (2005-2008), known for its inverted arias, which toured England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and culminated with productions for Performa ‘05, New York, and the REDCAT, Los Angeles, as well as "You Who Will Emerge From the Flood" (2008-2011), recognized as the first underwater opera, which toured Manchester, Porto, Warsaw, Geneva, Montreal, Ljubljana, and various US cities where she transformed unlikely sites - a Victorian bathhouse, a Soviet Olympic Training pool, the hotel Standard’s rooftop pool Los Angeles, and a dunk tank at the PS1/MoMA in New York - into functioning opera houses. Juliana Snapper has been a featured soloist at the Guggenheim, the Pulitzer Foundation, the Getty, the Walker Art Center, the New York Museum of Modern Art and the Ojai Festival Main
Stage. Her body of work has been the topic of research in academic journals, such as: The Drama
Review, and in books from the Oxford, Princeton, and Duke University Presses. In 2014, the Huffington Post named Snapper as being one of “Fourteen Artists Who Are Transforming the Future of Opera.”
Jack Ferver is a New York based writer, choreographer, and director. His genre defying performances, which have been called “so extreme that they sometimes look and feel like exorcisms” (The New Yorker), explore the tragicomedy of the human psyche. Ferver’s “darkly humorous” (The New York Times) works interrogate and indict an array of psychological and socio-political issues, particularly in the realms of sexual orientation, gender, and power struggles. His visionary direction blurs boundaries between fantastic theatrics and stark naturalism, character and self, humor and horror.Ferver’s works have been presented in New York City at the New Museum; The Kitchen; The French Institute Alliance Française, as part of Crossing the Line; Abrons Arts Center; Gibney Dance; Performance Space 122; the Museum of Arts and Design, as part of Performa 11; Danspace Project; and Dixon Place. Domestically and internationally, Ferver has been presented by the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College (NY); American Dance Institute (MD); Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (IL); Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (OR); the Institute of Contemporary Art at MECA (ME); the Institute of Contemporary Art (MA); Diverse Works in collaboration with the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston (TX); and Théâtre de Vanves (France).His work has been critically acclaimed in The New York Times, La Monde, Artforum, The New Yorker, Time Out NY, Modern Painters, The Financial Times, The Village Voice, and ArtsJournal. Ferver has received residencies and fellowships from the Maggie Allesee National Center of Choreography at Florida State (2012); Baryshnikov Arts Center (2013); the Watermill Center (2014); the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art (2014); and Live Arts Bard, the commissioning and residency program of The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College (2014); and Abrons Art Center (2014-2015). He is a 2016 recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant.He is a professor at Bard College and is guest faculty at NYU. He has also taught at SUNY Purchase, and has set choreography at The Juilliard School. As an actor he has appeared in numerous films and television series.
Dufresne is an internationally respected painter and video artist. She has produced dozens of music performances for video over that past 20 years. Snapper and Dufresne have collaborated four times previously. Raised in the town in Kansas (Olathe-Suburbs) that Dick and Perry stopped in before they killed the Clutters (In Cold Blood), now based in Brooklyn. She received the first college degree in her lineage. Her work articulates non-paranoid, porous ways of being in a world fraught by fear, power and possession. Through painting, drawing and performative works, she wields heterotopic narratives that are both non-hierarchical and perverse.
She has exhibited at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York, The National Academy of Arts and Letters in New York, the Kemper Museum in Kansas City, Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York, The Cleveland Institute of Art, The Aldridge Museum in Connecticut, Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York, the Rose Museum in Waltham, Massachusetts, Mills College in Oakland, California, and the Minneapolis School of Art and Design. She is currently Associate Professor of painting at RISD. Awards and honors include 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship, a Civitella Ranieri residency, a residency at Yaddo, a Purchase Award at The National Academy of Arts and Letters, two fellowships at The Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, The Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California, and a Jerome Foundation Fellowship.