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Spirits of Promise and Loss

Spirits of Promise and Loss, is an animation that uses photographic images of the Old Town Mall in Baltimore as a backdrop for the behaviors and movements of ghost-like characters that populate a decrepit model of utopian possibility. Old Town Mall was one of numerous experiments across the U.S. in urban mall development that strove to bring suburban shoppers, back downtown.

Boxed

2017, 2-channel Video Installation (Loop 2:25) Variable Dimensions, Approx: 11' x 27' x 8' Performers: Mandy Morrison, Samantha Siegel, Tiara Francis Director of Photography: Adan Rodriquez As the American proclivity of success and achievement is partially defined by home-ownership, and at the very least ‘having a roof over one’s head’, living apart from this norm, segregates those who have neither and casts them as ‘disposable’.

Housekeeping

Password: clean 2018, TRT: 1:32 Single-Channel Video Installation 12' x 24.5' Performers: Mandy Morrison, Tiara Francis, Sammantha Siegle In my most recent video and installation Housekeeping, I reference the slapstick comedy of silent films. In them, the protagonists are often working people, encountering circumstances that challenge their human limitations or undermine their efforts at keeping up with expectations.

ModBrut

2017, TRT: 3:36 (1:00 Excerpt) Single-Channel Video Installation 40" x 54" x 8" Participants: Leah Michaels, MJ Neuberger, Parastoo Aslanbeik, Bryan O'Neil, Mark Durant, Aimi Bouillon, Mitchell Noah Working with a group of student volunteers and faculty, I decided to explore the Brutalist / modernist eccentricities of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus.

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About Mandy

Baltimore City - Station North A&E District

Mandy Morrison's picture
Growing up, our family moved several times across the U.S, sensitizing me to how physical and cultural environments shape personal and collective narratives.    Early works, such as "Padded Room", and "Desperado", focus on the dichotomies between an interior life informed by gender, and the mediated space of conquest and expansion in the cinematic  cowboy ‘Western’.  Recent video works such as "Spirits of Promise and Loss" ,  "Boxed "and "... more

Spirits of Promise and Loss

Spirits of Promise and Loss, is an animation that uses photographic images of the Old Town Mall in Baltimore as a backdrop for the behaviors and movements of ghost-like characters that populate a decrepit model of utopian possibility.

Old Town Mall was one of numerous experiments across the U.S. in urban mall development that strove to bring suburban shoppers, back downtown. By creating a thoroughfare developed to maximize pedestrian traffic such malls placed parking and cars on the fringes of the walkway, providing storefronts that faced one another on an open thoroughfare given over to walkers.

It was to be the antidote to suburban strip malls, which drew customers away from urban centers. Enticed by the communal village experience, which featured a welcoming walkway, free of car traffic, the pedestrian mall generated hope for urban revival and long-term sustainability.

Initially popular, the Old Town Mall currently is mostly abandoned and many shop storefronts are shuttered. In creating this work, I am worked with dancers as models who generate unique movements that speak to different aspects of the mall’s past history, that are captured in video and translated into the drawn characters.

Housekeeping

Password: clean
2018, Single-Channel Video Installation with Audio, TRT: 1:43 (Looped Video)
12 x 26'

Performers: Mandy Morrison, Tiara Francis, Sammantha Siegle
Director of Photography: Aimi Bouillion

In this recent video installation, I reference the slapstick comedy of silent films. In them, the protagonists are often working people, encountering circumstances that challenge their human limitations or undermine their efforts at keeping up with expectations. In Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, the assembly-line pace far outstrips the character’s ability to keep-up and adhere to what is required.

In Housekeeping the protagonist is a middle-aged professional woman who is being challenged by youth, class and time itself. Seated placidly and alone in a hotel room, she is, at alternate moments, in situ with a pair of young hotel maids who are straightening her bedspread, beating her with brooms or mopping her naked body on a bathroom floor. The background audio plays an ad for anti-aging products, along with the sounds of running water.

This aging female’s professional body ricochets between poses of entitlement, invisibility, interclass intimacy and naked combat against young uniformed domestic workers in their attempt to smooth, clean, embrace or destroy her.

Boxed

Boxed, 2017
Documentation/Photo Stills, 6.61” x 17.15”

Two-Channel Performative Video Installation with audio

(mapped projections on panels and boxes)

Dimensions: 10’ 6” x 37’ x 7’3”

TRT:02:25 (loop)

Performers: Mandy Morrison, Samantha Siegel, Tiara Francis

As the American proclivity of success and achievement is partially defined by ‘having a roof over one’s head’, living apart from this norm, segregates those who have neither and casts them as ‘disposable’. Just as unwanted furniture and empty boxes are left in the street for garbage pick-up, those who are unable to participate in consumerist class norms are viewed as unclean and -in turn- unworthy outcasts; victims of their corporeal existence. Unable to benefit from or participate in the ‘disruptive’ digital age, they make shelter out of cardboard and exist in the marginal cracks of exterior physical spaces.

The Journey of the Invader Spirit

This will be an 8-10 minute video based on an invented Origin Myth that borrows from the Candomblé spiritual tradition of northern Brazil. In the proposed video, a pernicious illegitimate ‘Invader Spirit’ born in the abandoned ruin of a Catholic monastery, travels the land blithely wreaking havoc on the local people by way of boundless forms of consumer lust, then later, punishes them with detritus and waste. Eventually, we see the Spirit’s malevolence get confronted, and challenged a by a team of artful Capoeira (Afro-Brazilian) martial arts practitioners working with the aid of angelic and earthbound spirit beings.

My mission, as an interdisciplinary artist is to create disruptive narratives that illuminate the meaning of the physical, psychological and spiritual spaces we inhabit. My work falls at the interstices of performance, social practice, and video.

Working with participants, my work uses aspects of narrative to create performative videos (and performances) that explore how the body projects itself in varying contexts. This stems from an interest in how physicality’s expression, capacity for transgression, and mobility, submit to or defy the encroaching power structures that extend into the shared public space.

Central to my process is a language that mediates communication between participating parties within a project and how it is received by participant and viewer. This can include text, image, video, sound, sculpture, installation, and performance.

By involving both skilled performers, as well as those with life-experiences that revolve around labor, and including them in a project’s concepts, it’s meaning and potential to cultivate shared cross-cultural and intergenerational narratives expand. In this way, expectations, that involve work and habit, intersect with unexpected narratives, that can create new meanings and a shared aesthetic language.

The inspiration for the storyline: Journey of the Invader Spirit
Based on a recent Fellowship/residency in Brazil, the proposed video is an Origin Myth that borrows from the Candomblé spiritual tradition of northern Brazil. Begun in the 19th__ century, with origins in the Yoruba, Fon, and Bantu religions of West + central Africa, over the centuries Candomblé and its deities merged with the Catholicism introduced through Portuguese colonialism. Candomblé involves the veneration of sprits known as ‘orishas’ who work as intermediaries for a supreme being. In the proposed video project, I have invented an Invader Spirit who is a foreign albeit, illegitimate Orisha.

We follow this Spirit‘s malevolent journey and watch its intentions, get challenged a by a team of artful Capoeira (Afro-Brazilian) martial arts practitioners. Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music and was developed by enslaved Africans in Brazil at the beginning of the 16th century. It was a way for enslaved Africans to jointly preserve and express their cultural practices while also protecting themselves to resist the culture and reality forced upon them by their European captives.


In this video they do battle with the Invader’s ‘trickster’ prerogatives, making fun of the Invader Spirit’s presumptions of power. While the themes have an environmental undercurrent, there is a humor embedded in the video, that riffs off of the ubiquitous Telenovelas so popular in Brazil. It is also a throwback to the silent films era where underdog characters, often fought against the malignant forces of class oppression.

The artistic process for the project
In aligning the African diaspora of Brazil’s northern city of Salvador with that of Baltimore, I saw similarities in their colonial past. They both had a central port, slave market, and urban center that serviced nearby Fazendas (plantations), where cash crops were grown. Portuguese culture was different from Anglo-American culture in that Catholicism –while having a firm grip on religious practice- was not always strictly enforced when it came to allowing for the integration of African deities with Catholic saints. After doing some research, and through staff and community invites to C Candomblé ceremonies, I became interested in pursuing a narrative that featured an Invader Spirit entity that mimicked -but did not copy- aspects of the Candomblé tradition. Also salient to me is the view from Brazil and Latin America, that North and South America, are part of an American continuum; a view scantily acknowledged north of the Mexican border.

During the residency, a local Capoeira-martial arts group opened up their practice to the Fellows inviting us to their classes and events. We were welcomed as part of their community, and when I described the premise of my video project, several were eager to participate, and so volunteered their time as performers. This was also true of the Sacatar staff, who were given an artist talk and special screening of my work. Additionally, a local public school where several Fellows volunteered, asked for some of their children to be able to participate.

Over the years my curiosity has also taken me to several West African countries, where I visited the departure ports of the enslaved who, dispersed throughout the Caribbean and Americas through forced migration, have had profound a profound influence on the cultural life of the colonized territories of the Americas, if not the world. It is within this cultural mash-up that we now all navigate our way through a shared complex history.

The final goal/outcome for the project at the end of the grant period is to have a completed 8-10 minute video of Journey of the Invader Spirit, with an expanded narrative structure, Portuguese/English voice-over narration, animated sequences, and an original music/audio score. I feel that this is a piece that will resonate with American as well as Brazilian/Latin audiences and -when possible- have promised to return to Brazil, for a public screening with the video participants.

Prior to departing from Brazil introductions were made at the Modern Art Museum in Salvador for the possibility of hosting an exhibit for the completed video (along with other work). I believe that these intentions along with exhibition possibilities in the Baltimore/ DC area will all be met in good time once it is safe and feasible to do so.

Arcosanti

TRT: 11:00
4-channel Video Installation with Sound
9'x 23'

A reflective performative work, filmed at the sustainable community of the same name located in Arizona. In it I use physical (bodily) aural and textual expression as a conduit for exploration of the architect’s creative and personal attempt to integrate natural systems with intentional communal living.
In considering an alternative to the frenetic/wired pace of urban existence, I ventured to this community attracted by its premise, unique building structures, immersion in nature, and isolation from other communities.
The site is something of a relic of the ‘60’s and early 70’s, in which counter-cultural experiments in agriculture and urban living had gained currency. Embedded in counter- cultural idealism, the reality –as well as resistance– to seeing such ideas made manifest in the Western world is continually evolving. Yet it is emergent, and as all structures are built on thoughts, such concepts are continually being re-imagined.
While historically iconic and architecturally influential, Arcosanti’s initial premise –to be a self-sustaining community for up to five thousand people– remains largely theoretical.
In my time there, a bodily reverence for the site and its playful architecture, coupled with poetic observations about the community experience set against the scenic natural backdrop, inform the textual overlays in the piece.
Made with support from the Wexner Center’s Artist Video Program, Columbus, OH

Project begun in 2009
Completed 2016

  • Arcosanti

    2016, 4:00 excerpt, TRT 11:00, 4-channel Video Installation, Dimensions variable Arcosanti is a projected experimental town with a molten bronze bell casting business in Yavapai County, central Arizona, 70 mi (110 km) north of Phoenix, at an elevation of 3,732 feet (1,130 meters). Its "arcology" concept was posited by the Italian-American architect, Paolo Soleri (1919–2013). He began construction in 1970, to demonstrate how urban conditions could be improved while minimizing the destructive impact on the earth.
  • Arcosanti (4-channel Video Still)

    Still of 4-channel sequence focusing on aspects of the architectural environment
  • Arcosanti (4-channel Video Still)

    4-channel sequence with performative actions taking place in the community theater
  • Arcosanti (Video Still)

    Performative action taking place on the site's steps.
  • Arcosanti (Video Still)

    Performative action taking place on steps that form a portion of the roof for the theater (on the other side of the structure)
  • Arcosanti (Video Still)

    I found myself feeling awe at the sense of possibility present in this environment. It both inspires and suggests varying types of ideas about physicality.

Blue Sky Project Collaboration

In the summer of 2008, I spent 6 weeks working with rural young people in northern Illinois at an innovative artist's residency, called Blue Sky Project. The residency paired working artists with young people in the creation of new work.

During my residency we focused our attention on creating performative pieces that examined 'context' ; what a space meant, what were its expectations, and how could one disrupt those expectations.

We had the use of spaces and grounds of a local community college.
Young people chose the locations and created their own costumes for each perfomative experience.

Blue Sky ran from 2006-2012 and was located initially in Illinois north of Chicago before relocating to Dayton where it was affiliated with the University of Dayton from 2009-12.

  • Flag, 2008

    Flag, 2008-09 Single-channel performative video TRT: 08:58 Participants from the Blue Sky Project Artist Residency, Woodstock Illinois Working with youth from the surrounding community and engaging with ideas about performance and the body-in-context, we chose to work in a college gymnasium as a site for exploration. Examining its competitive and nationalist implications, and through the use of simple props, a series of performative gestures yields subtle political interpretations about the meaning of colors, fabric and space. Made with the support of the Blue Sky Project Residence
  • Play

    2008, 3:20 (Two-Channel Video) Working collaboratively with youth as part of the Blue Sky Project we create handmade costumes that reference native American culture and the Elizabethan stage, and generate a series of intimate performances that flout the restrictions imposed by formal theater protocol.
  • Sleep

    Participants from the Blue Sky Project Artist Residency, Woodstock Illinois Working with youth and engaging with ideas about performance and the body-in-context, we analyze the classroom as a site for physical exploration. Discussion revolves around the classroom as an environment with the potentiality for learning, distraction, boredom, or indoctrination. The site is turned into an impromptu slumber party, with the results recorded in video. An invite is issued for other residency participants to see the video and come to a classroom of overturned desks and chairs.

Playing Defense Collaboration with NYCArts Cypher

Playing Defense, (7:00) 2011-2012

Over the course of several months I worked with the NYCArts Cypher youth working on how their break-dance practice could be integrated into the architectural setting of Fort Jay on Governor's Island.

In this presentation, we explore and challenge the physical “setting” of a military fortress by pitting the rigor and freedom of break-dance against the discipline and demands of military life.

The video was shot at Fort Jay on Governor's Island, a national park and a historical landmark. Formerly this was one of several military fortresses that defended New York Harbor's commercial interests, including the export of cotton from the South during the Civil War. The completed video piece was presented as part of a dance performance with NYC Arts Cypher at the Brooklyn Museum (2012) and at the Lumen Festival for Video and Performance on Staten Island.

Made with funding from The Council on the Arts & Humanities of Staten Island

Cake, A Performance

Dixon Place/Chasama Performance Space
New York City
2004
TRT: 10:00

Performers:
Mandy Morrison
Kelly Kivland
Rebecca Davis
Nora Stevens

Text and Audio Design
Mandy Morrison

Set Design:
Mathias Neumann

Video Effects:
Jeff Morey

Using the construct of Marie Antoinette' s stance (and purported quote) toward her peasant population, "Let them eat cake!", I worked with collaborators to generate a multi-media performance loosely based on the facts of her life.

Some of the visuals were derived from 1960's pop culture; which included a vintage album cover of a woman sitting poised in a cake ("Whipped Cream and Other Delights), as well as tracks ("A Taste of Honey") from the album as background audio. We also used a hair styles and matching waitress costumes to reflect the era.

The dancers perform as angry waitresses who serve up real cake from from a tier of the Antoinette 'Dress" to audience members, as the cake-sitting 'Marie' quips facetiously about her pesky subordinate 'help'.
The main character derides all who are below her royal 'station' and at the performance's end, the waitresses turn on their 'Mistress' and attack her with knives and destroying the cake/dress she sits in.

Initial Public Offering

2001-04, 3:00 (excerpt, performance documentation)

Participants
Kelly Kivland
Rebecca Davis
Nora Stevens

And with help from
the University of Minnesota's Art Department

Locations
Downtown Minneapolis
Cuchifritos Gallery, Essex Street Market, NYC
and
the outdoor plaza, Metropolitan Museum of Art

On three separate occasions, I did a performance piece titled “Initial Public Offering” to arouse questions from a public accustomed to seeing lavish corporate promotions of new products targeting them as potential consumers. I distributed promotional buttons with a logo and query: “Who Decides What Matters?” The product being pitched to consumers­­–The Co-Dependent Suit– which were two connected orange jump-suits such as those used in the prison system and maintenance industry- had no tangible use.

My interest was to generate dialogue about the relationship between capitalist output, and the values purportedly represented by such products.

Originally commissioned in 2001 by the University of Minnesota's Visiting Artist Program

All the White I Am (Photo Series) 2013-15

During the winter of 2013-15, I worked at a remote recreation facility for the City of New York. We had a number of youth groups who used our digital facility to surf the web, and print images of themselves taken with cell-phones as well as images of celebrities, downloaded from facebook or the web.

As they would often leave cast-off images in the printer I would pick-up what was left behind, and consider the overlap in our worlds. I would then combine them with a variety of other images; some performative actions of my own and some of the surrounding environment which combined urban structures, with utilitarian facilities.

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