Ten months into the pandemic, FF2’s Elisa Shoenberger posted “Carron Little and ‘Out of Site’ Show How Performance Can Adapt to COVID-19” about Chicago artist Carron Little’s response to the arts in the pandemic. Having spent time with Carron in the past, I contacted Carron recently for this follow-up interview.
KF: You are a performing artist often in motion. Can you share any highlights from your most recent performance adventures?
Carron Little: Big thanks and yes it seems very luxurious to be traveling in these times, but am fortunate to be vaccinated. I was deeply honored to be invited by Theater Entropia to present my own work at Intimate Bridges — an international conference — in Athens (Greece) in September 2021. Eight artists were selected to share work. I started off with a little bit of poetic verse, then presented the civic engagement project “Neighborhood Magic.”
“Neighborhood Magic” was a really special project for me because of the social impact it had. It did what I can only hope my civic engagement projects do. It re-wrote the local narrative from the perspective of a diverse group of residents of Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood. It created support systems for people previously alienated in the community, facilitated transgenerational conversations, and created safe spaces for LGBTQ + youth. And the project dug into the complexity of segregation in that area… This was imparted due to the support I received as an artist from Beverly Arts Alliance [in Chicago].
I was able to extend my trip to Athens by a couple of days so I could visit the Acropolis, and I made a special trip to the Theater of Dionysus. To be on this ancient site where poets and performers had presented their work since ancient times reiterated the importance of integrating poetry into our everyday lives, and was a very profound journey for me.
KF: The weight of the pandemic bogged down many artists, but you created “Flow, embody • in site” — an online public performance symposium that helps artists livestream. Do update us on how that project has evolved to today?
Carron Little: Everybody has had their own individual struggles through the pandemic. Up until 2020, I have been organizing voluntarily an annual public performance program called “Out of Site Chicago” since 2011. So I reached out to the artists I have worked with and I forged a partnership with Experimental Sound Studio and we learned together on that first performance. . . and out of those conversations, we developed the concept for the “Flow • embody in site” online public performance symposium.
From the outset of the pandemic it was important for me to create a space where people could keep creative, keep making, keep innovating. And I had no idea what that would look like but through the collaborative conversation we have built a network and a platform dedicated to public performance practices. We had no idea if the symposium would work — how can we make practice based-workshops online for public performance?
The symposium blew us away; it created an intimate community of practitioners from around the globe and for the finale event, we live streamed 22 public performances from around the globe — gifting surprise encounters to local people and sharing those experiences with an international online audience. It was incredibly special.
We engaged in a reflection process with everyone involved in “Flow • embody in site,” and developed a platform called Open Flow where we continue public performance practice-based workshops with esteemed artists like Marilyn Arsem and Martine Viale. Holding the space for international exchange has been really important at this time — we have been able to observe the waves of COVID-19 as it moves around our international community.
Right now the network and platform are actively curating public performances, organizing online workshops, and I am offering live stream training for performance artists. I think it is really important to mention that we are innovating technology each time we create a program as we are adapting the technology for performance and not the other way around.
KF: To me, interdisciplinary art is an ultra-feminist form: it’s inclusive, diverse, and creates out of “chaos.” You’re incredibly prolific, working across media, countries, technologies, and spaces! What are some advantages of working so broadly? Are there any drawbacks?
Carron Little: Early on, I learned any artistic skill whether it was carving stone, learning tapestry weaving, Brechtian theater… Now I have all these skills to draw from and can make any work I wish to. The work is created through a deep listening process with the public, and is determined by people and places. I am a facilitator working in the community.
When the pandemic hit last March , I really worried about my artist community not having a space to create and experiment. This seemed so vital and necessary for our work to have the space to evolve. When we ask, what is this notion of what is feminist art? In the eighties — up until now — it has really been reinforcing the stereotype of the angry aggressive woman, and I think it is really important that we think about feminist art practices as building ecologies of support. So what do ecologies of art-making look like for the environment and our communities? I tried to exemplify this in this project, despite the restrictions of the pandemic.
There was a sense of urgency in it but with support from Experimental Sound Studio, we were able to build a platform for performance artists to share their work.
KF: Tell us more about “Out of Site” and creating “cutting-edge unexpected encounters in public space.”
Carron Little: Yes, the ethos of our work has been to create unexpected encounters for random publics. We have just existed in Chicago up until the pandemic, but now we are creating these surprises and moments of wonder for diverse publics around the world.
This summer , Jeremy Pauly, ieke Trinks, Martine Viale and I curated public performances in Chicago that were shared with an international audience. This project was supported by the Chicago Park District and “Nights Out in the Parks 2021.” We focused on work that would profoundly engage the publics in both an embodied physical experience and talk about the trauma we have lived through during the pandemic.
In curating Helen Lee’s performance that spoke about the physical violence to Black and Brown people, sharing their personal stories, and then carrying the audience to Wannapa Pimtong-Eubanks interactive dance to provide a profound experience addressing systemic violence we are experiencing in Chicago and in the USA.
From my early experience till now, I have witnessed how public performance practices can switch the trajectory of violence on our city streets to one of peace. But it takes a lot of courage to do it.
© Katherine Factor (11/30/21) Special for FF2 Media.
Click HERE to find out more about the “Out of Site” public performance series.
Click HERE to learn more about the “Neighborhood Magic” project.
Click HERE to see photos of the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens (Greece).
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured Photo cropped from the EPK on Carron Little’s Press Page. Photo Credit: Doug Fogelson.
Bottom Photo from “If My Body Were You,” an interactive poetry performance by Carron Little at Montgomery College (Takoma Park, Maryland) in 2019. Photo by Amanda Miller. Used with permission from Carron Little.