MCA Talk: The Seldoms, Bodies on the Line

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The Seldoms, Power Goes Photo: Nathan Keay © MCA Chicago


Choreographer Carrie Hanson’s multidisciplinary dance theater project, Power Goes (at MCA Stage, Mar 20–29), investigates the figure of Lyndon Baines Johnson as inspiration and metaphor for a bold inquiry into the relationship between power and social change. In LBJ’s time as president, many talked of “putting bodies on the line” as struggles over civil rights, Vietnam, and other issues raged.

In search of understanding the continued relevance of those experiences now—and how dance offers a unique path to exploring them—Hanson invites audiences to join her, collaborator Stuart Flack (playwright), Mark K. Updegrove (Director of the LBJ Presidential Library and author of Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency), Michael C. Dawson (John D. MacArthur Professor of Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago; founding director of the University’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture and author of Behind the Mule: Race and Class in African-American Politics and Black Visions: The Roots of Contemporary African-American Political Ideologies), and S. Elise Archias (Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and author of the upcoming book The Concrete Body – Rainer, Schneemann, Acconci) for a vigorous discussion of power’s role in making—or blocking—progress toward making the world a better place. Moderated by Michael J. Kramer, historian on the faculty of Northwestern University, editor at the MCA, and dramaturg for The Seldoms.

About the Speakers

Since founding the Seldoms in 2001, dance artist and educator Carrie Hanson has created over 25 works for the company and designed multidisciplinary projects with artists working in visual arts, music/sound design, fashion design, and architecture. Under Hanson’s direction, The Seldoms have gained a reputation for bold, innovative performances in unusual spaces such as cargo containers and truck depots. Time Out Chicago called their work in a drained Olympic-sized outdoor pool, Giant Fix, one of the best dance moments of the past decade. Marchland, their collaboration with visual artist Fraser Taylor, received its world premiere at MCA Stage in 2010. More recently, Hanson’s creative work has involved research and embodiment of social, political, environmental issues, and history as a mode of pressing dance and performance to speak to larger public issues. Hanson’s work has received a National Performance Network Creation Fund and NEFA National Dance Project Production Award, and she is the recipient of a Chicago Dancemaker’s Forum Lab Artists award, two Illinois Arts Council Fellowships and a Ruth Page Award for performance. She was named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2012.

The plays of Stuart Flack have been produced at leading theaters in the US, including Southcoast Rep (Costa Mesa, CA), Culture Project (New York), Interact (Philadelphia), Victory Gardens (Chicago), and the Contemporary American Theatre Festival (Washington, DC). His plays include Sydney Bechet Killed a Man, Jonathan Wild, Homeland Security, For Eddie, and Floaters. He is currently creating a new play based on Black Like Me, which will premiere as part of Steppenwolf Theatre's 2015 season. He is the former executive director of the Chicago Humanities Festival, the largest festival of arts arts and ideas in the US and the former editor and publisher of the McKinsey Quarterly, a journal of business, economics, and policy. He is also a guitarist with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra.

Mark K. Updegrove is the director of the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, where, in April 2014, he hosted the Civil Rights Summit which included addresses by President Barack Obama and former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. He has conducted exclusive interviews with five US Presidents and is the author of Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency (2012), Baptism by Fire: Eight Presidents Who Took Office During Times of Crisis (2009), and Second Acts: Presidential Lives and Legacies After the White House (2006). His latest book Destiny of Democracy: The Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library will be published February 2015. Currently, Updegrove is working on an authorized book on the relationship between Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Michael C. Dawson is the John D. MacArthur Professor of Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago, where he is also the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. His books Behind the Mule: Race and Class in African-American Politics (1994) and Black Visions: The Roots of Contemporary African-American Political Ideologies (2001) won multiple awards, including Black Visions winning the prestigious Ralph Bunche Award from the American Political Science Association. Dawson has also published numerous journal articles, book chapters, and opinion pieces. He is currently finishing an edited volume, "Fragmented Rainbow," on race and civil society in the United States as well as a solo volume, "Black Politics in the Early 21st Century."

S. Elise Archias is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2008. Her upcoming book The Concrete Body – Rainer, Schneemann, Acconci explores the work of three performance artists from the 1960s who embraced and challenged everyday life in late modernity using bodies as an artistic material. Her research and classes center around modernism, performance art, and contemporary art and ask questions about how abstract ideas come together with the physical world in meaningful ways in 20th and 21st century art and life.

Michael J. Kramer holds a visiting assistant professorship at Northwestern University, where he teaches history, American studies, digital humanities, and civic engagement. His book The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture was published by Oxford University Press in 2013, and he has written about history, art, culture, and politics for numerous publications. He works as an editor in the Design, Publishing, and New Media Department at the MCA itself. He is also involved with the Chicago Dance History Project, an oral history and archival digital documentation of dance in the Chicago region, and he is the dramaturg for The Seldoms Contemporary Dance Company.