David Gordon: How many ways there are (1995)

David Gordon.

Writing an artist statement—the bane of many artists’ existences—is one of those exercises that is, you might say, re-performed time and again over the course of a career. Depending upon the nature of one’s practice, it might change dramatically with each iteration or it might not, but either way, the process almost always begs a taking of stock, a restatement of values, or a recommitment to a vision.

The following artist statement was written by David Gordon circa 1995 for a funding agency in pursuit of a grant. It is one of five that he submitted to The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage for publication in a forthcoming anthology on the subject of the body as archive (co-edited by Bill Bissell and Linda Caruso Haviland). You’ll have to wait for that publication to see the other four, so please stay tuned.

With Center funding, Gordon is also re-envisioning his 2009 dance-theater work Uncivil Wars: Moving with Brecht and Eisler with Susan Hess Modern Dance. That piece is already a re-envisioning of Bertolt Brecht’s 1933 classic The Roundheads and the Pointheads.

dg artist statement written approx 1995

Some time after the beginning but before the middle middle I begin to acknowledge to myself I am not entirely original. I am not an inventor of dance steps. I am a re-organizer of available movement. I am not an inventor of language. I am only an obsessive re-orderer of words. Rather than have my deficiencies discovered & trounced by others I decide to announce re-use of my own materials boldly & to celebrate my right to enjoy re-appearance & change in context & to revel in how many ways there are to skin a cat. This, however, makes accurate bio life a little complicated & nobody has ever been interested enough (including me) to force the issue.

For instance, in 1991, I have a job teaching for 11 wks @ UCLA when Punch & Judy Get Divorced surfaces as a wkshp for students. It morphs into a KTCA/Alive TV show w/music by Carl Stallings & text by me for 2 Punches, 2 Judys, 2 dogs, 2 clowns, 2 devils & 2 babies & evolves into a dance work w/same music but w/no text for White Oak Dance Project w/Mikhail Baryshnikov as Punch & Valda Setterfield as Judy.

It grows a 2nd act, 1 year later, during another 11 teaching wks @ UCLA called Life Without Men. A world of divorced & widowed & spinster Judys live alone together & all the Judys are acted by all the men and women actors of Punch & Judy Get Divorced w/more wkshps & w/actors from the Mark Taper Forum in LA & later @ The Guthrie Theater in Mpls w/Guthrie actors & later acts 1 & 2 become a music/theater piece commissioned by American Music Theater Festival & American Repertory Theater w/new music by Edward Barnes & lyrics written in collaboration w/Ain Gordon and Arnold Weinstein. So, how much of what I do has how much of how many other pieces in them is a bit iffy to figure.

I can say w/confidence I improvised dialogue for the 1st time in Random Breakfast in 1963 @ the Judson Church & in 1975 in the same concert as Chair, Alternative 1 Through 5 @ Paula Cooper Gallery was One Act Play in which I asked Valda Setterfield to “tell me all about it” & I wrote 6 pages of monologue for her & I stood entirely & patiently still nodding & smiling every once in a while as she told me all about it.

Grants & Grantees

Philadelphia Dance Projects has grown into an organization focused on presenting performances and workshops to challenge and develop local artists.

the ICA presents Mouth of Darkness, a performance by musician Travis, organized by Endless Shout collaborator The Otolith Group.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Pam Tanowitz is a choreographer and the founder of Pam Tanowitz Dance. In 2015, she served as a Performance LOI panelist.

Montgomery County Community College’s Then and Now: Jazz Cubano series kicks off with a performance by Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Band.

Interdisciplinary artist Wilmer Wilson IV will present his performance and sculpture work Channel.

Grants & Grantees

FringeArts presented Australian dance company Chunky Move’s Mortal Engine, a dance piece that incorporates video, music, and laser performance with sound-initiated projections.

Grants & Grantees

Opera Philadelphia seeks to create productions of classic and new operatic works that assemble the finest international creative artists, and present a wide array of programming that educates, deepens, and diversifies opera audiences.

The experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans will be illuminated in this multimedia work created by MacArthur Fellow and jazz pianist/composer Vijay Iyer and poet/librettist Mike Ladd, in combination with a publication of local veterans’ writings produced through a partnership with the veteran-focused arts organization Warrior Writers.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Jens Hoffmann is the deputy director for exhibitions and public programs at The Jewish Museum in New York City.

Questions of Practice

The final article in the American Impresario series features Claire Chase of the International Contemporary Ensemble, which has been described by the New York Times as “one of the most adventurous and accomplished groups in new music.”

Grants & Grantees

This large-scale performance piece revealed unique insights into Fryderyk Chopin as both a historical figure and a masterful composer, as the piano parts for two concerti were replaced with powerful spoken monologues constructed from fragments of Chopin’s letters and biographies, performed in Polish by actress Barbara Wysocka and accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.

Opera Philadelphia conducted in-depth, strategic audience research that informs the development of a set of programs that, together with enhanced marketing efforts, respond to new audience behaviors and preferences.