July Digest: Linda Frank on The Space Program

Linda Frank, who grew up in Salt Lake City and made work here before moving back East, has sent us a sort of digital postcard from Philly, where for the last year or so, she and collaborator Lilly Ramirez have been creating a new platform for performance called The Space Program. Frank's roots in the visual art and dance communities in Utah remain a resonant thread in her work as she develops her own practice and challenges the larger art world with her strident, uncompromising, hilarious, approachable performances. We featured her piece "isn't ethnic" in our Winter 2014 issue and are thrilled to learn more about what she's up to. Keiron de Nobriga, a frequent collaborator of Frank's who is also featured below, created the cover piece for our Summer 2014 issue. All the images below are by The Space Program's house photographer Darren Wallace.

Frank and Ramirez are in many ways working along the same lines as loveDANCEmore in another city. They created The Space Program not just to foster their own work or that of their friends, but to instigate a heterogenous, contentious community of radical art making. Hopefully there will be more opportunities for cross-fertilization and inspiration across time and space. 

  Obstructions , collaboration sculpture and performance between Keiron and Linda

Obstructions, collaboration sculpture and performance between Keiron and Linda

Hunger is a great site for creation and growth. The Space Program launched out of a hunger for an experimental space to house performance and time-based work between Philadelphia and New York. It is a space that is accessible to artists of diverse mediums and practices, and provides an intersection between performance and visual art. In December 2017, The Space Program had it’s first show, Cut Ups, at the Mascher Space Co-op in Philadelphia. The project, founded by me, Linda Frank, has grown to incorporate and utilize the creative and organizational efforts of partner and fellow artist Lilly Ramirez. Since the inception of The Space Program, its heart beat has been regulated and elevated by monthly submissions and the artists who have contributed and familiarized themselves with the space and each other. 

 The Space Program presentaion  Altaers , attendants caught reading a score: Liliana Lacayo and Rick Rein

The Space Program presentaion Altaers, attendants caught reading a score: Liliana Lacayo and Rick Rein

A great deal is ahead for The Space Program. It is inspired by formats for dance and art like Judson, Mudson, the Re:Re Art Show, Anna Halprin’s Dance Deck, The Glove, High~Tide, Vox Populi, Fabric Workshop Museum, Situationist International and more. It’s always looking for ways to create conversations between movement and visually based media. Work that is still and work that moves (either in film or via the body) converse, while locating and dislocating the viewers' bodies in the space. Sound is used to a great extent as a marker of the passing of time and the dislocation of the viewer from what they are attempting to focus on. Distraction is an important ingredient in The Space Program shows, for the viewer is not asked to give one work their undivided attention but to filter through a complexity of images and experiences that see each other in a ring of livable space. Performances begin and end without introduction and seating is not provided. The Space Program finds order in social disruption and critiques the manner in which we’re accustomed to viewing performance and art. It is interested in stimulating the participant to take up and perform themselves. Materials and ingredients are sometimes laid out in the space for attendees to fold, cut, alter, interact with and take. What the participant chooses to spend time with sets up their understanding of the work. Some works whisper while others shout. It is important to be able to complement works that demand with works that settle in with the dust. 

 Sebastian Grant in "What Race Do I Feel Like?"

Sebastian Grant in "What Race Do I Feel Like?"

The Space Program is largely interested in its ability to reach and hook an audience by hand. Invitations to each show are mailed out and created by me, Linda Frank. Most images used for invitations are altered in order to touch base with individuals by giving them something to hold or pin to their fridge. A physical reminder and the intention to communicate individually as opposed to en massé is a priority of the project. In long phone calls with artists such as Liliana Lacayo and Keiron de Nobriga, the interest, and perhaps lack of initial appeal, of The Space Program is often framed in terms of its lack of notice: no time to prepare work at a stage in which showing is worth the travel and transportation. But the emphasis in affording artists less notice is to offer a space for works in progress and works stuck in ferment past their due date. The window through which one might view visual art is narrowed, and the demand for viewers to attend an opening and closing all in one night is a motivating force to keep work moving. Installation and deinstallation of performance and physical art happens in one circular motion, beginning around noon and working until late into the night. Plans for the space have been drawn up by de Nobriga for artists outside of the city limits to reference in the making and propositioning of their work.

  Obstructions , Haejin Lee in performance installation "Greencard: I am an immigrant"

Obstructions, Haejin Lee in performance installation "Greencard: I am an immigrant"

By default, the studio space has roughly fifty theater seats that sit towards the entrance of the space. With each installation, these chairs are moved out of the site to open up the floor for each attendee to take in the size of the room. In the most recent show, Tactile Rift, this occurred in three stages throughout the night and spotlights were utilized to exhibit three or four works at a time while leaving the other works in darkness. In this way the show was broken up into different segments and depending upon what time you arrived during the night you either saw the works in all of their iterations and lighting orientations, or you saw one orientation, or the space's final state under fluorescent light. The synthesis of works proposed and their installation have thus far developed layered conversations and in Tactile Rift two performances took place concurrently. One performance, by Sebastian Grant, occurred in the dark and was aimed at subverting visual and oral stereotypes of judging race utilizing a computer generated voice which asked, “what race do I feel like?” and was played on repeat for a period of thirty minutes. Across from this piece was a performance by Evan Dawson titled, ‘An Honest Description” with a performer beneath a spotlight holding a mirror and tracing lines in Sumi ink around his body. This figure is nearly naked and if seen from afar this piece is lost in what might appear to be random marking of his body. However, when seen close one notices the second "non-human performer" traveling and being traced by Dawson as it traverses his limbs...

Mascher Space Co-op is the current home of The Space Program, and is also a rehearsal space, dance performance venue and collective run by performers for themselves and the community. It’s low cost to rent was its initial appeal, but upon becoming a part of the artist community here, intersection grew. It was invigorating to see work by other performers I admire and those who founded and run Mascher Space, such as Zornitsa Stoyanova, Christina Gesualdi, Paige Phillips and Kate Seethaler. The first step in organizing a Space Program show is to arrive at a theme. There is an open format/theme for each show and it is a motion or spring board for artists to submit their work. The theme isn’t the most interesting part, but it sets up something for artists to stretch from in their proposals. Calling for submissions and at this point accepting every submission sent and coordinating with the artist via email, telephone or snail mail any accommodations they may need to install and transport their work to the space is the last step. Many artists travel from New York to reach the Mascher Space and some work in studios just across the street. A great aim of The Space Program is to not only to create more opportunity for performance and time based work to be seen in stride with sculpture and photos, but to be a space that also compensates artists for presenting their work.

  Obstructions , Monica Seldow's sculpture of tape, ink and skin, Dan Finn viewing

Obstructions, Monica Seldow's sculpture of tape, ink and skin, Dan Finn viewing

Currently the Space Program is lucky to be held in the lens of photographer and local filmmaker, Darren Wallace. Wallace’s contributions to the documentation of work flaunt his immense ability to navigate not only the works on display but also the spectators and participants receiving them. His understanding of the open format comes from being an active art viewer himself. It is very important to be able to capture the artists interacting and the scope of all that occurs in one day at Mascher. This month’s show, I DON’T LIKE YOU will include works from artists Andy Ralph, Tom Koehler, Katie Krueger, Keiron de Nobriga, Monica Seldow, Liliana Lacayo, Lilly Ramirez, Michael Ventura and Linda Frank.

Artists who have shown thus far include: Tim Andrews, Evan Dawson, Keiron de Nobriga, Andrew Diemer, Austin Eterno, Linda Frank, Amy Goudge, Sebastian Grant, Milica Jovicevic, Taylor Kelly, Liliana Lacayo, Haejin Lee, Jennie Maydew, Gentry McShane, Aeliana Nicole, Kat Ovsak, Lilly Ramirez, Misael Rodriguez, Monica Seldow, Lou Serna and Michael Ventura.

  Altaers  artists: Keiron de Nobriga, me, Michael Ventura, Lilly Ramirez, Jennie Maydew, Amy Goudge (not shown, Misael Rodriguez, Milica Jovicevic) 

Altaers artists: Keiron de Nobriga, me, Michael Ventura, Lilly Ramirez, Jennie Maydew, Amy Goudge (not shown, Misael Rodriguez, Milica Jovicevic) 

You can discover more about Linda Frank's work and life on her website.