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Imaginations Fly Away with Andrew Dawson

By Rebecca McBrien
Photos by Olympia Shannon

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, —

IGNITION —

4, 3, 2, 1, 0 —

LIFT-OFF.

And off we went into Andrew Dawson’s Space Panorama. On Saturday morning, we flew through space and traveled back in time as Dawson’s hands recreated Apollo 11’s lunar landing. Cutting scenes, as if in a movie, he carried us through the awe of space travel while captivating generations both young and old.

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Dawson’s wit and charisma was effortless as he relayed the historical event with his hands, a table, and Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony. Garvin Robertson narrated as Dawson recreated the momentous occasion bringing our imaginations to the foreground.

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“It’s potent stuff, your imagination,” said Dawson during the post-performance Q & A.

He explained how he got into miming, “A teacher told me I was rubbish at acting.” Luckily this didn’t deter him and he found a way to express himself through mime and dance. Now as a performer, director, choreographer, and hand model, Dawson has broken the mold surrounding miming.  His graceful hands move beyond what most people think of as mime and into the territory of interpretive dance, although he continues to just use his hands.

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Dawson’s performance of Space Panorama comes during his residency at MASS MoCA, where he is currently developing The Russian Doctor.  It is a theatrical new work crafted around the astounding exploration made by the literary giant, Anton Chekhov. Dawson teams up with long-time collaborator and neuroscientist Jonathan Cole and medical historian Marius Turda to explore an oft-forgotten element of Chekhov’s legacy. Working with Chekhov’s only non-fiction work, The Russian Doctor explores the great risk Chekhov took during his tour of the Sakhalin Islands. Be sure to reserve your tickets for what promises to be another magical step back in time and space. More event details can be found here.

Posted May 7, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Work-in-progress
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Tree Logic Right-side Up

By Joseph Thompson
Director, MASS MoCA

Last Sunday our family took a picnic hike up Stone Hill to check out progress on Tadao Ando’s work at the Clark, and on the way up we visited Natalie Jeremijenko’s first-generation Tree Logic.

Joe's Trees

By first generation, I mean five of the first six Blaze Maples that Natalie drafted into service for the upside-down bio-sculpture that marks the entrance to MASS MoCA’s front door.  The “girls” are doing just fine, by the way, fully budded and regal.  (John Carli of our staff declared them to be girls, not me, but he has earned full rights to impart whatever gender he wants, since he’s tended the trees over these past 15 years).  It’s interesting:  with each passing year there is less and less evidence of Gen 1’s initial existence as experimental indices – the resultant vectors of the gravitropic force of an earth from which they were liberated and the phototropic force of a sun to which they yearned.  That’s my daughter, Izzy, enduring a phototropic effect all her own.

As we looped around Stone Hill, and onto the pastures above The Clark, this exciting view opened up.

Joe Clark

As you can just make out looking through the screen of bare trees, a stack of three trapezoidal reflecting pools/skating rinks have recently been lined with a bright white material:  The geometric shapes are commanding in scale, and central to the overall Ando design, which is in many ways more about landscape, and the framing of views, than about buildings.  The Clark was brave and correct to have retained the pools within the project scope, when I’m sure there were many opportunities along the way to lose them in the name of value engineering.

Walking past the construction site, it occurred to me that our friends at the Clark are probably a bit nervous with the number of heavy vehicles still lingering on their site this spring, but it is always amazing how much work gets done in two months … especially landscaping, which comes together fast, and at the last minute.

This great project is transformative in so many ways, important to all the Berkshires, but especially to those of us within its immediate orbit. I suggest a walk on Stone Hill before the greening of the trees to take it in:  The ambition and etched precision of the project become immediately clear from a high southerly vantage point.  And see if you can find the Tree Logic Gen 1 on the way up.  That’s Trainer and Jennifer with Izzy.

Posted May 1, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, North Adams, Staff, Tree Logic
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God is Where? closes with local filmmaker’s documentary

By Rebecca McBrien
MASS MoCA, Blogger Extraordinare

This Thursday, May 1, sit down with Williamstown resident and filmmaker, Holly Hardman, tfor a Q+A about her film, Good People Go to Hell, Saved People Go to Heaven after a viewing at 7:30pm. The film examines American Evangelical Christian communities against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina.

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Hardman’s film ties into the question, God is Where? — the theme of our documentary series that took audiences from the Apollo Theater, to the streets of Damascus, to the NBA playoffs. These films gripped our hearts, but also pushed us to grapple with issues of faith, devotion, and the mysteries of life, including award-winning The Light in Her Eyes, Linsanity, When I Walk, and 20 Feet from Stardom. 

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The Light in Her Eyes focuses on important issues and challenges that women in Damascus, Syria are facing. Following Houda al-Habash, a conservative Muslim preacher, the film tells her story as she challenges “her students to pursue higher education, jobs, and public lives, while remaining committed to an interpretation of Islam prioritizing women’s role as wives and mothers.” The film is a glimpse into the vibrant culture of educated and wealthy women in Syria, but which is one that has been threatened by social turmoil in Syria in recent years.

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Linsanity swept the nation as basketball player Jeremy Lin became a household name in 2012. Lin is one of only a few Asian–American players to make it to the NBA, and the first of Chinese or Taiwanese decent to do so. The film captures his faith, perseverance, and dedication to both God and the game, along with his fun-loving and compassionate side. Lin said, “It’s humbling, a privilege, and an honor. I’m really proud of being Chinese, I’m really proud of my parents being from Taiwan. I just thank God for the opportunity.”

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Filmmaker Jason DaSilva’s When I Walk, chronicles his own story of his struggles with the complications and physical restrictions of life with multiple sclerosis. The film is an “emotional documentary filled with unexpected moments of humor and joy.” Even as DeSilva struggled with the pains and complications of this disease, he was determined to not simply survive but to thrive. “My diagnosis was not the end of the world. Instead, and with a bit of determination, it has proven to be a new way for me to see and be in the world. This was the voice and heart that emerged in the film.”

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The series, which started back in January, kicked off with a captivating glimpse into the lives and careers of anonymous backup singers who put their mark on so many of rock ‘n’ roll classics. 20 Feet from Stardom, Winner of the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary, caught critics and audiences alike in an emotional tale of conflicts, sacrifices, and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others. The film put a twist on the classic interview format by interviewing the rock stars about the singers who stand behind them each night on tour and in the studio. The women featured in the film were passionate about their work, even when “there are no guaranties in entertainment.”

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Posted April 30, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Film
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Mike Gordon: All time best

By Meghan Robertson
Artist Services/Company Manager, MASS MoCA
Phish Phan 
Extraordinaire

I’ve been listening to Phish since 1995. My first show was in Hartford, Conn., June 21, 2004.

In 10 years of being the Artist Services/Company Manager at MASS MoCA, I have worked with over 600 visual and performing artists. Yet, I was still speechless when I heard that Phish’s amazing bassist Mike Gordon was coming to North Adams!

Gear!

As if that was wasn’t enough, Mike and his bandmate, Scott Murawski from Max Creek, scheduled a conversation about the of song writing and collaboration process from their new album Overstep — put together after a trip here, to MASS MoCA.

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It was the only time on their tour they did something like a song dissection! What a huge honor for MASS MoCA and for the only 200 people that will hear from both Mike and Scott directly. A rare experience for any fan.

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The talk and the show were both incredible!  It was so great to see MASS MoCA full of true fans here, who come together as a Phamily before everyone makes plans for the for the Phish summer  tour. Just another reason that I love my job!

Meg & MG

That’s right, the “All Time Best!”

signed poster  

Posted April 21, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Uncategorized
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A magical night at the museum

Date Night at the Museum

By Rebecca McBrien
MASS MoCA, Blogger Extraordinare

There is something magical about the museum at night. Maybe it is the excitement that there is a chance Night at the Museum is real. For many, myself included, dusk simply brings an ethereal feeling to MoCA. Whatever it may be, something especially  magical happened here on Valentine’s Day.

Our Tall Gallery was transformed with lights and flowers into a little, romantic café, with the sounds of Jason Middlebrook’s 30-feet-tall Styrofoam waterfall bubbling in the background adding ambiance. A tasty meal was offered to guests and their dates, ranging from roast prime rib, to vegetable and mozzarella-stuffed Portobello mushrooms.

“We have crafts like the Tom Phillip’s Humument sets up, a photo booth, and these little red boxes in all the galleries are so people can leave Valentines for the artists,” explained Andrew Palamara, Kidspace Education Coordinator, as he set up Guillaume Leblon Valentine’s Day box.

Little red envelops where handed out to each couple as they arrived. Kidspace intern and Williams College student Zorelly Cepeda described them as conversation starters, to help each couple explore the museum and learn something new about each other.

After dinner, couples enjoyed European-style chocolate desserts and a variety of steamy beverages while serenaded by lovely, local acoustic guitarist Justin Hillman.

For most of the night, I wandered the length of our Hunter Hallway, camera in hand, waiting for couples to strike a pose with props from our prompt box. It was fun to see so many different faces. and hear little bits of different love stories.

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Here is my favorite comment of the night:

“I love that she makes me laugh,” he said,smiling down at her.

With a laugh she replied, “I love that you find me funny!”

Even with all its interesting history and folklore, Valentine’s Day most importantly stands for one of humanities greatest gifts: love. Amidst all the commercialism and activities, love can still be shown in simple ways—like making your partner laugh.

Posted March 7, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Interns
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Burning Spear lights up the box office

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By Rebecca McBrien

MASS MoCA Intern, Blogging Specialist

I worked at Disney, so I’m used to lines. Still, I was blown away by the crowd at the Burning Spear concert at MASS MoCA.

When I came to MoCA to help with the show a couple Saturday’s ago, I was asked to help out at the front of house, fitting wrist bands on guests as they came in. “Sure no problem,” I thought. “How many people are we expecting?”

The cavalier response I received from the box office was just over 1,000 people.

And so the preparations began. Do we have enough wrist bands? We ran out? Ugh.

Are the tickets alphabetized? Great.

Did we do a final print for any last minute tickets? Okay, I’m on it.

Are we expecting a lot of walk ups? We are? Oh yeah.

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There is a lot of work that goes into prepping for a show. Our production crew works for days setting up our venue. Our performance arts staff creates a program, oversees the printing and organizes vendors. Our awesome volunteers help us with everything from manning the coat rack to helping you find your seat.

But for the first hour the doors are open, it is often chaos at the box office. Preparation is vital for speed and efficiency; we want to get you in to the show as fast as we can, for your enjoyment and in hopes we catch a song or two too.

Sometimes we they may need an extra cup of coffee, but the box office crew works like a well-oiled machine. Saturday we were at the top of our game. Over 1,200 people filed into the Hunter Center in under 45 minutes, worthy of a victory dance.

And dance we did!

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It was a crazy night. In my time here, I haven’t seen a crowd so excited to enjoy music. With all the excitement and lights, I realized, once again, what a neat place this is. There were rastafarians rocking out and parents with their kids dancing in the hallway. And there was an amazing sense of community, with people bumping into each other they hadn’t seen since ’92 in the awesome concert in Los Angles… or was it San Diego? With the haze of the night, the sweet smell of patchouli pervading the air, and people dancing to the music, I’d say the lines were worth it!

Posted February 27, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Interns
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