Artist in Residence Spotlight: Vulnerability of Spirit, a reflection by Ash Arder
This post is a part of a series of posts from UMS Artists in Residence. Artists come from various disciples and attend several UMS performances throughout the season as another source of inspiration for their work.
Ash Arder, the author of this post, is a Detroit-based artist who creates installations and sculptural objects using a combination of found and self-made materials. Through both process and output, this work investigates the relationship between people, objects, and place in order to understand use patterns and value attribution at macro and micro scales. Ash’s work is primarily rooted in urban culture.
Instructions for becoming a black African man:
What happens after death? What is step 5? Step 6? Step 142?
Nora Chipaumire’s portrait of myself as my
father took place in a dark room. A boxing gym in Detroit to be exact. I was with two others: an art critic specializing in the presentation of counter narratives within the contemporary art world, and an artist/curator exploring black mentifact.
Photo: Moment in Nora Chipaumire’s portrait of myself as my
father. Photo by Chris Cameron.
We sat, dark skin, in this dark room in Detroit – a Black city. I was mostly comfortable. The spotlights would get under my skin eventually. Not when they orbited toward the section where we were seated, but when they exposed the audience. The white, white audience perched uncomfortably on bleachers in the round.
Chipaumire’s presence alongside that of two male dancers, in the middle of a boxing ring surrounded by white faces made me self-conscious. The rhythms and vibrations I felt in my gut and in my heart throughout the evening made me vulnerable. Vulnerability produced by comfort and familiarity. A vulnerability of the spirit. A vulnerability accustomed to roaming free when it is called upon. In this space, my spirit wanted to dance but could not. Too distracting were the spirits of others, scrambling to find safety and shelter where there was none. Rather, my vulnerabilities transformed into beacons of redemption. A strange humor arose out of watching this particular group respond, perhaps for the first time, to a story I already knew so intimately. The moment when the choir and the preacher simultaneously direct their energy outward.
Photo: Choreographer Nora Chipaumire at Downtown Boxing Gym. Photo by Peter Smith.
Chipaumire’s voice sounded like pain and love. Her movement’s resembled life and death. She and the other two performers literally held in their hands the stage lights, positioning and re-positioning them in the ring to conceal and reveal themselves and us in the audience. Snarling black bodies leaped from the stage into the audience from time to time. Sweat and spit flying through the air upon jerks and cracks of the bones and backs and hips and hair of Chipaumire and the other performers. Spotlights blinding spectators on one side of the room, while those on the other side search their painfully exposed faces for meaning or comfort or simply a sign that we were going to be OK. That the experience was the good kind of uncomfortable, right? The kind that would eventually go away until we decided to remember them, of course filtering out the parts that might disturb our spirit. The tension in the room made me smile. I thought of my father and his life and smiled harder. I thought of my brother and almost laughed out loud.
Fight. Run. Fuck. Die. This was what I already knew. What black people already lived. For further instructions, go to the place where your spirit is most vulnerable. Where it can dance.
Follow this blog for more updates from Ash throughout this season. Learn more about Renegade this season.
Artist in Residence Spotlight: Why Renegade?
This post is a part of a series of posts from UMS Artists in Residence. Ash Arder, the author of this post, is a Detroit-based artist who creates installations and sculptural objects using a combination of found and self-made materials. Through both process and output, this work investigates the relationship between people, objects, and place in order to understand use patterns and value attribution at macro and micro scales. Ash’s work is primarily rooted in urban culture.
Photo: Choreographer Nora Chipaumire in portrait of myself as my father, part of Renegade and playing in Detroit November 17-20. Photo by Elise Fitten.
According to our trusty friend Merriam [Webster], a renegade is someone who “rejects lawful or conventional behavior.”
To be unbounded by laws is to posses a sense of freedom. To be free is to move throughout space and time according to one’s own urges and desires. The boldness of a program called “renegade” is what drew me into exploring the artists and performers in this year’s line up. The audacity of the UMS, an institution I associated with more conventional and conservative programming, to name a program Renegade was intriguing to me. This audacity felt like a direct challenge to my understanding of what UMS is or does, a challenge I am grateful to accept and confront as an Artist in Residence.
My work is inspired by the relationships between people, objects, and place. I am interested in the way people use objects, and in the way that use is shared with the public.
I think of objects as artifacts, with politics and lives of their own. How can existing objects be used to understand societal conditions? How can new objects be created in a way that rejects (or supports) societal conditions?
Place roots my thinking about people and objects. It frames my understanding of people’s relationships with objects. I think of place as the environment where people and objects live and engage with one another. To be clear, I understand objects to be as small as paper clips and as large as buildings. Environments can be controlled, like during performances on a stage or in a specific venue. I am also interested in naturally occurring environments. Those that have no agenda other than to be what and where they are.
In the case of controlled environments, like stages, I am inspired by narratives that push up against the status quo. Narratives that embed radical concepts into seemingly mundane events. In my own artistic practice, I attempt to expose counter narratives through normalizing elements of their existence. I am inspired by works that require intellectual effort on behalf of the audience. Works that are simple in practice but complex in theory and vice versa.
In naturally occurring environments, I am inspired by ritualistic behavior. Quiet observations of people and things in a space reveal countless narratives about their relationship to and value of one another. I use these revelations as motivation for new objects and experiences in my work.
I understand that in my use of the word “living” in relation to inanimate objects, I perhaps straddle the line of conventional and unconventional thinking. It has been my goal to operate in a space of lawlessness in my creative work. To freely express my thoughts.
It is with this goal in mind, that I was attracted to UMS’ Renegade programming. I hope to investigate the properties of each performance to understand how and why certain elements of these controlled environments play a role in the success of the piece as a whole.
Follow this blog for more updates from Ash throughout this season. Learn more about Renegade this season.
Announcing 2016-17 UMS Artists in Residence
We are proud to announce the 2016-17 UMS Artists in Residence!
Multimedia: Simon Alexander-Adams
Visual Arts: Ash Arder
Music: Nicole Patrick
Literature: Qiana Towns
Photography: Barbara Tozier
The UMS Artists in Residence program is a public engagement project whereby applications were solicited from regional artists wanting to take “residence” at UMS performances. The program launched during the 2014-15 UMS season.
Five artists (including visual, literary, and performing artists) have been selected to use UMS performance experiences as a resource to support the creation of new work or to fuel an artistic journey. Residents will receive complimentary tickets to select UMS performances; a $500 stipend; gatherings with fellow residents; and behind-the-scenes access to UMS staff and artists, when available. In return, UMS asks that artists share their artistic journeys via residency entrance and exit interviews and on UMS’s blog; participate in select UMS Education & Community Engagement events; and share artistic work generated during the residency when possible.
“While UMS brings incredible performing artists from around the globe to Ann Arbor, we’re also deeply committed to the creative community right here in Michigan,” said Kenneth C. Fischer, UMS President. “UMS Artists in ‘Residence’ ensures that artists creating work right here in our own backyard have access to everything they need to inspire, fuel, and inform their projects. Artists play a vital role in our communities — they inspire us, they challenge us, they provide alternate perspectives. We want to ensure that Ann Arbor and Southeast Michigan continues to be a place where artists are supported and can happily call home.”
Follow these artists’s journey through the season on this blog.
Meet the 2016-17 UMS Artists in Residence
Simon Alexander-Adams – Multimedia
Simon Alexander-Adams is a Detroit-based multimedia artist, musician, and designer working within the intersection of art and technology. He has directed multimedia performances that enable connections between sonic, visual, and kinetic forms; designed new interfaces for musical expression; and produced interactive installation art. Simon has composed music for a number of short films, animations, and theatrical and dance performances. His compositions have been performed at international festivals, including the Ann Arbor Film Festival and Cinetopia. He also performs frequently on keyboard and electronics with the glitch-electronic free-jazz punk band Saajtak. Simon earned his MA in Media Arts in 2015 from the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
Ash Arder – Visual Arts
Ash Arder is a Detroit-based artist who creates installations and sculptural objects using a combination of found and self-made materials. Through both process and output, this work investigates the relationship between people, objects, and place in order to understand use patterns and value attribution at macro and micro scales. Ash’s work is primarily rooted in urban culture.
Nicole Patrick – Music
Percussionist Nicole Patrick was born and raised in Miami, FL. She has sought a diverse musical training with the intention of exploring a limitless life through the arts. As a member of the Michigan Percussion Quartet she performed and organized an outreach tour throughout South Africa. In 2014, Nicole was a recipient of the International Institute Individual Fellowship grant, which allowed her to travel to Berlin to work alongside Tanz Tangente Dance Company. She continues to compose original music for their works.
Nicole also performs regularly with her band, Rooms, and other indie, improvisation, and performance art groups around southeastern Michigan. She has collaborated and recorded on five albums with Ann Arbor-based independent record label Stereo Parrot. For two years, she has curated a concert series in an intimate house venue in Ann Arbor and is most excited to be co-director and founder of the new Threads All Arts Festival in Ann Arbor. Nicole is an alumna of Interlochen Arts Academy and graduated from the University of Michigan with degrees in Percussion Performance (BM) and Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation (BFA) in 2016.
Qiana Towns – Literature
Qiana Towns is author of the chapbook This is Not the Exit (Aquarius Press, 2015). Her work has appeared in Harvard Review Online, Crab Orchard Review, and Reverie. A Cave Canem graduate, Towns received the 2014 Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize from the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature. She is a resident of Flint, where she serves as Community Outreach Coordinator for Bottles for the Babies, a grassroots organization created to support and educate the residents of Flint during the water crisis.
Barbara Tozier – Photography
Born in Ohio, Barbara Tozier works in photography — digital, analog, and hybrid — with forays into video and multimedia. She settled in Michigan in 1997, after an engineering career that took her to Pennsylvania and the Netherlands. Barbara reconnected with photography in 2009 — she studied with Nicholas Hlobeczy in college — and in 2012 started taking photo classes at Washtenaw Community College, where she went on to earn an Associate’s Degree in May of 2016.
She has exhibited at the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original and in group shows at 22 North Gallery, Washtenaw Community College, and Kerrytown Concert House. She lives and works in Ann Arbor.
A recipient of the 2014 National Medal of Arts, UMS (also known as the University Musical Society) contributes to a vibrant cultural community by connecting audiences with performing artists from around the world in uncommon and engaging experiences. One of the oldest performing arts presenters in the country, UMS is an independent non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Michigan, presenting over 70 music, theater, and dance performances by professional touring artists each season, along with over 100 free educational activities. UMS is part of the University of Michigan’s “Victors for Michigan” campaign, reinforcing its commitment to bold artistic leadership, engaged learning through the arts, and access and inclusiveness.