Cross Pollination

Week 6: Sharing “Drawing Sounds”

Below is the digital sharing from Lyric, Mike, and Adrienne’s collaboration. Enjoy the binaural sounds of this drawing best by listening with headphones.

This digital recording was made during the creation of this image:


If you’re interested in reading more about Lyric, Mike, and Adrienne’s work together you can check out Arianna’s short essay “Seeing Sounds, Hearing Shapes,” or Adachi Pimentel’s photography. If you’d like to learn more about the collaborators, check out this page.

Week 8: Exploring Shame

Jaime Alvarez, a multimedia artist and photographer, Adrienne, and Magda San Millan and Chelsea Murphy (aka Magda and Chelsea), dance and performance artists, came together for a week to think about the performance of shame and depictions of shame in art. How do we document shame? How can we recreate the feeling of shame or inspire it in others?

Early in the process, the group came up with the idea to create “still life images of shame,” brainstorming ideas about specific gestures or situations that might communicate that emotional state through art. Examples included images in which people were laying face down on the floor, hiding their face, or looked as though they were “caught” by the camera. The group was also interested in creating images of things that “might feel shameful” while making them feel “soft or inviting [by] diffusing them with pleasure.” Interested in experiments that would integrate elements of vocal improvisation, performance, movement, and photography, they set out to find ways to expand their own perceptions of live performance and photography. As a witness to this process, I will offer some insight into the exercises they performed during the course of their research, as well as what was going on just outside of the frame of some of the photographs captured in their sharing, here.

A brief critical context might help frame the experiments they conducted throughout their collaboration. Conversations throughout the week coalesced around the differences in both temporality and subjectivity between live performance and photography. Live performance disappears as it is happening; those exact moments in time can never be recreated or repeated. Photographs, however, are indexical signs of the past – they capture a moment “as it was,” preserving it precisely and in perpetuity. Similarly, as a medium, performance capitalizes on the subjectivity of individual performers while photography has the power to objectify and reproduces subjects. These distinctions prompted them to explore how they might combine live performance and photography in ways that challenged the traditional intersection of these two mediums: bad PR photos. What could they do instead of using photography to document or prove the existence of performance?

As a way through this question, the group experimented with “translation.” What if a photographer listened to a violinist, then used photography to recreate that music without capturing the actual violinists’ performance? As much of Jaime’s previous work proves, photography can be used to create art that is non-literal and non-documentary. The group brainstormed ways to use photography as an instigator, and end-in-and-of-itself.

The early exercises the group worked with were movement and vocal improvisations. Magda and Chelsea lead the group in exercises that required a leader to influence the movements of their follower with touch, and later, sound. Leaders would translate an impulse they had into the body of their follower, concentrating on different touch and sound qualities. A brusque or rough touch might inspire a skeletal or jerky movement, while a deep sound may encourage a follower to sit down or plod forward in a heavy way.

The group continued to explore the interactions between live performance and photography, creating movement-photography duets. One person was directed to move or complete a series of actions, while the other would follow with the camera.

Chelsea and Magda created a movement piece in which Chelsea moved throughout the space while Magda followed her with the camera. It was fascinating to observe this documentary dance, noticing the ways in which the framing impulse of the camera influenced Chelsea’s movement in the space. At which moments was she most conscious of the camera’s gaze? How was she responding to Magda’s efforts to frame the photograph? Magda’s dance as she maneuvered the camera was not captured by the camera’s lens. Instead, her movements are recorded by the perspective of the images in this series. This photo series is the translation of a movement impulse into a photograph.

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Another translation exercise required everyone to think about what they are ashamed of and prepare a self-portrait. Chelsea drew a picture of herself, titled “Vapid Teeny-Bopper Portrait”.


Here’s what she had to say about the drawing:

Chelsea Murphy: I am small and I’m cute on the outside, but on the inside I’m not cute. Sometimes I don’t even feel like a girl. I am bigger than that. I’m like a young boy and a grandma. I counteract my outside by taking up more space. I’m really afraid of being called stupid or ditzy, I make my voice lower. I try to own the bigness of me.

Arianna Gass: Why did you draw such big eyes in your photo?

CM: I feel like big eyes make me look like a little stupid girl.

AG: And the headphones?

CM: That’s a teeny-bopper thing. The thing I’m shameful of is that [this picture] exists in me. I didn’t expect to feel shame [while] taking these photos, but I totally did.

Taking her drawing as inspiration, the whole team worked together to create a “shameful” scenario for Chelsea. We had 90s pop music playing loudly, we gave Chelsea some gum to chew, Magda chose her dress, and everyone shouted encouragement as she posed for the photograph. Here’s one of the shots:


Sometimes, these shameful photos took more than just a scenario. Adrienne’s shame portrait was about being “afraid that I’m a huge giant that crushes things, that I’m too big, I make big sounds.” She had brought in an assortment of objects that evoked shame, including a box of jewelry she had broken on stage while performing as The Truth. Magda commented that if Adrienne was afraid of being too big, she should pose in a “barbaric” way. As we had with Chelsea, we costumed Adrienne and got her to pose in front of the camera, but a costume, some music, and encouragement weren’t quite enough. As Jaime captured the photographs, Adrienne started to sing opera. Soon, Magda and Chelsea hung off of her arms, just out of frame. We had Adrienne bang loudly on a drum. It was not enough to create the situation – she had to perform it.


As the group continued to work together, they experimented with more photo series, both posed and improvised, that included aspects of shame and the translation of musical or movement impulses into photographs. Photographs of Kewpie-doll Magda; hair, both chest and pubic; bare bellies and butt-cracks were the results of this work, and they all proved that photography could augment live performance, working in more than just the traditional documentary realm.

In several photographs, they demonstrated the ways that photography could capture what was never really there, or erase what exists.

blue cloud

no head

They also showed ways in which photographs could tell a story, and how the modern dance structure of accumulation could manifest itself visually.

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This residency week culminated in the creation of a “story box of shame” – a series of photographs and one transcribed story that evoke and invoke elements of shame. The box is like a Flux Kit: a mixed-media experience that encourages participants to excavate their own feelings about shame. Shame is a floating blue cloud or disappearing white glow. It is exactly how dumb we look when we are dancing, or moving, or singing, or smiling. It’s what we fear we are, or know we aren’t, but still think about sometimes. The box (or digitally, the PDF) is more than a record of this collaboration. Its a short performance, an uncanny dance of those things that we hide away, that make us blush, that beg for a second look.

Arianna Gass is a recent graduate of Vassar College. In addition to documenting Cross Pollination, she is the Program Manager for Drexel University’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio. Her own art practice is located at the intersection of digital and embodied play, and her scholarship focuses on feminism, performance studies, and game studies. You can find more of her writing and work at

Week 4: Nora and Brad

Nora Portrait

Nora Gibson trained with Sylvester Campbell at Baltimore School for the Arts, and through ballet residencies at Chautauqua and NCSA. She later graduated with a BFA from Tisch, at NYU. Nora has had the privilege of dancing for the Ellicott City Ballet Guild, PATH Dance Company, Andrew Marcus, ClancyWorks Dance, and Jeffrey Gunshol. From 2011-2013, Nora worked with Lucinda Childs and Ty Boomershine to perform Childs iconic 1970s works. Nora has performed her own work throughout Philadelphia and in NYC at various downtown venues such as P.S. 122, St. Marks Church, and DIA Center for the Arts. In 2009, she established Nora Gibson Performance Project, now re-named, Nora Gibson Contemporary Ballet. Since its inception, her work has received consistent critical recognition for its unique and progressive approach to ballet. “severely focused intellectual beauty”, “laser-like vision of arc” Philadelphia Inquirer.

Brad portrait
Bradley N. Litwin is a Philadelphia based, multi-disciplined artist, born in Dayton, Ohio. Primarily self-trained, his career as an artist has taken a serpentine path through craft, manufacturing, multimedia production, music, and the fine arts. Through it all, he has been making machinery of one kind or another for over forty years.
Beginning with model-making as a child; then teaching himself guitar making as a teenager, Litwin has always asserted his destiny as an unconventional independent. Not following more traditional school and career paths, he has nonetheless excelled in various professions, relying on the merits of demonstrated skill and experience, gained through a continuing practice of self-directed, conscious observation, and synthesis.
That unique career path has included: medical product manufacturing design, museum exhibit design and fabrication, electronics manufacturing equipment design and prototyping, 3D animation, graphic design and interactive multimedia production.
Today, as a sculptor of kinetic automata, as well as a singer and guitarist, performing 1920s era, ragtime, jazz and blues; as an arts educator, working with students of every description, Litwin continues to redefine himself as an artist. His most recent projects have involved community outreach and residencies, sometimes combining both visual, musical, and literary arts, throughout the mid Atlantic and Midwest region.

Week 4: Producing “Counter-Productivity”

This week Nora Gibson, Adrienne, and I convened in Brad Litwin’s back office, amidst spare gears, cranks, drill presses, all finely blanketed with sawdust. Huddled around Brad’s desktop computer, they started throwing out phrases “strange attractors,” “chaos theory” and “quantum mechanics” as possible starting points for their week together. This unorthodox pairing between Nora, a choreographer, Brad, a kinetic sculptor, and Adrienne promised an interesting mix of contemporary ballet, science, song, theater, and kinetic sculpture.

The group opted to have minimal communication before their residency week started, so their initial conversation centered around the similarities between what Brad does with his sculptures and Nora does with dancers. For example, when Nora describes her work, she talks about using bodies as angles and curves in space. Brad’s work as a kind of choreography in Nora’s mind; Brad’s medium happens to be gears, levers, springs, and cranks, while Nora’s is bodies. Both make complex machines, arrangements of moving parts that produce an aesthetic experience.

Solo Phase by Nora Gibson Performance Project from Nora Gibson Contemporary Ballet on Vimeo.

“Solo Phase,” one of Nora’s dances, demonstrates this idea nicely; it’s easy to how the intricacies of this solo dancer, overlaid with herself, come together to form something much like a machine. To Nora, bodies are moving objects in space, not dissimilar to the pieces and parts of one of Brad’s kinetic sculptures. The main difference, an added plus, is that Nora’s pieces and parts have a human-ness that only adds to their functionality.

People often anthropomorphize Brad’s sculptures even if they start from a purely conceptual place. A sculpture like the “Quadrotopult” demonstrates the miraculous adherence of the physical world to the laws of physics and gravity. [The fact that the catapulted balls always make it through the small holes in the rotating plexiglass never ceases to amaze.] Another one of Brad’s sculptures, entitled “The Sway of Public Opinion,” looks like a series of cycling figures on a never-ending track. These pieces epitomize Brad’s self-proclaimed fascination with “how easily mechanical systems can serve as both visual and literary metaphors for human social interaction and structure.” Brad’s work is not just about gears and motors, it’s about the interaction they have with metaphor.

Adrienne works in a really different way. She works with narratives, not arcs and lines or springs and gears. Adrienne usually explores an idea with the intention of creating a narrative. She presents a group of people with various source materials, and the resulting aesthetic product is the result of the group’s ability to tell stories through their unique perspectives.

Despite their differences, the three quickly started to think of ways they create rules or some kind of system that would be interesting to make a piece of art in. The conversation switched from mathematical concepts to video games and other kinds of procedurally generated art experiences.

Adrienne introduced us to Different, a heartbreaking game that communicates the difficulties and realities of being an immigrant or a minority. This minimalistic game has a strong narrative arc, but player interaction is entirely proscribed by an algorithm. From here, we took a look at “Taroko Gorge,” a procedural poem by Nick Montfort. This poem offers a never-ending series of koan-like phrases about a national park in Japan. Both Different and “Taroko Gorge” are compelling examples machines creating aesthetic experiences.

We started to move away from purely digital art and began to ask how we could create a live, sculptural machine. We started thinking about creating a logic game that, when played, might yield an interesting dance machine. Nora dreamed up a game that would teach audience members composition through the use of dancers. On Adrienne’s suggestion, we discussed the possibility of abstracting writing, like an excerpt from Italo Calvino’s On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, into a dance score through a program that would sort words into data points.

And then Brad asked, “Is my work in this? I don’t feel like I’m doing anything here.”

Brad focuses his artistry in his ability to use gears, levers, cranks, and everything else in between to make his sculptures. As I understood the situation, while the ideas in the room up to this point may have included a conceptual understanding of kinetic sculpture, his work is actually about the assembly of a machine that produces an aesthetically and conceptually pleasing experience. He wanted to find a way to use that skill in a more tangible way during the residency; perhaps making sculptures dancers would wear while dancing.

After this discussion, we took a step back and looked at our understanding of dance and Brad’s sculptures. We watched Interior Drama, by Lucinda Childs, and something clicked. The lyricism of the dancers’ movements, paired with the mathematically precise, iterative choreography hit a collective “sweet spot.”

We’d found a piece of art that spoke to everyone in some way. Circling back to Brad’s question, we realized that we could use one of Brad’s MechaniCards and find a way to make a dance and musical accompaniment to bring one of Brad’s sculptures alive.

We took a field trip to Brad’s workshop, just outside of his office. Amidst the many drill presses and table saws were MechaniCards in all states of production. After watching and listening to several beautiful cards, we found the one that spoke to everyone: “Counter-Productivity.”

From then on, the residency became a series of interconnected solo-projects. The next day, the team decided to make a video that would take an animation of the blueprint for “Counter-Productivity” and overlay it with videos of dancers dancing and a recording of Adrienne’s vocal improvisation.
Adrienne, Brad, and Nora spent time working separately. Adrienne started to record music, Brad started animating the CAD drawings, and Nora set to work translating Brad’s machine into a dance score.

So, after two days of brainstorming and laying the groundwork for the video, the team split up. Nora needed studio time with dancers, Adrienne wanted to bring in vocalists to do an improvisation with her, while Brad needed time to work on animating the blueprint for his Mechani-Card. As I was unable to witness these solo endeavors, I interviewed Brad, Adrienne, and Nora on the last day of the residency to hear more about their processes.


Brad Litwin: The video is based on […] these actual mechanical drawings that I made in preparation to produce the sculpture called “Counter Productivity.”

Actually I didn’t have a name for the card when I first made it, it was called “MechaniCard #7” and I held a contest – who ever came up with a name, if I picked it, I would send them an early edition. As soon as I heard “Counter Productivity” I was like, “Duh.” Haha, it was so perfect. It was this fellow in Grenada, Spain. He was my winner.

So, the piece incorporates several mechanisms to provide a little bit of arithmetic/puzzle/illusion where numbers are counted up and down… Actually, they are counted down, and not just counted down, they are counted down and every other time they are decremented twice. In other words, it would go 10, 9, 7, 6, 4, 3, 1. It’s a little trick, and the way that is achieved is through a mechanism that has two cycles of operation: one that takes one cycle and one that takes two cycles. The operation that takes two cycles is offset in time from the first.

Arianna Gass: Those are the purple guys on the side?

BL: Yeah, so the purple guys advance the wheels one digit every time, but if you look carefully on the outskirts of the larger wheels – see if we can see it, right there – these wheels go around only half a time for every one time the purple ones do. Every other time that the purple ones advance the wheel, the large wheels here advance the counters an extra time.

AG: Oh! Because of the little peg. Gotcha.

BL: That’s how the little trick is performed.

AG: Trick!

BL: And you can’t really see much of this mechanism because in the real model it’s covered with this plate with windows that reveal part of what’s going on. It’s kind of a shame because it’s a fascinating mechanism to look at. When they picked this as a source of dancing inspiration, that was a lot of fun because it opened up the opportunity to look at the mechanism carefully.

Basically, there are pieces that move in circular motion, there are pieces that move in straight, linear motion, there are pieces that work intermittently, and they’re all choreographed in time to produce this funny little mind trick.

So, to make it into a… I had originally made the computer model, had made all the parts in the computer in order to check what was called “clearance” – that is making sure that things don’t bump into each other when they are moving. I didn’t need to animate that to do the checking. Animating the parts was a whole different process which these guys were privy to. That was neat, doing that extra step to actually animate the parts. I used 3D Studio Max which is a professional animation tool.

And uh, what else to say about it? Well, this is a 1400 frame animation. That is, the entire cycle of the longest movement takes 1400 frames. This is based on the amount of time Nora said she wanted to see things moving. We had watched the yellow shuttle piece cross and then return in 700 frames, so in 1400 frames it does it twice.

So what I did was I rendered those 1400 frames a number of different times. About 11 different times. With different parts of the mechanism visible and the rest hidden.

AG: Cool.

BL: And then I imported each of those frame segments into Premiere, which is a video-editing software, and played with which segment would appear when partly to satisfy the exploration of what the mechanism does and how it works, and also partly for the grace of the particular motions in juxtaposition with one another. Also, it was nice to be able to show things moving without necessarily showing the effectors which control them. There was a certain whimsy about that. At a certain point you are going along you see something moving, then you see the thing revealed which moves it, and you see the thing that moves that, and then you can see how all of those parts are inter-related. In fact, by the end it’s… you get this blast where you see everything moving, then bit by bit it’s all taken away. Then you think it’s gone, but by the end the little crank thingy comes in to say, “Hi there!”

AG: It’s interesting because when you’re interacting with your sculptures the input is just this little crank guy, you and that, in the beginning when I approached you pieces I just wanted to spin the
that was the “hot” part for me. I just want to turn this little guy!

Oh it’s so funny, sometimes little kids will come up to the table where I’m showing my stuff and they’ll turn the crank and be looking all around, turning the crank itself is the satisfying thing to do.

Nora Gibson: Huh… Yeah.

AG: that’s what I wanted, I wanted to turn the thing

BL: I should just make a “Turn the Crank MechaniCard,” or a MechaniCard with seven different cranks.

AG: Woah, that’s like candy.

Adrienne Mackey: Or something you stand on and turn the crank and something happens to you!


NG: That’s called a sit and spin.


AG: It’s so funny because the crank was my tactile focus, but now that I’m looking at this, it’s that peg [on the gear]. After seeing the inside workings of the sculpture, I’m focusing on that little peg.

BL: It’s also interesting because turning the crank has a different tactile experience depending on which MechaniCard you’re using.

NG: Yeah, totally.

AG: They all feel different.

NG: There are certain ones where it will feel smooth, and then there will be a little bit of tension, smooth and tension. Others are more even.

I have to say. I feel like learned so much more about it after seeing this deconstruction. Everything’s in concert when you’re doing it, and you try to pick apart it and you’re like “Wait, what’s moving that? I don’t… But this isn’t moving now…”

BL: Yeah, it’s a little mechanical orchestra.

NG: Yeah, and it was interesting, especially when you had something moving and then a part that was static next to it. It’s like “Okay, I’ve mentally ruled that one out. That one does not have anything to do with that particular piece,” but then later you see the one that does and you’re like, “Ahh, I get it, this is connected to A, B is connected to this!”

BL: Yeah, and one of the highlights for me of this particular design is something called hypocycloidal motion which you’re seeing right there.

AG: That’s the gear there?

BL: That is the round… Yes that’s the gear with the little anchor on it and that’s showing that a circle that rotates within a second circle of twice the diameter. All points on the smaller circle’s circumference will move in a straight line. That is, if I put the circle over here and put the motion point on the periphery anywhere, it’s going to follow a straight line as the circle rotates.

AG: Huh.

BL: In this particular case, I put it at a point on the smaller circle so that it moves in a horizontal line relative to the entire card, but that’s completely arbitrary.

AG: Yeah.

NG: I do have a three part step that goes in that pattern. I wanted to reflect that pattern against the circles.

AG: Nora, did you address the crank [in your dance]?

NG: That’s the only part of the card I didn’t address. I stopped at 14 people…

AG: Hum…

AM: Arianna could be the crank!

AG: No, that’s okay.

AM: Or Brad!

NG: Yeah

BL: I’d be the crank…


Nora Gibson: We started from this mechanical drawing of one of Brad’s MechaniCards, which are hand operated… What would you call them?

Brad Litwin: Kinetic sculptures.

NG: Right, kinetic sculptures. So I went and I labeled all of the parts [of Brad’s sculpture] for reference. I have a pretty visual approach to making dances anyway, so, to me, this looked like a score. Brad’s rendering is basically things in two dimensions… It’s a depiction or representation of parts moving in space. They have their own directions, spatial relationships with other parts. This [rendering] was a perfectly good representation of people in space, moving.

So, as soon as I labeled this drawing I was like, “Oh wow, this is a dance score.”

What I did was, I took this rendering and I turned it into a score in two stages.

The first thing I made was this graph, which is just a way of looking at time. It’s a way of organizing the information from Brad’s rendering. In the rendering you see all of the parts and you see their relative spatial relationship to each other. Unless we wanted everyone dancing all together, we would have diverge, use artistic license, and step away from the drawing itself. So we were left with this question of, over time, how many of these parts did we want to show? Which parts in conjunction with others? How did we want that experience to elapse over time?

This first graph is a way of organizing that information.

AG: Did you guys collaborate on this?

NG: No I just made these decisions. The column on the left labels all of the moving parts.

AG: The parts that were chosen…

NG: Yeah. [Brad’s machine] is very symmetrical, so [my score] winds up sometimes acknowledging that symmetry and sometimes disregarding it.

AG: That makes sense because in Brad’s video animation, parts are added and subtracted to the animation over time.

NG: Exactly, yeah. In that sense, the video and the score mirror each other, but they don’t literally mirror each other. We made different choices.

AG: Right.

NG: So In my mind… This [graph] was before I invented any movement to go along with it: it was just conceptual. I just imagined these parts… I sort of thought of these parts as just dancing beings in and of themselves. I actually kind of was imagining what Brad wound up making. Which was just which parts dancing with other parts did I want to see grouped and re-grouped over time.
So this is just a dance in my mind of these parts. The X’s are when the part itself operates
and the circles are where I wanted to see the part on stage, just not moving.

AG: so I see the score is 27…

NG: Units long. So we were all playing with timing but originally we working with timing of an actual minute, so there were 30 second blocks, but now they are 30 count blocks. So it’s just 27 units of 30 counts each.

So that was the first step.

Then I did this second score, because this score allowed me to visualize [the dance] more in the space much more like what the animation turned out to look like. So spatially I could see where everyone would be.

In here I started to think more about not the individual steps, but people and pathways. So I imagined people doing walking patterns and then just followed the initial chart and drew them in. So that allows me to see people in the space and compositionally what that may look like.

AG: And the shapes of the pathways were inspired by the shapes of the parts [in Brad’s sculpture]?

NG: Exactly. For instance, J is shaped kinda of like this curving arrow, but it doesn’t literally move in that way. That shape is not the way it moves, it actually moves more like a lever. So I’m having someone dance their pathway like that shape. They make a diagonal, then they actually come back more triangularly. The pathways work off of both the mechanical motion and the actual wooden part that forms the outside of the artwork that the moving lever or gear controls.

So those are the scores.

The last step was in the studio yesterday, thinking who’s where and then starting to apply some movements to each of their pathways with some similarities and some differences so there will be some counterpoint.

AG: So each letter or part has their own movement sequence?

NG: Most of them are actually paired. So, D and E are actually the same motion. J and K are the same in motion. But there’s only one A, one B, and one C. So, some of them are solos, but most of them are symmetrical.


AM: So what I did first was … I sat down and I basically tried to create a vocal part for each of the gears.

So, for example, if I take the effect off of this part – it’s just a really simple, a very literal equivalent
and then I’d add a second piece.

BL: Oh, this is the one in the shop! This is still my favorite.

AM: So I was singing it in thirds, you know, and then adding some other sound on top of that. And then I added… It felt very vocal a cappella to me, which I was not so crazy about, so I added a long pan and then an echo, so you get this bouncing back and forth thing.

AG: That’s a little scary.

BL: I still think that’s the best one, even with the background noise.


AM: And that’s all of that. The thing that bothered me about this one was the air conditioner in the background…

AM: So I went back and I re-recorded all the parts without the background noise, and I created a much longer version where I take out each of the pieces singularly. It’s interesting for something, but I don’t think it… it has a little bit of an Enya thing that happens to it.

NG: I love the similes you come up with.

AM: What I did like… eventually it’s like two different parts with really minor adjustments back and forth of these long notes. It actually feels more like the mandala [MechaniCard], than it does for this particular piece. Then I started adding those [bouncing notes] back in. Somehow they sound darker in this version than they did in the first version, I don’t know why…

AG: They sound like… not a human sound.

AM: So, blah blah. That goes on. [Stops music.] I’ve been trying to figure this out. The parts are literally the same thing I recorded in your studio. It’s literally the same things but it feels so much heavier in this version. It sounds more intentional, in a way.

NG: I like that it sounds… You have a round sound to your voice and that, to me, contrasts with the dissonance of the melodic play. It’s a contrast between the round and the sharp.

AM: It’s funny, I like [the first one] better too. I guess it’s just the microphone…

AG: Did you share these recordings with Michael Kiley and Liz Filios when you improvised with them?

AM: Yes, some of it.

AG: What else did you “seed” them with?

AM: I showed them [a video of] Brad playing with two “Counter-Productivities,” one on its own and one in a stand. And then I had a recording of the card at half-time.

AM: We kept watching the videos… We’d do a thing, and then we’d watch the video and we’d do another thing.

We really tried to mimic the different kinds of sounds, and then, I don’t know why, but we did an improv where we really played against the mechanical nature, so we just did a series of soundy-things.


I did one that was very Rockapella…


One of the things I realized, actually, was that I have a hard time collaborating with myself. I don’t tend to do a lot of things where it’s just me on a ton of tracks. I feel like I get bored. I need things to bounce against. And Mike and Liz are really different singers rhythmically and tonally, but we sing with each other a lot so we know how to blend. Mike comes from a folk music background and Liz comes from musical theater — we’ve all studied classically, but I think I’ve spent the most time living in it.

Oh, this is our contemporary music phase…


This is us doing total mechanical/classical music. It’s like Philip Glass does all the gears, interpreted through a classical voice.



AM: That goes and goes. And then we did the version that I ended up using.

I think by then I’d shown them Brad’s other website. I figured, well, Brad’s a musician, so I played one of your songs, and we did a bluesy improv.

The track I ended up with is the same track overlaid in a bunch of different places. I just chopped up an improv and reassembled it.

And then the last thing I did [with Mike and Liz] was do a 10-minute improvisation, you know, just to see if it was something. Turns out, no, it’s not. It was very fun to do, but it literally goes through every style possible.

The first piece was my interpretation of how the dance might look and how the machine works, but the final piece is actually most similar to the kind of music I like to listen to and sing.

Arianna Gass is a recent graduate of Vassar College. In addition to documenting Cross Pollination, she is the Program Manager for Drexel University’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio. Her own art practice is located at the intersection of digital and embodied play, and her scholarship focuses on feminism, performance studies, and game studies. You can find more of her writing and work at

Week 2: Ken and Cindy

Ken portrait

Ken Kalfus is the author of three novels, Equilateral (2013), The Commissariat of Enlightenment (2003) and A Disorder Peculiar to the Country, which was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award and has appeared in several foreign editions, including French and Italian translations. He has also published two collections of stories, Thirst (1998) and Pu-239 and Other Russian Fantasies (1999), a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Kalfus has received a Pew Fellowships in the Arts award and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He’s written for Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, and The New York Times. A film adaptation of his short story, “Pu-239,” aired on HBO in 2007.

Kalfus was born in New York and has lived in Paris, Dublin, Belgrade and Moscow. His new book, Coup de Foudre: A Novella and Stories, will be published in May.

Cindy Portrait

Cindy Stockton Moore is a Philadelphia based artist. Her site-specific installation ‘Other Absences’ is currently on view at Eastern State Penitentiary through 2015. Recent solo projects include ‘Consciousness & Revolt’ at The Galleries at Moore (Philadelphia), ‘Toward Futility’ at Artspace Liberti (Philadelphia), in addition to the two person exhibitions: ‘An Island Now Peopled’ at Chashama Chelsea Project Space (New York) and ‘Water/Line’ at The Center for Contemporary Art (Bedminster, NJ.) She has shown throughout the US and abroad with group exhibitions at venues such as Heskin Contemporary (New York, NY,) PS122 (New York, NY,) Hillyer Art Center (Washington DC,) The Painting Center (New York, NY,) Sandy Carson Gallery (Denver, CO,) Public Fiction (Los Angeles, CA,) and The Boston Center for the Arts (Boston, MA.) Cindy Stockton Moore received her MFA in Painting from Syracuse University. Her writing on art has appeared in ArtNews, NYArts Magazine, The New York Sun, and Title Magazine in addition to university and gallery publications in the US and Canada. She has been a part of the artist-curatorial team that runs Grizzly Grizzly gallery in Philadelphia since 2011.

Week 1: Liz and Nick

Liz portrait

Harpist Elizabeth Huston has dedicated much of her career to furthering audience appreciation of music by living composers through advocacy, education, and performances, and has been credited with helping to “bring the harp into the 21st century” by Harp Columneditor Kimberly Rowe. Her 2014 show 14 Sequenzas was acclaimed as the “Most daring presentation of classical music in 2015” by the Philadelphia Inquirer. Elizabeth received her master’s degree in harp performance from Temple University. Since graduation, she has maintained a rigorous performance schedule, including solo appearances in the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, the Grand Ballroom of the Philadelphia Conference Center, Dalet Art Gallery, the Maas Center for Performing arts, among others. She has performed harp composition workshops at Temple University and Western Washington University, as well as one-on-one work with composers across the US.  Elizabeth is currently serving her first term as the president of the Philadelphia Chapter Harp Society.


Nick portrait


Nick Cassway received a BFA in painting from the Tyler School of Art in 1990. He has exhibited his drawings, prints as well as site specific installations both locally and nationally. He is deeply vested in the Philadelphia arts community and was formerly the executive director of NEXUS/foundation for today’s art. Nick currently teaches computer graphics, editorial design and brand identity at Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts and Design and is a current Fellow in CFEVA’s Visual Artist Fellowship program.


The Logic Model

Here. Listen to this while you read. It’ll help you know what to feel.









What do you wanna do?








I dunno.







What do you wanna do?







(first days are funny things)






What do you do to warm up?
What are the mechanics of what you do?






What are the restrictions?




Can I try?






Did you know that the average age of a classical music audience member in 1995 was 55 years old and today it’s 75 years old? The same people have been listening to classical music for the last twenty years.



What’s gonna happen when they die?





Take this survey.
It’ll tell you what to think.



Don’t worry it opens in a new tab so you don’t lose us.


Also keep the music playing while you do it





And don’t worry. I logged on with Facebook too.

It’s secure.





Y’know what, I lied. I didn’t actually log on with Facebook. I created a password and used my e-mail.





But I’m sure it’s still secure.





Did you feel like the survey answer was true to your personality type?








….did you even take the survey?







Maybe it would be better if I drew a picture to show you what the week was like…


A. The beginning, and questions about beginnings. An empty room promising [perhaps overwhelming] possibility. Three people sitting on the wooden studio floor, knees up, notebooks open. What if…?
















D. Laughing and weaving lies. Stealing from artist statements, personality quizzes, and the Chinese zodiac. What if we winked at the ways we try to tell each other what to think and how to feel? What if we gave the audiences a survey and then assigned them a “personality type” at random?



What’s next for you?



Week 1 Photo Gallery

Photos by Adachi Pimentel

Week 3: Being and Storytelling

Raph is a breakdancer, Adrienne is a director and vocalist, and Manu is a director and clown. Before the residency week started, the three started discussing an interest in masks via email. From what I gathered, they were curious about masks in both a theatrical and an emotional sense. Which are the masks we wear that allow us to pretend to be something we’re not on stage, and which are the masks we hide behind offstage, in real life? Thematically, the week revolved around the act of unmasking, and I’ll go through the exercises that brought this about.

On the first day of the residency, the group decided to take turns leading each other in exercises. Adrienne would lead a vocal exercise, Manu a clowning one, and Raph a dancing one. Of course, Raph said he couldn’t sing, Adrienne complained that she wasn’t funny, and Manu insisted she was a terrible dancer. In the spirit of overcoming fears, they determined that Raph had to sing, Manu had to breakdance, and Adrienne had to be funny. The focus shifted quickly from the artists leading exercises in the things they are good at to the other artists doing things they wouldn’t otherwise do.

Eager to try breakdancing, Adrienne and Manu tried one of Raph’s dancing exercises. Laying on their backs, knees bent, they were directed to “find the hole,” with no further direction. At first, Raph looked on while Adrienne did somersaults, and Manu comically pantomimed falling through the hole. Raph joined them on the floor and turned gracefully over his shoulders a few times, showing us that you “find the hole” by finding the space between your body and the floor and threading yourself through that space. Though the “point” of the exercise was to introduce us to Raph’s style of dance, the exercise encouraged a sense of playful experimentation along with some laughter and flailing.

after raph singing

Next, Manu introduced an exercise I’ll call “Being in Front of an Audience.” The instructions were short; one by one, each person would get up in front of the rest of us and “be.” This meant no thinking ahead, no joke-telling, no forced movement. The exercise focuses on letting no, not forcing a performance in to being, and just allowing yourself to “be.”

I know this exercise sounds like it should have been really easy for Raph, Manu, and Adrienne, but it wasn’t. In fact, I think it’s a very difficult exercise for most trained performers. Performers spend years learning how to perform in front of and audience. Performers are required to bring about a series of premeditated actions when they get on stage, and spend years learning acting techniques that obfuscate this fact. Traditionally, performers are conditioned to perform on stage, rather than enter a state of “being,” the performance flowing organically from that state.

To get at the heart this concept, and to understand exactly what these performers were asking of each other this week, I want to take a quick detour and talk a little more about what it means to perform. If I go to see my friend, Jill, as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. I know that Jill’s actions on stage are not representative or indicative of who Jill is when she’s not on stage. In this example, Jill is performing actions she’s practiced and is repeated. She is “forcing” the performance of Juliet into being. She is not just “being.” This also applies to performers that perform on stage. Take the case of singer-songwriter, Joni Mitchell. When Joni is performing on stage, who is she? She is not performing a character like our friend Jill was performing Juliet. Yet, I suspect that when Joni is performing on stage, she’s not just Joni Mitchell. She’s Joni Mitchell performing the very practiced, premeditated role of Joni Mitchell. No matter how confessional, convincing, or personal the performance might be, I think Joni Mitchell on stage is not representative of who Joni Mitchell is when she’s not on stage. From this it follows that traditional modes of performance are almost the opposite of “being” as Manu describes it.

So, what fascinates me about Manu’s exercise? It’s a performance that runs contrary to a lot of what we understand to be performance. “Being in front of an audience” is so different from performing, even if it might not look like it. “Being” is not Jill performing the role of Juliet, and it’s not Joni performing Joni. It’s a little more transcendent.

So, back to the room, in which Adrienne, Manu, and Raph are all about to try this exercise. It was Adrienne who said she could feel her heart beating in her ears when she stood in front of us – not on stage, just in the middle of a big room in front of friendly faces. She stood and Manu guided her through the exercise, offering suggestions like “breathe,” and “try adding in a little movement.” Adrienne stood for a good few minutes, punctuated by deep breathing and a few sighs of nervous laughter. And then, out of the silence, something happened. Or maybe it was that something stopped happening. Adrienne was “being.” Manu invited her to follow her impulses, and invited Adrienne to start swearing as a way in to the exercise. Adrienne dropped into a new body. This body was playful, mischievous, and definitely rude. This body had a silly voice, pointy and piercing. This body yelled a terrible and ridiculous word (that Adrienne would never say) over and over again, each time funnier than the last.

Manu was the last to get up and do the exercise. She had led everyone else through it, and now we all had to lead her in her own exercise. At first she stood in front of us and stood still, looking out. She started shaking subtly, tears welling up in her eyes. “This always happens to me,” she said. She took a few deep breaths and, regaining composure, stood in front of us. Watching her “be” was difficult at first. It’s easy to watch a performance, but this was observing humanity. It was active. It was empathetic. It was hard.

The next day Raph, Manu, and Adrienne started talking more explicitly about the masks they wear. Honest conversations, like the very candid one we had about masks, were brainstorming sessions as much as they were therapy. This particular conversation yielded the idea to use a technique, seen in Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s show, Romeo and Juliet, that would help them “be” on stage. Nature Theater’s Romeo and Juliet consists of two actors reciting recordings of people attempting to recount, from memory, the plot of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Underneath the actors’ faux-Elizabethan garb and hokey trans-continental accents, the actors are wearing headphones, listening to recordings of real people and repeating those stories, verbatim, to the audience. Intrigued by the kind of fidelity this technique offered, they began recording stories about the masks they have adopted in their lives.

Raph went first. He recorded a story about prejudice he faced in grade school as a suburban black boy and how that moment transformed the way he sees himself to this day. You can hear the original recording below:

Manu listened to Raph’s recording through headphones and repeated his words in front of Adrienne, Raph, and I. Suddenly, the story Raph had recorded just moments before was Manu’s. The story was no longer about a black boy dealing with racial prejudice; it was about an immigrant girl in a suburban school facing a different racial prejudice. The words, pacing, and pauses were all Raph’s, but the same words in a different mouth told an entirely different, yet equally convincing, story.

Manu described performing as “being overwhelmed” by Raph’s recording. Left with little time for judgment or interpretation, she was left to recite his words without thinking. This state was similar to “being.” Watching her, I felt uncomfortable. Even though I knew it was Raph’s story, the disjunction between Raph’s words and Manu’s extreme honesty on stage was troubling. Imagining I didn’t know Manu, I started asking myself questions – “Why would a white girl be grouped with the bussed in black city kids?” Then, doubling back on myself, “Am I that sure of her racial identification?” and “Why do I assume she’s female?” Raph’s story directly contradicted the assumptions I had made about Manu, and Manu’s honest delivery made me evaluate what felt true in the story against the assumptions I made about Manu based on her physical appearance.

They continued to experiment with different people reading different stories, and came away with two observations about this technique. Firstly, it works best when the person reading the story has never heard it before and cannot predict where it is going. By the time Adrienne recited Raph’s story, we’d heard it a few times. While it remained difficult to stay with the recording, as an audience member I could tell when she was remembering part of the story versus saying it blind. Those moments stood out because the remembering took her out of the moment of “being.” Secondly, they found that things were actually more interesting when the performer and the narrator were noticeably or physically different. For example, a man telling a story written by a woman, or a person with an accent reading a story recorded by someone who has a different accent. While they were initially concerned that these differences might confuse people, they decided that they were also more thought provoking and challenged people’s assumptions and prejudices in a more profound way.

At the end of the week, sitting in a coffee shop, we all got really excited about the ways this storytelling technique might bring people together. We imagined the power of hearing one person’s recording of their side of a fight, and hearing the other person they’re fighting with tell their story. The other person would have to say the other person’s side of the argument and that could be a really powerful experience. Can you imagine your significant other telling you the story of how you first met them? Can you imagine what it would feel like to hear someone decades older tell your story? How about your boss?

If the beginning of the residency was about these artists unmasking each other by the end they’d found a way to unmask their audiences too. While this was a very process-oriented week (compared to Ken and Cindy’s very product-oriented residency), they walked away with a new way to “be” onstage. While this residency week started in a nebulous place, it ended with a tool that help’s people feel empathy. It encourages people to change, or at least reexamine, their beliefs because it forces them to see and hear their exact words in another person’s mouth. They might be surprised to find them equally true, equally relatable, and equally human.

Arianna Gass is a recent graduate of Vassar College. In addition to documenting Cross Pollination, she is the Program Manager for Drexel University’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio. Her own art practice is located at the intersection of digital and embodied play, and her scholarship focuses on feminism, performance studies, and game studies. You can find more of her writing and work at