Another 100 Colorado Creatives: Laura Ann Samuelson
Joanna Rotkin, Laura Ann Samuelson, Johannah Franke and Margaret Harris in Let Them Eat Cake.
Photo by A. Prairie
#86: Laura Ann Samuelson Laura Ann Samuelson is much more than a dancer and choreographer: She's an interdisciplinary collaborator in performance who also directs her own company, Hoarded Stuff, when she isn't working with others. On her horizon? As she discusses below as part of her 100CC questionnaire, Samuelson will curate the Failure Festival in November, a series of performances designed to show how failure isn't necessarily a bad thing in the arts.
Laura Ann Samuelson in Tiny Gods.
Westword:If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why? Laura Ann Samuelson: I want to collaborate with artists whose work makes me think, "Damn. I wish I had made that" -- artists whose work feels both so familiar and foreign to me that I am convinced I might explode.
For a long time, this was exactly how I felt about the work of Brussels-based dance company Peeping Tom. And Miranda July. And Virginia Woolf. And Meredith Monk. And this crazy French circus artist Jeanne Mordoj. And a girl I knew in college named Mary Read. Right now, I am watching the 2001-2005 HBO series Six Feet Under, created by Alan Ball. I know everyone else watched this show a decade ago, but I have to mention it because I dream about the Fisher family a few times a week and wake up with the same sensation that I might, indeed, explode. I love work that locates death right at the center of life, tracing collisions of choice and circumstance in a way that frames how little we know or can control.
So I guess that's my answer. At least for today. I choose Alan Ball, creator of the TV show Six Feet Under. I would want our collaboration to take place sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s. It would be wild. And I think we would fight the whole time, which is a weird thing for me to say since I don't know the guy, but that's my sense.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I am really excited about the research and artistic practices of Diego Agullo. Diego is a Berlin-based artist who works across film, choreography, text, photography, huge participatory events, sound installations and probably a thousand other kinds of media. He is a self-proclaimed dilettante with a kind of mischievous curiosity that feels totally free and incredibly specific at the same time. I love how Diego reinvents ways theory might encounter art and philosophy -- his work brings heady ideas into the realm of the tangible, which he then makes a huge mess of.
When I think about the work that has moved me recently, I notice that I am really drawn to artists whose shortcomings lie at the center of their work for the audience to see. When I was in Berlin, I saw Kitchen by the theater company Gob Squad. The performance took place in a huge theater for an audience of about 750. In Gob Squad's Kitchen, the actors onstage work with one another to recreate Andy Warhol's famous films from the '60s: Kitchen, Eat, Sleep and Screen Test. About halfway through the performance, it becomes clear that they are not the right people for the job, and they begin to slowly replace each actor onstage with audience members. I love work that tries to deal with it's own failing in some way. I also love anything that looks like it could fall apart at any moment, but somehow, never does.
Margaret Harris, Laura Ann Samuelson and Johannah Franke in Let them Eat Cake.
What is one art trend you want to see die?
I am really ready for artists and the public to get behind transparent creative exchange. I often find that it is when I am undone by all that I have yet to understand that I stumble upon something truly significant. I am tired of the notion that artists should strive only towards mastery and never towards failure. Even when it is excruciating, I tend to discover so much more on the brink of and/or swimming in failure than in the midst of sound accomplishment.
What's your day job?
I teach dance improvisation, composition and performance technique classes with the teaching collective the Spill Project as well as through the Colorado Conservatory of Dance's professionals program. On top of that, I work as a nanny for a few awesome families in Boulder and Louisville.
A mystery patron offers unlimited funds for life. What would you do with it?
Well, I would definitely hire an administrator. Then, the two of us would set out to create an arts center that served local and international artists by providing studio and performance space and paying them for their work. This arts center would also offer free classes, lectures and events to the public. Additionally, I would curate a bunch of alternative art festivals all over town.
At the same time, I realize that at least in the field of experimental performance, the structural limitations surrounding the creation of new work often strengthen it and send it in new directions. Don't get me wrong, I fiercely believe artists should be paid well for what they do. I just wonder if truly unlimited funding would in some way hinder the quality of work happening here...
What's one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts.
Seek out art happening in your city. React to it. Be loud about what you think. Follow artists whose work excites you, challenges you, drives you crazy. Actively find a way to interact with it. There is a lot happening here.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Hmmm. Okay. This is hard. I have been very very very lucky to continually collaborate with Joanna Rotkin of TinHOUSE Experimental Dance Theatre. She makes crazy dances that are so raw and uncertain and honest with the audience about what they are. She's an artist on a really unique path. I have a huge amount of respect for her.
Also, Michelle Ellsworth's work never ceases to remind me of what's possible. When interacting with her work, it's really clear that she gives herself a ton of room to follow her ideas wherever they take her. She must be incredibly disciplined in the freedom she allows herself. This, I think, is something I am trying to cultivate within myself--a fierce loyalty to following whatever the work is asking of me.
What's on your agenda for the coming year?
Here are the projects I am incredibly excited about:
On May 2 through 10, I'll premiere my new solo, Everything Is In, in Boulder at the Community Dance Collective. I am both excited and terrified, and at this moment, I am just trying to listen to what this strange little show wants to be.
This summer, I'm in residence in Gothenburg, Sweden at Skogen with my good friend and super-fantastic dance artist Li Molnar Kronlid. We are working on a duet that will be performed in Boulder as part of the Boulder Fringe. All we know right now is that the work is in some way investigating apologies. We'll see what happens from there.
At that time, I'll also be teaching in Normandy at the study abroad program MADE in France for American university students. Then I'll come back to gear up for the Failure Festival!
The Failure Festival is a new multi-artist project that Hoarded Stuff is curating. The second weekend in November, artists of all disciplines will be presenting work centered around failure. The lineup includes Bhanu Kapil, Christina Battle, Adán De La Garza, Emily K. Harrison, Joanna Rotkin, Chrissy Nelson, Adam Stone, Erin Rollman, Ethan Cowan, Lauren Beale and a ton of other local artists. I am so excited about this that I can't really see straight. It'll be huge and beautiful and totally chaotic. I'll keep you posted!
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts in 2014?
Well. I have no idea. It depends on who is doing the noticing. I have yet to pick up on any correlation between the work that is blowing me away and what is getting noticed.
I'd love it if the work getting noticed was coming from artists like Bhanu Kapil, Lisa Birman, square product theatre, TinHOUSE, Christina Battle and Adán De La Garza. These are a few artists that I feel are really investigating something specific in the work they do.
Hoarded Stuff's Everything Is In opens at 8 p.m. Friday, May 2 for a two-weekend run at the Community Dance Collective in Boulder. Buy tickets, $12 to $17, at Brown Paper Tickets. Learn more about Laura Ann Samuelson and Hoarded Stuff online.
Throughout the year, we'll be shining the spotlight on 100 superstars from Denver's rich creative community. Stay tuned to Show and Tell for more, or visit the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.
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