The Alchemy of Making Paradise Interrupted
ACAW FIELD MEETING Take 4: Thinking Practice
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
New York, NY
November 11, 2016
When thinking about how to discuss creating the installation opera Paradise Interrupted, I decided to make a performance showing the mysterious, non-linear, and alchemistic creative process behind its making.
I asked performance artist Ron Pierre Jean-Gilles and Paradise Interrupted interactive technology director Guillermo Acevedo to be onstage and act out the various "voices" in my head throughout the creative process. Guillermo was the technological arm, providing images, vocal effects, music, and video. Ron was the embodiment of the different inspirations and influences, adding some of his own as a part of course.
The piece culminated with Ron, who is Haitian, conducting a vodou ceremony channeling the loa Papa Legba and asking him to open the gate that allows the flow of communication and inspiration between this and the "other" world. Ron was joined on stage by the roaring Underground Horns, a five-piece marching band.
Madeline Ludwig-Leone from my studio and I also stepped up on stage to open the paper sculpture garden, assisted Ron in donning a Chinese opera warrior headdress and flag costume, and joined the parade in the end with pompoms and confetti.
The whole process was messy and imperfect, exhilarating and filled with possibilities. A few things didn't work, but some did. I enjoyed seeing a different, improvisational type of energy get released by the onstage performer, breaking down the barriers between performer, collaborators, director, crew and audience. It was the opposite of the tightly rehearsed and metered cadence of the opera. I'm grateful for ACAW FIELD MEETING and Leeza Ahmady's invitation to present The Alchemy of Making Paradise Interrupted. It is only the start of a new exploration, and we will look for future working opportunities to play and make.
– Jennifer Wen Ma, November 2016