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New York artists work with ACAD students for upcoming production

Plastic shopping bags littered the Main Mall of ACAD as students collaborated with two prominent New York-based artists for their production, Toss, premiering next fall.

The bags, which students cut, ironed, and attached together on Tuesday, Nov. 17, are for plans to create a glacier, a piece of their set, according to Lynn Neuman, dancer, choreographer, and artistic director of Artichoke Dance, a dance company. Accompanying her was Joshua Davis, a bassist and composer, in charge of the sound production of Toss.

As part of the collaboration, which continued until Nov. 20, participants will be credited for their part in helping with construction of the set.

Why bags? Neuman explains her desire to explore the psychology and causation of consumerist behaviour and the waste that follows. With Toss, she wants to address the question and underlying theme of the production: “Why do we consume things that we don’t use that much?

Toss is the most recent of Neuman’s series called the Human Mapping Project, which explores humanity’s relationship and effect on nature. For students, the utilization of readily available materials was an important aspect of showing for Neuman.

“[They] can use materials that are readily available, free, and can create something that’s useful,” she says.

She researched extensively on the effects of consumerist culture as well as people’s perspectives in regards to their impact on the environment. She says through meeting with various people, she found the diversity of ideas that people had to be interesting: some were more environmentally conscious while some weren’t.

To an extent, she attributes this to an apparent apathy that people have.

“People [are] concerned, but people don’t know how to combat [litter and other issues] because it’s a prolific thing,” she says. “It’s overwhelming for people.

“It shows how our culture has become apathetic.

To address this issue, rather than using textbooks, papers, and “preaching” about it, the usage of performance art is a way to allow people to empathize and become aware more easily as it’s both entertaining, and a less daunting endeavour.

Aside from the theme of the play, music plays a prominent role with Toss. However, rather than having an ensemble or, even larger, an orchestra, Davis, who composes the score of the production and has worked extensively with Artichoke Dance, will be the sole musical performer on stage.

Utilizing looping tools and software on a laptop to layer seemingly simple compositions over one another from premade sounds, keyboard, or bass, creates a sound that is intricate, and, when layered together—known as stacking tracks—far more complex.

“[With] the music [I do for] Toss . . . one person can end up with twenty musical voices. [They] can become an orchestra through layering over time,” Davis says.

“It enables the portability of a band—or a one-man band, so they say.”

What he hopes that prospective audience members can take away from the show, aside from the message, is something “musically significant.”

As a musician, he finds the notion of performing by one’s self as a “trade-off,” and, in a fashion, directly contradicts what it is to be a performer as it removes the egalitarian aspect of working with other people as an ensemble, or group.

“It’s a challenge for me, ethically,” he says. “I’m a product of bands, of many people—I’m a product of the kinds of performances that sustain ensemble players.

“This (Toss) removes the decision to have multiple musicians employed for a performance. It only employs one.”

He says, rather, that his intent is more of experimenting with a computer, he hopes, than it is of “removing opportunities for other humans,” though he does find that it does remove the need—something that echoes what’s happening within various industries, currently.

“It’s a tricky one,” he says. “I feel good about it because the computer is enabling another way of creativity in my life that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.” And while the production is still under works with still a year’s time before the show’s premiere, both hope that, with Toss, people will become more aware of what they do.

“I would hope that there would be such shocking, unforgettable performance moments that will help people re-examine just what it is they need to possess and throw away,” says Davis.

“Before you make a decision to consume something or purchase something,” says Neuman.

“Think about the life of it, how you’re actually going to use it and at the end of its life will be.

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