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Current Project

GUIDE TO KINSHIP AND MAYBE MAGIC

KINSHIP:

a close connection marked by community of interests or similarity in nature or character;

Relationship by nature or character; affinity.

close connection

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I am a member of LEWIS FOREVER a performance collective of four siblings: three sisters and a brother, a director, two dancers and a musician. LF is a family living partially in New York and in Berlin, half Dominican and half Jewish American, a performance collective and a bloodline.

LEWIS FOREVER’s: Guide to Kinship and Maybe Magic is a multi-tier work which began when LF was awarded the MAP fund through Dance New Amsterdam in NYC in 2010. The project is intended as a new cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary work investigating the role of community, family, collectivity, collaboration and performance in our present-day culture.

All members of LEWIS FOREVER were born in the Dominican Republic, they have been working in NYC and the group was founded in 2006 in Berlin, Germany.  LF is currently devising Guide to Kinship and Maybe Magic with partners in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Berlin, Germany and New York, U.S.A, focusing their research on their performance and cultural roots.I will be responsible for the project in Santo Domingo which will take the form of a performance workshop.

The workshop: September 2011 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

At the heart of the workshop is site specificity. The site provides a platform for discourse surrounding art production and the role of the “collective” (or collection of bodies) and their function in contemporary society. The workshop is a place of play and exploration, deconstruction and reconstruction.  Collectively we engaged in community type activities within a very stylized environment, a set, a constructed environment where we worked with representational images of Santo Domingo and Dominican culture as we explored fictional and nonfictional constructions of place, community and self.

The presentation: currently

The public arrives as Rita Indiana’s “ LA HORA DE VOLVE”: “Time to Return” is being played. When they settle S stops the music and projects and plays an audio recording of J:

En los Ojos del Mundo

Vislumbré dos luces en medio de la tarde, no recuerdo el nombre de la calle, pero recuerdo que leí en sus rostros dos historias parecidas, divas de la noche con luna, margaritas en busca del plomo y el humo de esta ciudad de telarañas, con el sol afuera, saludando la tarde y las olas que vienen con furia hasta el malecón. La plataforma de dos monumentos era un piso decadente que hablaba, decía y describía el panorama, le gritaba a los demás transeuntes “mi cuerpo tiene un precio, un valor estimado, un color y sabor a carne cruda y humana” y el sol se fue y la luna posaba en el cielo, y yo presencié todo, desde el ojo del mundo, que soy yo.

Johan Mijail Castillo Guillén

In the eyes of the world

I glimpsed two lights in the middle of the afternoon, I can’t remember the name of the street, but I remember I read two similar stories in their faces , divas of the night with the moon, daisies in search of lead and smoke of this city of spiderwebs, with the sun outside, greeting the evening and the waves that enter the seawall with fury. The platform of two monuments was a decadent floor talking, he said and described the scene, yelling at passers “my body has a price, an estimated value, a color and a flavor of raw human flesh”  and the sun left and the moon rested in the sky, and I witnessed everything from the world’s eye, that I am.

Johan Mijail Castillo Guillén

August 30, 2011

The way they are…….

S: I am coming back again. I leave from Berlin early in the morning and fly to Miami before I fly to Santo Domingo. I’m thinking about everything that’s ahead of me and how I’ve gotten to this point. Its been on my mind for so long to see what it would be like to go back now to that place that I associate with dancing, traffic, noise, garbage, family, sun, warmth, inefficiency, chaos, delinquency, hypocrisy, corruption, laughter, violence and joy.

November 13, 2011

S:Guide to Kinship and Maybe Magic begins with a projection of a place of my birth and where my interests in performance began; a fantasy created in Berlin. It will be a journey, a process which delves into and plays with the accessory like qualities of cultural identity, community, and performance.

December 30,2011

S:When I go through the city (almost always in a car) there are parts that look like Miami with it’s high towered apartment buildings and helicopter landings, a small constellation of wealth on display. Tall buildings placed on alters in the highest parts of the city.  The lowest parts, it seems, have been reserved for the socio-economic bottom of the barrel. Rows of houses connected and protected from the elements with scraps of tin for roofs and dirt floors.The disparity in wealth makes me think that I am constantly traveling between two very strange and different planets that  still share the same language and cultural affinities like food and  music.

I am fascinated by everyone and everything. On the one hand it seems that people are warm and friendly, performing or maybe really believing in the “pure joy of life”.  On the other hand there are constant warnings that it’s dangerous, that many people will cheat you any chance they get, people stepping over one another trying to get a slice of the good life informed by western standards of wealth. Consumer culture is alive and well here.

September 4th, 2011

It’s the first time I walk home from work. I’m wearing a gold chain that I think is hardly visible. A man on a motorbike turns slowly toward me, looks me in the eyes, and almost succeeds in taking it from me.

now:

S:………………

S: Yohanna Baez (a Dominican  from L.A.) somehow reads my blog post and writes encouraging me to try to do something in Santo Domingo regardless of the  difficulties.  She gives me a few links to young contemporary artists working in the city, one of who is Johan Mijail Castillo Guillen, a poet.

J and S at a cafe in La Zona Colonial January 4, 2011

(video clip from 1:57 till 6:37)

August 30, 2011

The way they are…….

S: I arrive in Miami and head to my gate and I’m struck when I see 10 young Dominican men who look like they might be clones of each other. They all have the same exact hair cut. Perfectly defined curly hair kept in a short afro with side burns that come down like  arrows directing you to the dead end of their chins. They are talking and laughing loudly. I’m losing my patience and starting to get annoyed by the noise. We are waiting and waiting to board when finally we receive some information. “Sorry for the delay ladies and gentlemen, but we are currently waiting for two more flight attendants to arrive.” Really do they have to be late, why does it always seem that when I fly to Santo Domingo we are always late! The naive romanticism that I had felt the last time I flew in December dissipating quickly every minute we are waiting. I hear an American guy retort “that’s typical” I give him a dirty look; he’s  been caught. And then I begin to judge myself , for the same phrase has been racing through my head.

(Play audio track number 2)

July 2011

S: Johan’s now in Berlin…………

J: …. It is a strange place for him. Johan has his first contact with an international art scene. He is tired from the long flight and the layover in Paris, but immediately he goes to a festival of performance and feels that he is living a dream. It is a new world for him.

(Play audio track number 3)

February 2011

J: The Cultural Institute Dominico-Americano confirms that they would like the workshop Guide to Kinship and Maybe Magic.

S: 5, 6, 7, 8

September 9th: Johan

J: Coordinating the body and mind, has been the task. How is it possible to achieve a degree of coherence between what we think and what we do? On the other hand, playing with projections and construction of place, but contrary to the exercises of the body, trying to create visual thoughts on what we understand to be Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and how it may be perceived overseas. We’ve all worked together, trying to get the magic of kinship through action. Is there magic?, hopefully….

S:the last time I was in Santo Domingo….

was the first time I’d seen so many luxury SUVs on the same roads as cars that had newspapers to replace windows in order to  protect passengers from either the hot sun or the heavy rains.

December 30, 2010.

S: Still trying to adjust to the different pockets of inhabited spaces, trying to immerse myself in a language that I’ve mostly forgotten. Trying hard not to feel like a tourist constantly exotifying the other.

August 30, 2011

The way they are…….

S: I finally get on the flight, look for my seat and find a man sitting in it. I look at him and he gestures to the seat  “is this yours”, I nod yes, he points to the seat next to him and gestures if i would like to sit in the middle seat. I nod no. He then moves over and allows me to sit next to the window. Right before take off we begin to chat. He starts speaking to me in Spanish and right away he recognizes that I’m not fluent. I’m tired and don’t feel really feel like talking but he is persistent and at a certain point I get into it, especially when he begins to describe how important it is for him to go as much as possible to the DR. He has been living in NYC for the last two years and just earns money in order to visit. As he continues talking he gets tears in his eyes, he’ll only stay this time for three days, and can’t wait to return.

It strikes me how many Dominican’s I’ve spoken to who have this strong sense of longing and belonging. This small island with all its faults is still a place many of us want to return to. Why is that? what is calling us, home?

Currently:

I’m looking for a way of packaging this entire experience. Looking perhaps fleetingly for a universal element of this story. How can so much subjective content ever find its appropriate form?

Introducing Johan

March 31, 2011

I met Johan during my trip in Santo Domingo in December. He will be collaborating on both the film in Berlin this summer and the performance workshop in Santo Domingo in September. This is an interview that we conducted where he shares his opinions about community and the art scene in Santo Domingo.

in the DR

December 30, 2010

The journey in the DR has begun.  Arrival: the 14th of December. It has been a strange type of dance re-connecting with family and trying to connect with people about this project. This has been a  period of acclimating myself to the constant sounds of traffic and what has become a mixture of foreign voices and all too familiar ones rapping away at volumes and speeds that allude me. Smells mixed with a ting of nostalgia. Trying to avoid the feeling of arrested development that overwhelms me when I find myself regressing to childhood ways that were informed by this place they call Santo Domingo.

What a paradox this place is. I am fascinated by everyone and everything. On the one hand it seems that people are warm and friendly, performing the “pure joy of life”.  On the other hand there are constant warnings that it’s dangerous, that many people will cheat you any chance they get, people stepping over one another trying to get a slice of the good life informed by western standards of wealth. Consumer culture is a live and well here.

When I walk through the city (always accompanied by a family member) there are parts that look like Miami with it’s high towered apartment buildings and helicopter landings, a small constellation of wealth on display. Tall buildings placed on alters of the highest parts of the city.  The lowest parts, it seems,have been reserved for the socio-economic bottom of the barrel. Rows of houses connected and protected from the elements with scraps of tin for roofs and dirt floors. The disparity in wealth makes me think that I am constantly traveling between two very strange and different planets that somehow still share the same language and cultural affinities like food and music.

Then “La Zona Colonial”, the oldest part of the city which is littered with several Swedish tourist at the moment. You see them from far away with their freshly burned faces and bright blond hair. The other parts of the colonial zone are residential areas which are accessorized with electric posts that look like they are about to topple over at any moment.

It seems that everywhere we go people are dancing. Bachatta is being played at street corners at decibels so high it makes the street shake. On heavily trafficked streets you find vendors of wears that range from cell phone adapters to cashew nuts, from ice cream to window washers. If you were to wait long enough any gadget, service or snack that you could imagine would be presented to you in the span of an hour.

Still trying to adjust to the different pockets of inhabited spaces, trying to immerse myself in a language that I’ve mostly forgotten. Trying hard not to feel like a tourist constantly exotifying the other.

Some thoughts about LEWIS FOREVER: Guide to Kinship and Maybe Magic and what I am imagining at the moment.

November 13th, 2010

The overall fictional premise of my individual portrait is that I am going back with the help of fellow collaborators to the place of my birth and performative origins (Santo Domingo, DR) in order to create and present a community performance event.

I moved from the DR to the United States when I was 6 years old and have been living and working in Berlin, Germany for almost 7 years. So why Santo Domingo?

Very often when I introduce myself, or have to fill in a form  I am asked to state where I am from as if this is a defining characteristic of who I am. It is something that I have gotten used to and haven’t spent a lot of energy thinking about.  However through this constant reiteration I am continuously faced with the questions: What does it mean that I was born there and does that have anything to do with my personalty, work or the things that I am interested in at the moment? In addition I am also dealing with other peoples projections of that fact. I think that everyone in some way deals with the idea of cultural identity and community in an increasingly transient and globalized world.

Somehow for reasons that are not yet clear to me I like the fantasy of going to Santo Domingo because it reveals  my own curiosity about a place that has become quite other to me. I have to deal with my own projections of what that place is.  I haven’t been part of a community in Santo Domingo for over 26 years, I know that my desires do not lie in “finding myself” by going back, but rather in exploring how communities are built regardless of reductive categorizations such as “place of birth”.

I want to theatrically deal with these ideas by creating a guide/journey consisting of a performative workshop. A workshop is a place of labor and I believe that communities are often created in this context. Why performance? According to sociologist Erwin Goffmann in his book Frame Analysis, he exhaustively examines the ways that individuals are playing roles in front of other people and how  it is basically impossible to truly “be yourself” within the presence of another human being.  What roles then do we assume within the frame of cultural identity?

LEWIS FOREVER: Guide to Kinship and Maybe Magic begins with a projection of a place of my birth and where my interests in performance began. A  fantasy created in Berlin where I am currently living, working and part of several communities. A site to play with the  idea of cultural identity, community and performance and the complications that it entails.

Inside the workshop I would play the role of guide/host/facilitator and participants would play the roles of tourist/guest/and fellow collaborators within this structure. The workshop is a place of play and exploration, deconstruction and reconstruction.  Collectively we would engage in community type activities within a very stylized environment, a set, a fictional environment that would include projections of different places in Santo Domingo as well as projected depictions of Dominican culture juxtoposed with those in Berlin.

I imagine that the seed material will be  4 scripts that will be staged withing the workshop that were written by LF titled  Puro Teatro. Puro Teatro will be used to highlight the idea of not only performance but also as a foundation to explore the idea of the “original “and or  “authentic” within a theatrical context. Other elements will include a construction of different ways we interpret and think about community and performance.

The second phase, or journey  includes me traveling to Santo Domigo. There the structure of the workshop that was created in Berlin will be re-constructed with new collaborators using  projections within a context that is entirely foreign to me. I have started to contact cultural institutions to see if I can work there and realize some part of this project  in 2011. Until now I haven’t gotten any responses. Might have to literally knock on some doors during my visit between Dec 14-January 8th.

At the moment I see the film as a way of combining these two experiences of community performance. As a way of realizing elements of the fantasy that might not actually be feasible.

Thats where I’m at at the moment would love to here some thoughts and or ideas about this.

Current Project: Guide To Kinship and Maybe Magic


I am a member of LEWIS FOREVER a performance collective of four siblings: three sisters and a brother, a director, two dancers and a musician. LF is a family living partially in New York and in Berlin, half Dominican and half Jewish American, a performance collective and a bloodline.

LEWIS FOREVER’s: Guide to Kinship and Maybe Magic is a multi-tier work which began when LF was awarded the MAP fund through Dance New Amsterdam in NYC in 2010. The project is intended as a new cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary work investigating the role of community, family, collectivity, collaboration and performance in our present-day culture.

All members of LEWIS FOREVER were born in the Dominican Republic, they have been working in NYC and the group was founded in 2006 in Berlin, Germany.  LF is currently devising Guide to Kinship and Maybe Magic with partners in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Berlin, Germany and New York, U.S.A, focusing their research on their performance and cultural roots.

I will be responsible for the project in Santo Domingo which will take the form of a performance workshop. This part of the project began after I had posted some thoughts on the LF website talking about my desire in working in Santo Domingo. Fatefully a woman by the name of  Yohanna Baez from L.A. wrote me an encouraging  letter about the difficulties of trying to do something in the DR (she had been there the year before filming a documentary about the environmental and social impact tourism was having in the country) and a few helpful hints including links to young contemporary artists working in Santo Domingo. Through this email I was able to contact Johan Mijail Castillo Guillen a local artist. We met in December of 2010 and he has been a big asset in informing me of the different institutions and the emerging contemporary art a scene in the city. He has also be an essential part of this collaboration. During that time I also made contact with the Instituto Cultural Domínico Americano (ICDA) which will host this workshop. The ICDA has had a working theater company for over 20 years and is an ideal institution to partner up with as they are also interested in promoting inter cultural exchange.

At the heart of the workshop is site specificity. The site provides a platform for discourse surrounding art production and the role of the “collective” (or collection of bodies) and their function in contemporary society. The workshop is a place of play and exploration, deconstruction and reconstruction.  Collectively we will engage in community type activities within a very stylized environment, a set, a fictional environment that will include projections of different places in Santo Domingo as well as projected depictions of Dominican culture as we explore fictional and nonfictional constructions of place, community and self.

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