a coming together
a coming together: a performance for our time
By Hawona Sullivan Janzen and Kathy McTavish
With the spread of COVID-19 virus in early March it became apparent that many aspects of our lives would be quickly changing. For those of us who work in the arts, this was felt immediately, as events that necessitated the physical gathering of people to witness artworks were rapidly cancelled.
At Northern Lights.mn, this meant making a decision about our 2nd annual spring fundraiser, Spring Howl scheduled for March 26. Aside from being an important event in terms of income, the gathering was also meant to mark a major organizational milestone of leadership change.
Inspiration strikes in funny ways, you might say, and rather than completely cancel or try to reschedule the event in uncertain times, Spring Howl installation artist Kathy McTavish suggested a different idea: creating a wholly new work for this new context. Both McTavish and commissioned Spring Howl poet Hawona Sullivan Janzen responded they were moved to adapt to the changing world created by the virus and work together to create something to honor and celebrate Northern Lights.mn and the community; to be together, even in a virtual way.
Since early March, they have been working on a collaboration that bridges their individual practices in poetry, performance, coding, digital art, voice and sound.
a coming together: a performance for our time is a call for us to understand who we are in changing times.
The web-based work mixes a continuous animation with lines of text. A generative loom of sound by McTavish weaves a poem spoken and whispered by Sullivan Janzen with other found sonic fragments. Together, these form an eternal “reading” that runs 638 hours (from 10 am on April 4th through 11:59 pm on April 30th) and is never the same twice. An additional Vimeo film layers screen recordings with a reading of the complete poem.
This is a story of connection and innovation that would not have happened without the challenging presence of a global pandemic. These two artists, who live in different cities and have never met in person, are doing what we’re all learning how to do right now: create something collaboratively while not physically together.
We invite you to listen and watch with full attention; an act perhaps as uncommon as our times.
ARTISTS AT SPRING HOWL
Kathy McTavish is a media composer and installation artist. She has a long history with Northern Lights.mn. She presented two projects at Northern Spark 2015: Map It and Requiem for Solo Instrument Distance. In 2017, she presented A Hole in the Sky with Zeitgeist. Most recently McTavish was an Art(ist) on the Verge 10 Fellow.
Hawona Sullivan Janzen is a St. Paul-based poet and performance artist. Hawona’s experience with Northern Lights began started at Northern Spark 2019 with a re-presentation of Rondo Family Reunion. She is also a member of the 2019 – 2020 Program Council. Hawona is commissioned to write and perform a poem for Spring Howl.
In response to the cancelation of Spring Howl as a public event, Hawona and Kathy collaborated for the first time to create a new poetic, visual, sonic artwork to be experienced in the digital realm.
Many thanks to Fulton for their support of Northern Spark.
Thanks also to Hennepin & Co for their ongoing support of Northern Lights.mn