Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Support Immateriality!

One reason I became interested in Yves Klein is because of his interest in energy, rather than material as a medium for art making.

Klein is well known for selling and displaying space in galleries, which has been “stabilized” by his artistic recognition. As a dancer Klein’s work to “stabilize zones of pictorial sensibility” strikes me as both amusing and familiar.

Dance is an ephemeral art form, and while the visual arts went through an explosive movement rooted in dematerializing artwork in the 1950s, dance has been creating art through energy for hundreds of years. Klein’s sales of “immaterial pictorial stability,” in which he asked for pure gold leaf in exchange for each zone, were elaborate, witnessed rituals in which half of the gold was thrown into a natural body of water and the receipt was burnt, so as to consecrate an exchange that was completely immaterial.

Fundraisers for dance companies are similar events. We ask you to support something that can change lives, but at the same time doesn’t exist in any solid form. Dance is not synonymous with the gross body. Nor can it be defined or caught in recorded movements. To me, dance is a means of communication that exists only in the moment of transference between the performers and the audience.

In order for that communication to be effective however, dance companies need immense material support. Hours of rehearsal, sweat, and practice go into each new work. This labor-intensive physical work is supported in performance by sets, costumes, music, etc all of which require labor, materials, and support.

The Theater of the Void Fundraiser Party will preview the immaterial and material work of ten Seattle-based artists. I hope you will support this collaborative work, unlike Klein we take cash, checks, and credit cards- and we will even let you keep your receipt for tax deduction purposes!

Tickets are available via Brown Paper Tickets:
Theater of the Void Fundraiser Party Tickets

If you can’t make the party, please consider supporting the work via Catherine Cabeen and Company’s click and pledge site:
Support Catherine Cabeen and Company
Catherine Cabeen and Company is an Associated Program of Shunpike.

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


“COLLABORATION. Consider the etymology of the word. To collaborate is to work in common on the same project. The project for which I propose collaboration is Art.”
-Yves Klein at a discussion of Tinguely’s exhibition in Düsseldorf January 1959.

Klein envisioned a way forward in the world of art and ideas, which was free from ownership and signature. He often worked in collaboration with other artists and was driven in those relationships to create objects, experiences, and movements that were greater than what any one artist could create on his own.
This optimistic view of working with others as a way to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts is also the philosophy that underlies CCC’s mission statement.
I am interested in working with artists in a variety of mediums because I am dedicated to learning about the creative process in its many forms. Interdisciplinary work reveals the specificity of my own practice and inspires me to look at the act of choreographing in new ways. It also allows CCC to create work that resonates with many viewers because the work itself is the repository of multiple voices. I am honored to be working with an incredible Seattle based creative team on Into the Void. Click on the collaborators names below to find out more about them.

Michael Cepress
Kane Mathis
Tivon Rice
Susan Robb
Connie Yun

I am also extremely fortunate to be working with Tonya Lockyer and Jay McAleer as Dramaturgs.

The other key collaborator on this project is On the Boards. Without OtB’s incredible support of regional programming, this work would not be possible.

Klein’s patented color, International Klein Blue (IKB) is actually not paint but a resin in which whole grains of pigment are suspended. IKB was Klein’s solution to the problem that the radiance of aquamarine blue was diminished when the pigment was ground into oil. I am captivated by this idea of simultaneous individuality and connection to a whole. It appears physically in IKB Monochromes, and conceptually in Klein’s ideas about collaboration.

Each artist working on Into the Void is creating a whole work within the piece, but the contributions of each artist will eventually radiate together in a singular luminous whole.

In my choreography I work to give my dancers a similar opportunity to be both individual selves, and connected to something much larger than any of us. I am thrilled to be working with these incredible dancers on this production:
Germaul Barnes, Karena Birk, Echo Gustafson, Matt Henley, Sarah Lustbader, Ella Mahler, and Chelsea Williams

If you want to meet these artists and support all of the collaborations involved in the creation of Into the Void, please join us December 12, 7-10pm at Havana Social Club in Seattle, WA for a festive Fundraiser.

If you can't make the party, please donate on-line through our click and pledge site:
Catherine Cabeen and Company is an associated program of Shunpike. All donations are tax deductible.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers; Opening Day at the Walker Art Center

I have the incredible fortune to be able to be in Minneapolis this weekend to attend the opening festivities surrounding the Klein retrospective that was co-curated by the Walker and the Hirshhorn.

The Walker Art Center has been a favorite art pilgrimage site for me for many years. With the Bill T Jones/ Arnie Zane Dance Company I had the pleasure of performing here several times. The intersection of community participation, visual, and performing arts, that the Walker demonstrates, has long inspired me to hold the Walker in high esteem. So, I was particularly excited when, over a year ago, I first found out about the Klein retrospective showing here.

The work is brilliantly presented and I am not disappointed in the difference between how IKB can be reproduced, and the power of seeing it live. The Dimanche, Newspaper of a Single Day, in which Klein’s famous leap was published, has been translated into English, reprinted in bulk, and is given away for free in the gallery, so as to transform Minneapolis into the work of art, that Paris was in November 1960.

The opening day talk was given by Kerry Brougher, Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Hirshhorn, Daniel Moquay, head of the Klein Archives in Paris, and Philippe Vergne, former Walker Curator and current Director of the Dia Art Foundation. The three men were jovial in their discussion and showed a clear love of the subject matter as well as a high regard for one another. Daniel Moquay has been married to Rotraut Klein-Moquay, Klein’s widow and an exceptional artist in her own right, since 1968. She is here with Daniel and after the talk I introduced myself to her, more than a bit star struck. A woman in her early seventies, Rotraut has bright eyes and an easy smile. You can see in the generosity of her expression that she has, and has had a fulfilling life.

After the talk I went back into the galleries. I was in a room that holds several Anthropometries when Daniel came in and I took advantage of the moment to ask him a question that has been nagging me since I started this research early in 2009.

“As a woman artist who is investigating Klein’s work, I am very aware of the feminist critiques of Klein that call him a misogynist for things like wearing a tuxedo while women use their naked bodies to paint all around him.” At this point Rotraut joined us. “But when I look at this work, I just find it beautiful. I see nothing that looks like objectification or misogyny. Have you spoken to any of the models for the Anthropomorphic? Do you know how they felt about their involvement in the work?”

Daniel nodded and Rotraut's face lit up with a huge smile. “That’s me.” She said, pointing to a huge canvas on a near wall, “we had so much fun!”
Daniel said that he actually had requested letters from several of the models for a different catalog because he was so tired of those kinds of critiques when in fact the models unanimously remembered the events as exciting, and rigorous, ritualistic performances. Most of them were dancers who were as excited about having the movements of their bodies recorded as Klein was. “We got to be sensual and free.” Rotraut said, “and it was so fun to see the images your body would make!”
“Klein created anthropometries with male models as well.” Daniel said.
“And he did them with his own body, and all of the Nouveau Realistes [who were mostly men].” Rotraut added.
“There was no hanky-panky going on. These were spiritual experiences for Klein.” Daniel started.
“People who see it as objectionable to women are people who bring that themselves.” Rotraut finished for him, “They brought that. We were enjoying ourselves immensely.”

Rotraut's smile as she spoke, and the gleam of joyous remembrance in her eyes made me trust her completely. I kept my cool, but I’m sure they could both see I was near tears. Here was a first hand source not only answering a key question in my research, but also giving me permission to enjoy myself immensely, and reminding me that we have no control over what audiences and critics bring to our work.

I spent the next half hour with Daniel and Rotraut looking at videos of the Anthropometries being made and hearing stories about the different women and where they are now. We then went and saw Aiko and Koma rehearsing for their installation/performance Naked that will open at the Walker Nov 2, bringing our conversation about nudity in performance/ visual art from the past into the present.

Needless to say, I still feel as though I am struggling to catch my breath from this incredible gift of a day.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Movement Research

One of the inspirations for my current research and pursuit of a creative methodology that links historic visual artists to contemporary performance art, stems from my study of Mondrian, a Dutch Painter and member of the early 20th century De Stijl art movement. Mondrian’s striking geometric grids seem to elude foregrounds and backgrounds and produce a sort of optical flickering in the eyes of the viewer. Many theories exist as to the source of inspiration for Mondrian’s unique perspective and definitive contribution to abstract painting. However, the biographical fact that caught my attention in this debate is that Mondrian was an avid social dancer.
(I followed this fact into a considerable research project in 2009, the results of which were presented at the 2009 Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference in a peer reviewed paper; “The Intimate Space Between Abstraction and Reality: Mondrian’s Neo-Plastic Dance”)

As someone who has been teaching various forms of dance for over a decade, often to non-dancers, I am extremely aware of the dramatic shift of perspective that comes with kinesthetic engage of the body. Whether the mover is new to yoga, Graham technique, or a social dance form, the awareness of one’s breath and heartbeat that comes from physical exertion, inevitably inspires a new awareness of the potential of the body in time and space. If pursued, this recognition of the relationship between matter and energy that underlies all physical movement forms, can enliven one’s perspective on all matter, be it flesh, a landscape, or paint.

As a Black Belt 4th Dan in Judo, Klein is an intriguing subject for this line of inquiry. In his efforts to embody infinite space and energy in his paintings, music, and architectural designs, he refers both directly and indirectly to the potential of levitation that he felt from practicing Judo throws. The substantial quality of empowerment that also comes from physical practices also undoubtedly infused Klein’s character with its relentless curiosity in pursuit of the Void.
Klein’s work was inspired by the idea that color has the power to infuse or impregnate space, and that “Space is spirit in its attenuated form.” (The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception by Max Heindel p247). He saw his calling as an artist to illuminate the perception of the viewer in order to facilitate their awareness of this fact.
Klein was an adept student of the occult, (He stumbled upon the Cosmogonie des Rose-Croix in 1948 and studied the teachings regularly for the next five years.) but his physical movement practices also powerfully affected his sense of the relationship between the matter of the body, the energy that animates it, and the space it moves through.

I began to study Judo this summer. At my first class I was struck immediately at how close the drill position is to a social dance embrace.
Here are some masters to watch. Sorry about the corny music.

Klein also loved jazz music and was an avid Bebop dancer in his youth. (Bebop is an American style of Jazz music, however in the early 50s Parisian Swing dancing was also referred to as Bebop.) When I began to look at Ariel Swing I realized that the body mechanics from embrace to lift were often very similar to the body mechanics of an “Ipon Seoi Nage” Judo throw.
For example, see the lifts towards the middle of this Bebop dance video.

The main difference between the Swing lifts and the Judo throws, it seems to me, is the destination of the partner. Does the thrower want to put them on their back or on their feet? I am exploring the interesting overlap of body position, momentum and leverage between these social and martial forms as a launching pad in order to explore these two physical influences in Klein’s life. Infusing these intentions and qualities with my own contemporary dance vocabulary made for an interesting first month of rehearsals.

“I believe that fire burns in the heart of the void as well as in the heart of man.”
-The Chelsea Hotel Manifesto- Yves Klein 1961

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Into the Void

Into the Void

Thu – Sat | Apr 28 – 30 | 8pm

$20 general | $12 under 25

Inspired by postmodern visual artist Yves Klein, Into the Void mixes visual arts, drag performance and precise choreography performed by 5 dancers to evoke the complex gender politics of Klein’s work.

Featuring collaborators: Michael Cepress (costume design), Kane Mathis (music), Susan Robb (sculpture), Tivon Rice (digital media) and Connie Yun (lighting).

Info & tickets @

"Into the Void" is an interdisciplinary, collaborative performance project inspired by the work of Yves Klein. The creative team includes Catherine Cabeen (dance), Michael Cepress (fashion), Kane Mathis (music), Susan Robb (sculpture), Tivon Rice (digital media), and Connie Yun (lighting). "Into the Void" will premiere April 28-30, 2011 at On the Boards Theater.

Klein's enthusiasm for physicality and energy is evident in the vibrant International Klein Blue pigment that he patented, and his use of women's bodies, fire, and water as paintbrushes. "Into the Void" will explore how the body can convey the contrast between fire and water, between rapid chemical changes and slow deterioration. The new work will also critique a problematic imbalance of gendered power in Klein’s performance work.

In the late 1950s Klein responded to the new consumer ethos in Parisian culture with provocative anti-consumerist work. The United States is currently experiencing massive economic shifts which create a contemporary need to once again rethink the relationship between art and commodity. Collaborators are creating costume pieces and environments that juxtapose ornate materials, with open spaces and transparent fabrics. Mathis and Cabeen will create minimal sonic and kinesthetic landscapes from which vigorous rhythms will emerge. Like much of Klein’s work, Into the Void will reframe “plenty” as a lot of junk, and “nothing” as a wealth of space.

Info & tickets @

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Form and Fluidity

The Seattle Changing Room presents
Catherine Cabeen and Company’s
Form and Fluidity

May 21-23 @ 8pm
1735 Westlake Ave N Suite 100
Seattle, WA 98109

Join us for an evening of new collaborations
exploring the shifting intersections between
words, rhythm, meaning, movement, sound, and color.
Collaborators include;
Catherine Cabeen / Michael Cepress / Leslie Hubbard / Kane Mathis /
Jay McAleer / Julian Martlew / Mad Pants Productions
with performances by Sarah Lustbader, Ella Mahler and Markeith Wiley

$15 tickets available at:
or at the Seattle Changing Room

Catherine Cabeen and Company is an Associated Program of Shunpike.