Video Portrait of THE PEOPLE – San Francisco

YBCA’s Kai Hsing created a video portrait of our Spring residency at YBCA, Z Space, and The Headlands Center For The Arts building THE PEOPLE – San Francisco.  Premiering September 16 & 17, 2011 at Z Space as Part of YBCA’s Bay Area Now Festival.

The People – San Francisco September 16 & 17 2011

Big Art Group is currently editing and preparing video interviews we created with Bay Area participants during our residency at Headlands Center For The Arts this past Spring. These videos will be incorporated into the live video action performance of The People in and on the facade of Z Space in San Francisco co presented by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts September 16 & 17 2011.

Images from Italy 2007 and Germany 2008

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YBCA and Z Space welcome New York-based performance troupe Big Art Group back to the Bay Area with their new work, The People: San Francisco, a site specific, outdoor extravaganza that combines live theater with large scale, real time video projection. The narrative, constructed from interviews with members of the local community who voice their thoughts about democracy, war, terrorism and justice as it relates to their personal histories, loosely recreates the story of Aeschylus’ Oresteia. Live theatrical reenactments are intercut with earlier, taped interviews, projected via large scale video onto the side of a building where the live play and video are viewed by the audience at street level. Perceived as a kind of “living television,” The People repurposes commonly used media strategies such as video clips, interviews and re-enactments, to explore extraordinary forces reshaping contemporary government. It then sculpts these developments into a performative action that takes as its inspiration the foundational idea of community dialogue and the birth of democracy as theatrically embodied in the Oresteia. By inverting the established relationship between “mass-media” and private exchange, it transforms the “town square” into a public performance in which both performers and audience act out crucial roles in the construction of self-government.

The People: San Francisco is part of a larger cross-cultural work in which the video choruses from each location will be combined to create a window into the cultural understanding and variation of democratic public expression. To date, three productions in the series have been presented: The People—Italy, which took place in Polverigi, Italy with the participation and support of Inteatro Polverigi in 2007, The People—Germany, at Theatre der Welt 2008 in Halle, Germany, and The People—Austria at Szene Salzburg in 2010.  (from YBCA website)

In The People, the subjects are simultaneously audience, creators of their own scripts and actors in their own stories. The performance itself is site specific; it takes place in a public plaza using storefronts, houses, or office buildings. The space becomes the arena where the private meets the public, where the established order is inverted.

The creation of a production of The People takes place in three stages. First, approximately thirty local residents are chosen to be interviewed for the project. They are filmed being questioned by other residents on their thoughts and opinions about the chosen site, the town and their community. Drawing from this extended discussion, which also incorporates such themes from the Oresteia as personal history, democracy, war, terrorism and justice, their answers provide the basis of the production.

For the performance, the audience stands outside a chosen building. Within the building an unseen interviewer asks scripted questions to the participants inside as the audience watches a live, simulcast five channel video projection of the action on the façade of the building. What begins as a simulation of a spontaneous interview spills out into the street as a contemporary epic narrative, as the participants embody the characters of the Oresteia, revealing metaphors that turn ordinary, quotidian acts into theatrical expression. Spliced and edited onto the exterior of the buildings with the live theatrical play are the previously recorded interviews that act as video choruses.

The People is at once a component of a large-scale cross-cultural performance project and an original creation in its own right, exploring the relationship between performance, community and action. It takes place with the involvement of the local community in which the participants of the play are members of the public, creating a link between their personal stories and the realm of the epic, to shine a light on the relationship between the individual and the democratic process. It draws from classical traditions and Greek Tragedy as well as contemporary modes of mediated expression.

Created: Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson
Director and Scenographer: Caden Manson
Text and Sound: Jemma Nelson
Produced by Big Art Group
Lighting Design: Hillery Makatura
System Programer: Jared Mezzocchi
Production Manager: Ana Mari de Quesada
Company Performers: David Commander, Heather Litteer, Willie Mullins
Co-producers: Theatre Der Welt (Germany), Inteatro Festival (Italy), Szene Salzburg (Austria), Abrons Art Center (NYC)
Funders: MAP Fund 2009, New York State Council for the Arts

Big Art Group at PS122’s OLD SCHOOL 122 BENEFIT June 25, 2011

We are happy to announce our participation in PS122’s OLD SCHOOL 122 BENEFIT on Saturday June 25 (NYC). PS122 was the first presenting organization to co-produce one our our pieces. Flicker and House of No More were both co-produced and premiered at PS122.

The line up for that night is Big Art Group, New York City Players, The Wooster Group, Elevator Repair Service, John Zorn, Amanda Palmer, David Leslie, Split Britches, Big Dance Theatre, Carmelita Tropicana with music by Bob Wonder and The Future Ex-Wives.

We’ll present a short excerpt from SOSREMIX and the Balloon Action. Come out and support 30 years of ground breaking work at PS122 and send the organization off with a bang as they leave their building for renovations.

Mirror Jacket Test at Headlands Residency

Here is a video of Laura Arrington testing the mirrored jacked in the sunlight streaming through the window of her Headlands Residency studio. Thank you Laura for letting us move in for awhile.

Open Rehearsal/Cocktail Reception Of The New Group Work, RAMPART

Please join us for an open rehearsal of our new group work, RAMPART. We will talk about the creation of this new work and show 25 minutes of open rehearsal followed by a cocktail reception.

January 8, 2011 at 8pm
195 East 3rd Street (between Ave A and B)
New York, NY 10009

$25 – Benefit Tickets can be purchased two ways:
Make a donation to our fundraising drive on Facebook of $25 or more.
Buy directly on Big Art Group’s website

RAMPART is an action media performance exploring the concepts of the aftermath, the post-traumatic, and the anti-hero. RAMPART takes place as a stand-in for present-day America, an America that exists somewhere between the myth of its past with the catastrophe of its future, struggling to coexist with its own image after the wreck of the millennium. Live video is used within the theatrical context to blur boundaries between characters and contexts, while the narrative structure mirrors the installation design with fragmentary scenes and an exploration of the disturbance of perception.

RAMPART moves beyond the film-theatre hybrid of the group’s earlier works and is a theatre of mediated information in which action, re-enactment and special effect create a new participatory spectacle with the “active-editor” audience.

For Big Art Group, the theatrical event is based not on illusion, but on a synthesis of simulation and impersonation, on the ritualized action of recreating significant moments. In this reality there’s a simulacra of characters being constructed in the forms and patterns of historical tropes, re-enactments or inhabitations of archetypal roles and milieus. The media system consumes and reinforces these archetypes, mutates them, cannibalizes them and reinvents them for continuous re-consumption, however we do not distinguish between ourselves and the media system: we are the mutual generators.

Big Art Group in TDR: The Drama Review Winter 2010 Issue

“Image Eaters”, a 36 page article by Jacob Gallagher-Ross about the work of Big Art Group, has been published in this quarters edition of TDR: The Drama Review.


Theatre artists keen to investigate the theatrical possibilities of technological image-making must inevitably contend with the wearisome grumbling issuing from critics who see the invasion of screens, electronic sounds, and pop culture materials as heralding theatre’s surrender to predatory corporate interests and banal mass culture — relinquishing its supposedly sacral mission to present breathing bodies to a temporary community of other such bodies. But far from signaling the end of theatre’s vitality, Big Art Group’s innovations are renovating the art form for our media-baffled moment. Their theatrical methods are descended from Brecht: opening the apparatus of modern image-manufacturing to dissecting scrutiny, they take the discrepancies between live bodies onstage and their onscreen doppelgangers as a figure for media culture’s many forms of transubstantiation. Not content with staging simple binaries — live or recorded, image or material presence — Big Art Group graphs a spectrum: bodies that crave the hi-def perfection of the video image; images that long to be ratified by eliciting sensuous responses in the viewer. – Jacob Gallagher-Ross (TDR/The Drama Review Winter 2010, Vol. 54, No. 4 (T208): 54–80.)

TDR: The Drama Review is a quarterly journal focusing on performances in their social, economic, aesthetic, and political contexts. The journal covers dance, theatre, music, performance art, visual art, popular entertainment, media, sports, rituals, and performance in politics and everyday life. TDR is owned by New York University and is published in hard copy and online by the MIT Press.

SOS published in Yale Theater Journal

Big Art Group’s 11th group work, SOS, is on the cover and inside this month’s Yale Theater Journal with an introductory article on the production by Jacob Gallagher-Ross.

IMG_4298“Presented at New York’s the Kitchen in March 2009, as the aftermath of the credit cataclysm continued to convulse the nation, Big Art Group’s SOS stages the theatrical equivalent of the financial crisis, a conflagration of the society of spectacles. The housing bubble, the company suggests, was a symptom of a more dangerous, and ongoing, process of inflation. SOS depicts an unmoored culture in which signs can only be exchanged for other signs, every radical gesture is already a marketing strategy, and “realness” is a value that arrives prepackaged for sale. Big Art Group suggests that, in addition to its gapped balance sheets, today’s America also has a reality deficit, an addiction to ever-increasing levels of abstraction. SOS revs America’s culture of headlong consumption to fever pitch, suggesting that renewal is possible only through destruction”
Jacob Gallagher-Ross, Theater Journal

For more than thirty years Theater has been the most informative, serious, and imaginative American journal available to readers interested in contemporary theater. It has been the first publisher of pathbreaking plays from writers as diverse as Rinde Eckert, Richard Foreman, David Greenspan, W. David Hancock, Peter Handke, Sarah Kane, and Adrienne Kennedy. Theater has also featured lively polemics and essays by dramatists including Dario Fo, Heiner Müller, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Mac Wellman. Special issues have covered theater and ecology, new music-theater, South African theater, theater and social change, new Polish directing, and theater and the apocalypse.


Tom Sellar, Yale University

Associate Editors:
Miriam Felton-Dansky
Jacob Gallagher-Ross
You can purchase your copy in NYC from St. Marks Book Shop or online at

Big Art Group discussed in Chris Salter’s new book ENTANGLED: Technology And The Transformation Of Performance

ENTANGLED: Technology And The Transformation Of Performance explores technology’s influence on artistic performance practices in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In Entangled, Chris Salter shows that technologies, from the mechanical to the computational—from a “ballet of objects and lights” staged by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1917 to contemporary technologically enabled “responsive environments”—have been entangled with performance across a wide range of disciplines. Salter examines the rich and extensive history of performance experimentation in theater, music, dance, the visual and media arts, architecture, and other fields; explores the political, social, and economic context for the adoption of technological practices in art; and shows that these practices have a set of common histories despite their disciplinary borders.


Think Big in The New Yorker

The inimitable Hilton Als writes up Big Art Group in The New Yorker

Big Art Group is the brass-band name of the experimental theatre party founded by Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson in 1999….The group’s new piece “Flesh Tone” (at Abrons Arts Center, April 15-18) will no doubt further italicize their credo: theatre not only shows our inner selves at work; it makes us better for having experienced it. Out loud. 

Read more–>


THE SLEEP (NYC Premiere)
Experimental Theater @ Abrons
April 15-18, 2010 @ 7:00pm
Buy Tickets

FLESH TONE (Preview)
Playhouse @Abrons
April 15-18, 2010 @ 8:30pm
Buy Tickets

10 Years of Big Art Video

With our upcoming 10th anniversary weekend TAKE OVER at Abrons Art Center (NYC) happening in less than a week, Big Art has releases a short video montage of our works with commentary by Under The Radar Festival’s Mark Russell and The Kitchen’s Matthew Lyons.

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THE SLEEP (NYC Premiere)

Experimental Theater @ Abrons
April 15-18, 2010 @ 7:00pm
Buy Tickets $15

FLESH TONE (Preview)
Playhouse @Abrons
April 15-18, 2010 @ 8:30pm
Buy Tickets $15

4 Channel Video Installation
Underground @ Abrons
April 15-18, 2010 All Day