Clearcut, Catastrophe!

Clearcut, Catastrophe!

The tragic entrapment of nostalgia and the futility of escapist fantasies of the future play out in declining and decaying parallel universes of the Maysles Brothers’ documentary “Grey Gardens” and Chekhov’s masterpiece “Three Sisters.” Through experimental structure and task-based choreography, the performers attempt to embody multiple stories that unravel as quickly as they are constructed. Caden Manson / Big Art Group establishes their nonconformist objectives and transgressive techniques in this debut work.


“Everything one longs for downtown theater to be. Sharp, irreverent, inventive and utterly preposterous, this scrappy little production by Big Art Group is a crazy idea brought to thoughtful fruition.” –

“A marvel…a bunch of smart, energetic performers letting their ideas loose onstage.” – Back Stage

“It is mighty powerful stuff the Big Art Group serves up in their ‘CLEARCUT, catastrophe!’” – Theatre Reviews Ltd.

“… full house of staunch (that’s s-t-a-u-n-c-h, Masha informs us) supporters.” – Curtain

The Balladeer

The Balladeer


Mixing song, text, puppetry, dance and vivid, cinematic direction, The Balladeer tells a freeform story of new love and its defeat. The piece becomes a backdrop for an exploration of identity, anguish, desire; by turns empathetic and vulgar. In an ‘adolescent’ work that led directly to the technique of Real Time Film, Big Art Group mixes filmic and televisual ideas with theatrical form to create an unnerving, bizarre hybrid.


“… a strong new voice in downtown theatre.” – Time Out New York

“the company continues to deliver on its promise to “aggressively attack the boundaries of theatre” in a most unusual way- with intelligence, talent, humor and a refreshing lack of pretentiousness.” – Next

“A high school dance becomes a backdrop for an intelligent exploration of identity, anguish, desire. Affecting and funny in its vulgar way.” – Village Voice

“…a worthy candidate for cult status, unfolding like a downtown theater version of a midnight movie.” – Matinee Magazine

“Manson is out to challenge propriety in every way he can.” –

“fresh, insightful, and clever” –

Shelf Life

Shelf Life


In Shelf Life a live action movie unfurls on stage, a film in which three desperate characters who inhabit a consumer wasteland become obsessed with an alluring icon. Each tries to possess and mold her in the form of their media-induced desires, even as she uses them as a means to her own consumptive ends. Fueled by jealousy, rage, and betrayal, this “love quadrangle” ignites into a bizarre and tragic struggle over the ownership of happiness.

Shelf Life uses found images, garbage, sampled sounds, and Real Time Film technique: a conceptual model collapsing performance, television, and movies using live action and video. It examines the use of image in entertainment, the experience of the image versus its manufacture, and the split between surface and interior.



Creation History:

Kaiitheatre (Brussels, Belgium)
Hebbel Am Ufer (Berlin, Germany)
Festpielhaus Hellerau (Dresden, Germany)

Pan Pan Theatre Symposium (Dublin, Ireland)
The Walker Arts Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Fresh Terrain/PS122/UT (Austin, TX)
The Wexner Center For The Arts (Columbus, OH)
The Warhol Musium (Pittsburg, PA)
Künstlerhaus Mousonturm (Frankfurt, Germany)
Sommerszene (Salzburg, Austria)

The Krain Theater (NYC)


“New York’s Big Art Group closed the Pan Pan Theatre Symposium with a multimedia event that can be taken as a template for use of the form” – Irish Times

“…clearly cutting edge.” – Lavender Magazine

“extraordinary new production…confirms the troupe’s standing as one of New York’s most innovative companies.” – Next Magazine

“…gloomily hilarious portrait of our disposable society.” – Backstage

” a rarity–a hybrid of film and play.” – Showbusiness Weekly

“hysterically wacky…beguilingly enjoyable…giddy” –

“clever and jarring…inventive” – The Village Voice

“Ultra-clever…exposes the abscess behind the shiny promise of commercialism.” – Critic’s Pick

“Shelf Life is a uniquely vivid cross betweena movie and a play. ” – Talkin Broadway




Ficker uses Big Art Group’s Real Time Film technique of live video projection and split second-choreography to examine the image of violence in this second part of the RTF trilogy. In Flicker,  two “movies” collide into each other and bleed onto a single screen. In one narrative, voyeurism and softcore sadomasochism spin out of control, while the B-story follows a group of city friends who find themselves lost in a wilderness that turns mythic and murderous. As the two films intersect, a dark tale of disjunction emerges, exploring the need to comprehend the irreality of death and the everyday presence of violence. A comedy.


Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson
Direction/Set/Video: Caden Manson
Sound/Music: Jemma Nelson
Text: Jemma Nelson with Caden Manson and Rebecca Sumner Burgos

Produced by Big Art Group and Diane White

Performed by: Amy Miley, Linsey Bostwick, Rebecca Sumner Burgos, David Commander, Cary Curran, Mikeah Ernest Jennings, Willie Mullins, Jeff Randall, Tommy Lonardo, Justin Christopher, and Jon Norman Schneider

Assistant Director: Linsey Bostwick
Lighting Design: Jared Klein
Costume Design: Kim Gill and Nini Hu
Movement Trainer: Amy Miley



Creation History:

In Motion Festival (Barcelona, Spain)
REDCAT (Los Angeles, CA USA)
Teatro Central (Sevilla, Spain)
VEO Festival (Valencia, Spain)
Teatro Canovas (Málaga, Spain)
Teatro Alhambra (Granada, Spain)
Teatro La Fenice (Senigallia, Italy)
Trafó (Budapest, Hungary)
STUK (Leuven, Belgium)

New Territories Festival (Glasgow, Scotland)
Emilia Romagna Teatro (Modena, Italy)
Sommerszene Festival (Salzburg, Austria)

The Via Festival (Maubeuge, France)
Inteatro Polverigi (Polverigi, Italy)
Zürcher Theater Spektakel (Zurich, Switzerland)
La Bâtie-Festival de Genève (Geneva, Switzerland)
De (internatonale) Keuze van de Rotterdamse Schouwburg (Rotterdam, Netherlands)
Le Vie de Festival (Rome, Italy)
SpielArt Festival (Munich, Germany)
Hebbel Theater (Berlin, Germany)
Mettre en Scène (Rennes, France)

Théâtre Garonne (Toulouse, France)
Festival d’Automne (Paris, France)
Théâtre de Lorient (Brittany, France)
Performance Space 122 (NYC, USA)


“The theatre of images for the new century is born: rapid, without concessions, violent and consuming itself at 100 miles an hour.” – Le Télégramme

“No description of “Flicker,” is likely to convey its ragged, witty lunacy.” – New York Times

“intriguingly unique and original… it’s unlike anything else in town.” – New York Post

“Wave of the future” – Time Out

“Thoughtfully designed and sharply executed, director Caden Manson’s production reasserts his claim as downtown’s new best thing.” – City Search

“…a breakneck immediacy that feels very contemporary.” – Village Voice

House of No More (2004-2007)

House Of No More


House of No More is the third and final part of a conceptual trilogy of Real Time Film begun with the works Shelf Life and Flicker. The performance starts with the reenactment of a crime told by a mother who thrusts herself on screen in her quest for her missing child. But simultaneously as this premise unfolds, the performers develop an antithesis– that the story is being faked as it is being created, dispelled at the same moment as it is conjured. As the characters dissolve into this corrupt transmission, becoming ghostly and multiplied across the surface of the “film,” what emerges is not a battle for the ownership of an absolute truth, but a thirst for a satiating lie.

The story of House of No More, as with all the parts of Real Time Film, is not told through the devices of conventional dialogue and narrative, but across an extended field of meaning in which the method of delivery contaminates the message. The image contradicts phrases, sounds obscure dialogue, the audience chooses what to see. The performance escapes across bounds: from creator to receiver, instigator to voyeur, it moves through states of being with an alarming and contemporary facility.


Creation History:

Performance Space 122 (NYC)
Hebbel Theater (Berlin, Germany)
Théâtre Garonne/TNT (Toulouse, France)
Festival d’Automne à Paris (Paris, France)
Le Manege (Maubeuge, France)
Le Vie de Festival (Rome, Italy)
La Rose Des Vents (Villeneuve d’Asq, France)

Wexner Center (Columbus, Ohio)
Art Rock Festival (Saint-Brieuc, France)
Festival de Otoño (Madrid, Spain)
Teatro La Fenice (Sinigalia, Italy)
Semaines Internationales de la Marironnette (Neuchatel, Switzerland)
Theatre de Nimes (Nimes, France)

Temps d’Image at L’Usine C (Montreal, Canada)
Festival Mois Multi (Québec, Canada)
Donau Festival (Krems, Austria)
Scene Festival (Salzburg, Austria)


“Constructed as a breathless and disquieting narrative, Big Art Group’s House of No More is a spectacle as challenging as it is original, as freaked out as it is dazzling, far beyond traditional schemas and classical conceptions.” – Midi Libre

“Big Art Group breathtakingly unfolds this hour-long crash test like an infinitely decelerated car accident – or act of love?!” – Der Tagesspiegel

“gleefully subversive” – Time Out New York

“Big Art Group’s technologically dazzling House of No More is perfectly aligned with the vertiginous tempo of modern life.” – Village Voice

“mind-bending” – Digital City

“on the bleeding edge of video technique.” – New York Sun

“The show is raw and caustic even as it remains sleek and professional. ” – Theatre Mania

“House of No More takes theatre into the 21 century by marrying art house film with classic theatre; it’s a 3D movie you won’t need glasses to view” – Next Magazine


Rockefeller MAP Fund, The DNA Project, a program of Arts International, made possible through the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Greenwall Foundation

Co-producers: Festival d’Automne (France), Theatré Gâronne (France), Maison de la Culture de Créteil (France), Hebbel Am Ufer (Germany), Caserne Mirabeau (France), Teatro di Roma – Vie dei Festival (Italy)

Co-commission:The Wexner Center For The Arts, National Performance Network, Performance Space 122

Dead Set (2007 – Serial Project)

DEAD SET 2 & 3

The serial project of Dead Set exists as a sequence of notes : each part consists as an assemblage of modular concepts, that are rearranged for the duration of the individual spectacle. Dead Set #2 and #3 were organized around the topic of the image of trauma. Dead Set#2 was created first in Berlin at the Hebbel Theatre and for Paris at the Festival d’Automne à Paris. Further iterations of the series will involve non-theatrical performances, straight-to-video releases, and commerce.

Dead Set #2 and #3 contained the following modules. Each module was arranged in sequence for a performance, but no announcement of the module is made for the audience, instead, the performance segues from one section to another.
  • Color Therapy– on 4 video screens arranged in a cross, colors associated with sine wave tones fade in and out. Chromotherapy has been explored as an alternative medical treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Flash Poetry – An edited conversation between a cannibal seeking a victim and a victim seeking a cannibal culled from archived chat rooms were animated on 4 video screens, set to audio pulled from youtube first-person recordings of mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because the recordings were not American military, it seemed they were not censored and provided the first unedited video recordings of war.
  • Repro Trauma Fiction– Ensemble members donned flight suits, sequined hoods reminiscent of the hood worn by the Abu Ghraib torture victim in the iconic photo that made the cover of the Economist, and reenacted snatches of mostly American horror and war genre movies, such as The ShiningJarhead, The Hills Have Eyes, and Apocalypse Now, into microphones that were not plugged in.
  • Gas – a large jet of smoke lit pink is directed to the audience. As it clears, a dancer in a sequined, hooded flight suits attempts to embody edits from violent video sequences.
  • Zombies – the ensembled sheds the flight suits to reveal gimp mask latex swimsuits. They first film each other, then pick a victim and club the victim to death.
  • Showg*rls – using choreography copied from music videos and Blackwater videos, the ensemble dons Las Vegas showgirl headdresses and performs to a serial killer text.
  • Cannibal Crush – the cannibal story reappears as enacted in a Real-Time Film sequence of the cannibal meeting his victim in his house, and then moving into an Eden-like garden and discussing their meeting and negotiating the act they mutually want to accomplish.  Real-Time Film is a hybrid of moving image and theatre in which actors recombined formal ideas of performance through the use of simultaneous presence on stage and for live video using complex task-based choreography, digital puppeteering, and cinematic framing. Text is rearranged from Walt Whitman, and Edward Prime Stevenson’s Imre: A Memorandum. Based on actual events, the cannibal story represents the fulfillment of a desire made possible by contemporary technology (chat rooms). The actual event presented a legal quandary for its government since the act was mutually consensual and there were no laws preventing its consummation.
  • Void – a 10-meter black inflatable fills the stage space to extreme noise. It pushes against everything filling the stage with its nothingness.

Creation History:

Hebbel Theater (Berlin, Germany)
La Comete (Chalons en Champagne, France)
Theatre d’Angouleme (Angouleme, France)
Festival d’Automne à Paris (Paris, France)

The Kitchen (NYC)
deSignel (Antwerp, Belgium)
Künstlerhaus Mousonturm (Frankfurt, Germany)
Donau Festival (Krems, Austria)


“this visually and sonically ravishing production will leave you rattled, amazed and perhaps a little queasy.” – Time Out New York

“punishes its audience with an orgy of spectacle…Live theater itself seems under assault” – New York Times

“A descent into a heavy metal hell.” – Inrockuptibles (Paris, France)

“hypnotic, disturbing, anxiety-inducing,…” – Telerama (Paris, France)


Co-produced by Hebbel Am Ufer, Berlin; Festival d’Automne à Paris; Le Studio/Maison des Arts de Créteil; The Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus; Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, Frankfurt; and The Kitchen; and received funding support from Florence Gould Foundation and étant donnés: The French-American Fund for the Performing Arts.

The Sleep (2007 – Touring)

The Sleep

The Sleep mixes early cinema techniques, toy theatre, magic lantern, rock concert, and Big Art Group’s Real Time Film technique into a live see-through movie adapted from M. P. Shiel’s 1901 story, “The Purple Cloud,” in which a lone explorer races to the North Pole while a poison purple cloud covers the earth. His subsequent return to the remnants of civilization drives him into a crisis of being, in a classic “last man” adventure that eerily presages catastrophic climate change. Music by Theo Kogan, Sean Pierce, and Jemma Nelson.

Direction and Video Installation
: Caden Manson
Sound and Dramaturgy: Jemma Nelson based on the book by The Purple Cloud by MPShiel
Music: Theo Kogan, Sean Pierce, Jemma Nelson
Voice: Theo Kogan
Guitar: Sean Pierce
Objects, Animation, & Performance: Jonathan Farmer, David Commander
Performance: David Commander
Production Manager: Linsey Bostwick
Video System Designer: Jared Mezzocchi


Creation History:

Notte Bianca (Rome Italy)

Wild Project (Workshop Showings in NYC)

Festival Escena Abierta (Burgos, Spain)
Exodos Festival (Ljubljana, Solvenia)
Hebbel Am Ufer (Berlin Germany)

Abrons Art Center (NYC)
Kampnagel Internationales Sommerfestival (Hamburg, Germany)

Funding: Greenwall Foundation

The Imitation (2008)

The Imitation


The Imitation represents Big Art Group’s second foray into the exploration of the Image-Performance, an experimental form that combines visual arts, sampling, and musicianship, merging contemporary visual language with a literary dramaturgy. Combining elements of rock spectacle with the grotesque and avant-garde films of the 1960s, The Imitation tells a cautionary tale about an ambitious artist who comes to the City to advance her career, and meets a financier who becomes possessed by her images. With a set constructed of garbage collected from the streets of New York, The Imitation subverts the relationships between art, commerce, and spectacle.

Creation History:

The Imitation
Hebbel Am Ufer(Berlin Germany)
EXIT Festival (Paris, France)
Muffatahalle (Munich, Germany)

Commissioned by the the Hebbel Am Ufer

The People (2007 – Serial Project)

The People (2007 – Serial Project)


The People, an outdoor spectacle 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 is 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 the extraordinary forces reshaping contemporary government. It 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.

Each individual city specific and site specific creation of The People 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, six 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, The People-Austria at Szene Salzburg in 2010, The People – San Francisco with YBCA/Yerba Buena Center for the Arts at Z Space in 2011, and The People – Portland with the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art in 2012

Production History:

THE PEOPLE – Lower East Side NYC (USA)

THE PEOPLE – Portland (USA)

THE PEOPLE – San Francisco (USA)

THE PEOPLE – (Salzburg, Germany)

Theatre Der Welt (Halle, Germany)

THE PEOPLE – Polverigi
Inteatro Festival (Polverigi, Italy)


Theatre Der Welt (Germany), Inteatro Festival (Italy), Szene Salzburg (Austria), YBCA/Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (USA), Z Space (USA), and Abrons Art Center (USA), Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (USA), Abrons Arts Center (USA)


MAP Fund 2009
New York State Council For the Arts

Residency Support:
Headlands Center For The Arts, MacDowell Colony




An action media performance exploring futureness, survivalism, revolutionary movements and contemporary rituals, the performance examines the notion of sacrifice to make space for a new beginning.

SOS began as an investigation into the nature of sacrifice within a supersaturated, hyper-acquisitive society. Set in a forest of technology the performance unwinds through overlapping abstract narratives. Animals lost in their native habitat turn on each other in a hopeless contest for survival. Revolutionaries broadcasting from a skeletal studio implode under the pressure of their own rhetoric, and technology addicts enmeshed in a self-created universe seek escape from a tightening web of perception. As these environments collide and overturn, the stage transforms into a celebration of chaos verging towards the freedom of annihilation.

SOS continues and advances Big Art Group’s Real-Time Film technique, a conceptual model conflating performance, television and movies. Using live performance and video, Real-Time Film plays cinematic composition and controlled perspective against the verity of TV broadcast and the immediacy of live performance. In SOS, a multi-camera and multi-screen forest of technology located within a landscape of refuse gives the audience a corrupted panoptic view of colliding narratives. Unlike traditional theatrical performance, Big Art Group’s extended mediated performances reposition viewers into active editors, challenging audience members to problem-solve complex issues of sexuality, race, narrative and truth as a theatrical mirror to the process of navigation through contemporary society.

Creation History:

Wiener Festwochen (Vienna, Austria)
Théâtre Garonne (Toulouse, France)

Touring 2009
Temps d’Image Festival (Montreal, Canada)
The Kitchen (NYC, USA)
REDCAT (Los Angeles, USA)
Yerba Buena Arts Center (San Fransisco, USA)
Prospettiva 09 (Turin, Italy)


“Big Art Group, makes a touchstone out of synthesizing media elements. SOS, their 2009 show at the Kitchen, offered a spiraling series of hallucinations of consumer catastrophe—simultaneously humorous and apocalyptic.”
— Village Voice

“The show is outrageous, brilliantly designed, and incredibly smart.”
— L Magazine

“Yes! Here is something with enough smarts, humor, speed, and daring for this moment: Big Art Group’s new hybrid production, SOS.”
— NY Theater

“Big Art Group mixes video and mystical rites for its mesmerizing spectacle SOS.”
— NY Time Out

“The final moment, was the single most visually compelling thing we have seen on stage, maybe ever, and likely worth the price of admission in and of itself. To that end, it also served as a reminder that Big Art Group remains one of the boldest crews around, and their work at the intersection of video and performance persists as uniquely important. “
— Artcat Zine

“It’s like standing in the big-screen-TV section of a Best Buy, but with the volume on every set cranked to “maximum.”
— New York Times

Big Art Group, makes a touchstone out of synthesizing media elements. SOS, their 2009 show at the Kitchen, offered a spiraling series of hallucinations of consumer catastrophe—simultaneously humorous and apocalyptic.


Wiener Festwochen, The Kitchen. Developed with the facilities and support of the Digital Performance Institute and The Abrons Arts Center’s Artist Workspace.