How do artists use their own bodies to articulate pressing issues of environmental injustice and collective vulnerability across places, timescales, and cultures?
Artists Eiko Otake (Japan/USA) and Sarah Cameron Sunde (USA) bridge site-responsive performance, film, photography, and installation to examine experiences of embodied vulnerability in the face of environmental crises, including nuclear disaster and sea-level rise. Throughout their globe-spanning and multi-year projects, each artist has challenged viewers to reconsider their preconceptions of time, understand the intricate interconnectedness of human bodies and natural landscapes, and witness the impacts of social and environmental injustices in varied places and communities. In this virtual conversation, they will reflect on their durational performance projects, including Eiko Otake’s A Body in Places and A Body in Fukushima series and Sarah Cameron Sunde’s 36.5/A Durational Performance with the Sea. The artists discuss how they use their individual bodies to communicate global concerns, the impacts of industry-induced climate crises on the land and its inhabitants, and how they bridge visual and performing arts practices.
Born and raised in Japan and a resident of New York since 1976, Eiko Otake is a movement-based, interdisciplinary artist. She worked for more than 40 years as Eiko & Koma but since 2014 has been performing her own solo project “A Body in Places.” This project evolved from Eiko’s expansive “A Body in Fukushima” collaboration with photographer/historian William Johnston, which they created together over the course of five visits to Fukushima following the “Triple Disaster” and nuclear meltdown of 2011. In 2017, she launched a multi-year Duet Project, an open-ended series of cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural and cross-generational experiments with a diverse range of artists both living and dead. In spring 2016, she was the subject of the 10th annual Danspace Project Platform, titled A Body in Places. This month-long curated program brought her a Bessie Special Citation (2016), an Art Matters fellowship (2015), the Anonymous Was a Woman Award (2016), and the Sam Miller Award for Performing Arts (2020).
In 2020, Eiko was invited by Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts (CFA) to its first Virtual Creative Residency. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Eiko created Virtual Studio, a virtual space to share newly created and newly edited video works, written reflections, the voices of her collaborators, dialogues with artists and writers, and responses from viewers.
Eiko teaches regularly at Wesleyan University, New York University, and Colorado College. During the 2017-2018 academic year, Eiko was a Think Tank Fellow in Wesleyan University’s College of the Environment.
Sarah Cameron Sunde (New York, USA) is an interdisciplinary artist and director working at the intersection of performance, video and public art. She is creator of 36.5 / A Durational Performance with the Sea (2013 – present, spanning six continents) and instigator/co-curator of Works on Water (a new triennial and artist-driven experimental organization dedicated to art that is made on, in and with the water). Sunde served as Deputy Artistic Director of New Georges for 16 years (2001-2017), co-founded and led the live art collective Lydian Junction (2011-2015), co-founded the theater company Oslo Elsewhere (2004-2012), and is known internationally as Jon Fosse’s American director and translator (five U.S. premieres in New York and Pittsburgh). As a visual artist, Sunde’s solo shows include Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery (Aotearoa-New Zealand), Gallatin Galleries (New York City), Georgia Museum of Art (Athens, GA). Her work has also been seen and experienced at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 3LD Art & Technology Center, the Knockdown Center, EFA Project Space, Rattlestick, Kennedy Center, Guthrie Theater and presented internationally in Norway, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, Brazil, Mexico, China, Uganda, Kenya, and Iraqi Kurdistan. Residencies include LMCC Workspace, Watermill Center, Baryshnikov Art Center, and the Hermitage Foundation. Honors/Awards/Funding includes MAP Fund Grant, Princess Grace Award, Creative Climate Award First Prize, Invoking the Pause, LMCC Creative Engagement, LMCC / Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, Norwegian Consulate, Amsterdam Fonds voor de Kunst. She holds a B.A. in Theater from UCLA and an M.F.A. in Digital and Interdisciplinary Art Practice from The City College of New York, CUNY.
Press Your Ear to the Wind is an event series curated by Elinor New (BA '20) and presented by the Gallatin Galleries and WetLab, with support from the NYU Gallatin Dean’s Award for Graduating Seniors. Borrowing its title from Deborah Jack’s artwork “Foremothers,” this series is an invitation to listen to the wisdom held in the land, water, and our own bodies, and to trace the currents of resilience that flow from our inherited pasts into the futures we generate.
To learn more about the series, please visit: https://wp.nyu.edu/gallatingalleries/press-your-ear-to-the-wind/
Photo Credit: Artwork by Deborah Jack, “what is the value of water if it quenches our thirst for…” Graphic Design: Lau Guzmán