Singletrack: Erica Mott

Erica Mott
Rehearsal footage from the interdisciplinary "3 Singers Opera"

The interdisciplinary performance "3 Singers Opera" explores the female body’s relationship with machinery, particularly with the labor, production and policies of the textile industry. I came up with the idea for the piece while conducting research on the historic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 where 146 young seamstresses died. Many were locked in the factory. While I was researching these historical events, the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza knitwear factory in Bangladesh occurred, killing 1,129 workers. The collapse was attributed to owner negligence, the pressures of high market demand for cheap commodies, and substandard safety regulations. I was struck by this migratory oppression and the many repetitive cycles we see unfold in history. What must shift from within society to impact the course of such patterns, and how is the female voice a vital part of that? I contacted my long time music composer/collaborator, Ryan Ingebritsen, and began forming ideas. The "3 Singers Opera" was born.

In three movements, a series of intersections are drawn between labor practices in pre-Civil War agricultural production, the Industrial Revolution, and the contemporary "sweat shop." The choreography of "3 Singers Opera" is a collage inspired by culturally identifiable folk dances, the organic movement of traditional (i.e., non-mechanized) labor and industrial labor actions in relationship to machinery. "3 Singers" refers to the three vocal performers as well as their three sewing machines. Through a design residency at Northwestern University's school of engineering, Ryan worked with a crew of students, modifying each sewing machine with Arduino technology—a physical computing technology used to develop interactive objects—to interrupt the performers’ voices, as well as control sampled sound and video in an immersive audio/visual installation. The rhythms and pulses of the needles of the sewing machines create restraints on the freedom of the performers, essentially making their full expression an extension of the machine to which they are attached. 

For the past five years, Ryan and I have actively worked to develop strategies of interdependency between our media of sound, movement and objects. For "3 Singers," Xbox Kinnect cameras and LEAP motion sensors are employed to translate the performer’s movement into sound and image, furthering the interdependence of choreography and music. 

As the interdisciplinary performance develops, we are hoping to include a single silent, fourth performer who will occupy the center of the performance installation. She will keep time with her needle while steadily sewing screens made of interfacing, the reinforcing fabric used to make garments keep their shape. This will envelop both audience and performer, eventually acting as projection surfaces. I am now beginning to design an enclosing structure that will situate the audience within the performance. This intimate space will encourage empathy with the performers through the immersive transformation of movement, sound and image into a high stimulating cacophony of visual information, sound and light, all of which is finished with a moment of total darkness and silence.

Ryan Ingebritsen is a composer, sound designer and live electronic musician whose music focuses on the multi-dimensional aspects of sound incorporating space, time, and site specific acoustics as structural musical elements while using familiar materials to permeate and reveal these mystical structures. He has collaborated with and been commissioned by artists such as Todd Reynolds (bang on a can), International Contemporary Ensemble, Third Coast Percussion, Beta Collide, Firewire, Till by Turring, Gold Sparkle and Stars Like Fleas. As a sound designer and engineer, he works with Grammy award winning ensemble eighth blackbird, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and premiered works by Steve Reich (Pulitzer Prize willing Double Sextet), David Lang, Julia Wolf, Michael Gordon, Steve Mackey and Rinde Eckert (Slide). Ryan recently designed sound for the Tune In Festival and the Park Avenue Armory including the New York premier of John Luther Adams’ Iniksuit for which he created a multi channel soundscape from street noise outside the armory itself.  He created surround sound mixes of all three of Steve Riech’s seminal tape works for presentation on the state of the art Jay Pritzker Pavilion sound system as well as mixing three live works (Double Sextet, Mallet Quartet, and Music for 18 Musicians) for the 2011 Reich 75th birthday celebration in Millennium Park.

Erica Mott is a choreographer, sculptural object designer and cultural organizer who utilizes body-based sculptural forms and transforms discarded materials and disregarded spaces. Using the tools of humor and surprise, she captures and heightens the magic and mystery of the mundane. She invites communities to re-view and re-envision shared spaces and practices. Erica has lectured at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Amnesty International, The Memphis Theological Seminary, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, and the Universities of Witwatersrand and Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa. Erica is a recipient of several awards including Amnesty International’s Patrick Stewart Human Rights Fellowship (to teach arts in community in South Africa), The Santa Fe Art Institute Residency, Ragdale Foundation Residency, NES Artist, the Chicago Dancemakers Forum Fellowship, the City of Chicago CAAP program and the Neighborhood Arts Program (NAP). She is a core troupe member of the seminal performance art troupe, La Pocha Nostra.

On this track:
John Boesche, video design
Fides Krucker, opera singer, vocal coach
Ginger Farley, dramaturge
Jenna Lyle, vocals
Maggie Mascal, vocals
Lara Oppenheimer, vocals

"3 Singers Opera" will premiere at the Cleveland Public Theater as part of Ingenuity Fest in October 2014, at CRICOTEKA in Krakow, Poland in November 2014, and in Chicago along with an exhibition featuring the dramaturgical research for the project through a special partnership with the National Museum of Health and Medicine in January 2015.  

"Singletrack" is CAR's Artist Story for Chicago performers in which songwriters, bands, playwrights, actors, choreographers and writers discuss the creation of a recorded work alongside audio or video clips of the performance. To submit your song for consideration, please email our researchers.

Submitted by CAR_Dance on Thu, 01/16/2014 - 9:11am