Artist-in-Residence with Yiddishkayt's Helix Project, Fieldwork & Travel

by Alexandra Shilling/alexx makes dances

CA

     In Summer 2016, I was selected as an Artist-in-Residence with Yiddishkayt's Helix Project whose mission aligns with my own impulses towards making art and engaging with the world as an embodied person. The Helix Project takes place over the course of two years wherein "...Helix participants engage in in-depth study of cultural history and dynamics... acquiring the skills and resources to examine culture as a crucial bridge that connects personal histories to the present globalized world of displaced people, immigrants, and exiles."

     My artistic practice has centered on the body as the site of memory and history; these days I think, the body is the home. My own ancestral history of displacement, of movement, of exile has been integral to my identity as an artist who dances. These two years of research will culminate in a month-long residency in Eastern Europe this July, engaging with once thriving centers of Yiddish culture. I will also travel to sites specific to my own story of exile and displacement, including Demblin, Czestechowa, Poland and an additional day spent with the archives at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

           Upon returning to Los Angeles, Yiddishkayt and alexx makes dances will collaborate to produce a new body of movement work. alexx makes dances collects historical fragments and experiences during Yiddishkayt’s travel program to former centers of Eastern European Jewish culture. The project reimagines and recontextualizes these fragments for performances and workshops in multiple public spaces in LA neighborhoods. The works are broadcast to global audiences on Yiddishkayt’s website. Yiddishkayt forged this partnership because "alexx makes dances breaks boundaries, challenging the way audiences interact with public spaces and complex histories. She explores the intersection between the immediacy of live dance and the preservation of historical still and moving images, constantly grappling with impermanence and the challenges associated with creating art that draws inspiration from the past while successfully speaking to contemporary audiences."

     Together Yiddishkayt and alexx makes dances will take inspiration from the artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and social justice activists who emerged from the Jewish communities of Europe. Both partners believe that the art, culture, and language of Eastern European Jews—as they lived in Europe and in the places they settled thereafter—have a crucial role to play in the mosaic of cultures that form our communities today.

     The funds I seek to raise will support the final leg of this (actual) journey with Yiddishkayt, covering costs of one month travelling in Belarus and Poland. In addition to Helix's curriculum, I will let my body guide the experience, gathering source material including text, photographs, sound recordings, and movement scores as we travel through former Yiddish cultural centers. These fragments will be reimagined and recontextualized for performance. Your support goes directly to fund this field research. I don't require production costs, simply the means to place my body in these spaces with a group of students, scholars, artists and local guides. 

     I thank you so much for your consideration! Live art survives in the United States through the belief we have in each other and in the value of live art itself.

 "As cultural archaeologists, we are constantly uncovering all-too-often ignored histories of political activism and cultural exchange. In turn, we channel inspiration from our findings into new, creative productions relevant to today’s world." - Helix

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