Inspired by the evocative paintings by Julie Heffernan, Sanctuary by Vessel imagines a post-apocalyptic world decimated by environmental catastrophe. Four figures wander the Mesa Art Center as if they have been traversing this landscape for thousands of years. They are dressed in fragments of recycled objects—burlap, plastic, sticks, tumbleweeds, twine, and other natural materials. Their skin is a pale, dusty white, as in Butoh. Their movement is also inspired by Butoh—a performance form that emerged after the destruction of Hiroshima—one of deep focus and internal conflict. Working with three female dancers and one male dancer, we will bring these characters to life evoking a three-dimensional haunting world. I am inspired in particular by a quote from Julie Heffernan’s artist statement:
"My recent work is focused on making sense of the world around me after calamities such as Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. We are slowly making our world unlivable, and I want to bring to the surface the destructive action, waste, and contamination that is generally invisible to us. I need to imagine another way, to outfit myself with signs and banners that speak louder than I can, to envision how we might remake the world as it is slowly falling apart."
As in Julie Heffernan’s paintings, I feel that through performance, we can viscerally tap into these unimaginable landscapes to allow us to reflect on the current moment in a poetic, somatic way.
Sanctuary by Julie Heffernan
Sanctuary sketches by Rachel Bowditch.
Commissioned by Mesa Art Center
Season Kick-Off, September 2017