ArtCraftTech 2009 Bios

Most of these biographies are culled from introductory emails the group sent to each other as introductions at the beginning of our planning process. This is what we knew about each other at the beginning…

Abraham Burickson:
I am originally from New York City (although I went to high school in Jersey, for what it's worth). I am primarily a writer, working currently on a memoir and a book of poems. I recently finished an MFA in Texas in Poetry and Playwriting. I currently live in San Francisco. Back before the recession started I worked as an architect. I was trained in this in undergrad. I liked it a good deal. Then I got laid off and now I teach writing at a couple of colleges. This is interesting, and, more importantly, it is fairly flexible.
I am extremely interested in collaborative creativity. In 2001 I founded a performance group called Odyssey Works. Check it out here: (watch the intro video to get an, er...introduction to the ideas we work with). The group is a collaborative that brings together artists in different disciplines to generate large-scale performances. These performances are usually for a very small audience, most of the time just one person. The trick with this work is that we generate our material not out of our own subjectivity but out of the information that we gather from our audience member(s). This summer I started the Odyssey Lab Summer Institute, a series of collaborative 2-week intensives wherein artists developed experiments around a question about performance and then took those findings and applied them to a 24-hr performance at the end of the residency. It was fascinating, and a lot of work. One of our artists was one Clarinda Mac Low. I'd love to talk to you more about it if you want. Over the past year I've become very interested in audio, and the Janet Cardiff school of audio tours. I've developed a few pieces and am interested in working further with this. I'm also a trained carpenter, and can swing a tool in most of the building trades.

When I was in middle school I learned to speak (phonetically) backwards. It was a cute trick but then I found that I was forgetting how to speak forwards. It took about a year to cleanse my brain of the deleterious habit. Please don't ask me to speak backwards.

Susan Englert:
Susan is a Pittsburgh-based visual artist, architect, and producer of cultural events.  She explores materials, assemblaged realities, hope, and the enchantments of commonplace things through installations, drawings, 3D constructions and whatever else she can get her hands on. Susan recently launched a product line of artisan cards, flipbooks, and jewelry, and has lately been whipping up festivals and art events with a civic purpose.   She has been recognized with production grants and artist residencies in Pittsburgh, Washington State, and at the prestigious Jentel Colony in Wyoming.

Carolyn Hall:
I am originally from Los Angeles and made my way to NYC 13 years ago via Ohio. I came to New York City as a modern/contemporary dancer and am still one though I have split my personality and returned to graduate school for a Masters degree in Marine Science at Stony Brook University. My research is in the field of historical ecology - that is studying the not-recent past impact of humans on the environment to try to better manage and plan for conservation, restoration and sustainability efforts. I am looking at dam construction on the waterways of Maine and what effect they had on access to spawning sites of river herring--a fish like salmon that requires a return to fresh water to reproduce. I added performing back a year ago and can't believe I didn't do it for a year and a half! I also worked as a physical therapy assistant and as a massage therapis, worked in the administration of various arts organizations, live in Brooklyn with my actor husband and am fascinated by and love participating in site specific work.

Clarinda Mac Low
Used to link to this but maybe Clarinda wants to update it? <-- Note

Patrick Murray:
Aged 30 yrs, resident of New York, originally from Chicago. I attending Tufts University in Boston, and graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, then went on to start a business making and selling 'uilleann pipes' (Irish bagpipes). I have also worked fairly extensively with video - making props/costumes, shooting, directing, and editing. Top skills include moldmaking/casting, using liquid plastics/rubbers, wood and metal craft, including turning/milling, video, including DV/HD production, lighting, and editing (Final Cut, Motion, Flash), basic web design (dreamweaver. Flash, Photoshop), and basic audio production I've also spent a good deal of time living life as a professional musician, playing Irish traditional music for various bands and touring companies, and I like writing stories, and making puppets.

Mark Sussman:
I'm a lifelong New Yorker, currently residing in Montreal, Quebec. I work in theatre, both as a practitioner with my company, GREAT SMALL WORKS, based in DUMBO, Brooklyn, and as an academic, at Concordia University in Montreal, where I teach in a Theatre Department. I teach Theatre History, Puppetry, Performance Ethnography, & Queer Theatre. That's right now - but at this point I feel that I can teach just about anything.

Great Small Works - and much of my work for the last twenty years or so - places its focus on developing original performance works built around and for specific communities, often using ancient and traditional theater techniques and technologies, adapted to address contemporary concerns. To be specific, we often get commissioned to create large-scale community events, like parades, circuses, processions, pageants, and puppet shows. Some puppet shows we build are large-scale - those familiar with the Bread & Puppet Theater of Vermont will have a useful point of comparison. (In fact, the 6 of us in the company all have in common work with Bread & Puppet over the years, though we are a decidedly urban group, where B&P base their work in the country.) Because of our urban nature, we also have established a long track record of creating miniature puppet shows, theaters that fit on a tabletop and pack easily in the back of a hatchback car and can be stored in apartments. We are fans of handmade theater, do-it-yourself theater, often using non-trained performers doing simple tasks, sometimes in great numbers. We like to perform theater where the implicit message is "you can do this, too, if you have some stuff lying around."

Myself - and sometimes apart from the company - I have an interest in incorporating so-called new technologies, though I am decidedly a skeptic about the "new" part of that phrase. I think of theater as an old technology, and this may be why I'm drawn to theater of "performing objects" - masks, dolls, and other inanimate material that gets animated in real time by live performers. The dynamic between human performers and inanimate (though expressive and magically powerful) objects interests me a lot. I've done a bit of writing on this subject, but there's lots more to do. (The university where I work is very strong in Art+Technology research, so there's a lot going on around, including and especially in the lab of my colleague Sha Xin Wei, who directs the Topological Media Lab here.)

Another aspect of our company's work is presenting the work of others in festivals and cabaret events. The cabaret that we inherited when we founded the company in 1995 is called the "Spaghetti Dinner," which started in 1978 on East 9th Street in a storefront in the East Village of Manhattan, and which has since migrated to Judson Memorial Church and other venues. Here, we perform our own new shows, and curate the work of others, often in themed evenings where multiple shows, mostly short, and musical and dance and films works, may overlap and address similar issues. We have also produced 8 International Toy Theater Festivals - more on those later, if need be - and the 9th one will take place next summer, May 30-June 13th, at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn.

One final word on a subject that seems to be a recurring theme of the group - architecture. Though I have no training in the practice, I did quite a bit of my graduate training at NYU in urban ethnography & performance studies, i.e. in looking at how communities invent themselves and persist in built environments. I had the opportunity to teach - as a performance scholar - in the Architecture program at Parsons School of Design for 5 years, and there picked up a bit of the vocabulary and concerns around sustainability and design. I throw this out there just to indicate I'm interested in the life of cities, and how performance can animate and "re-enchant" urban public space.