Where better to start an exploration of improvisation in New Orleans than with food? Three culinarians — Alice Waters, Davia Nelson, and Ben Burkett — explore the role of improvisation in their work and lives. A special presentation with Chef, author, activist, and founder/owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California ALICE WATERS, BEN BURKETT, farmer/activist and president of the National Family Farm Coalition and oral historian DAVIA NELSON of NPR’s Kitchen Sisters and Producer of the James Beard Award-winning series, Hidden Kitchens. Moderated by RICHARD MCCARTHY, Executive Director of Slow Food USA.
Randy Fertel (author of A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation) and Rob Wallace (author of Improvisation and the Making of American Literary Modernism) essay to frame the weekend’s conversation, exploring the role of improvisation in the history of culture, especially in the 20th century. Why did improvisation become such a cultural force in modern life? What was New Orleans’ role in improv’s coming to the forefront of culture?
Violinist Stephen Nachmanovitch, with instrument in hand, will explore the theme of how, with our artistic tools, we learn to think as nature thinks. From Thomas Aquinas to John Cage, people have said that art should imitate nature in her manner of operation. Not imitate nature in appearance, but in the ways nature functions, the organic process by which patterns accumulate, interconnect and grow in relationship. What is it to behave in a natural, spontaneous way? What is it to live and create in the context of a world of nature and culture that is interdependent and co-evolving? What are the ethical and social dimensions of our seemingly personal improvisations?
THINKING AS NATURE THINKS
Actor, writer and director Chris Kaminstein of Goat in the Road Productions demystifies improvisational process in theater, working with performance partner Mary Guiteras, pointing to the structures that allow the magic to happen.
EXPERIMENTAL THEATER: LONG-FORM IMPROV
Zarouhie Abdalian, Courtney Bryan, and Jenna Sherry - three New Orleanian artists of the same generation working in Jazz, Classical, and Visual Art/Sound Collaboration – explore the intersections of improvisation across their work and lives. Moderated by Gianna Chachere
DIALOGUE & DEMONSTRATION: A MULTI-DISCIPLINARY EXPLORATION
Internationally-acclaimed conceptual visual artist Mel Chin in dialogue with Theo Eliezer of Momma Tried explore improvisation’s invitation to the audience to “finish” the work of art, and how “augmented reality” has taken the audience’s role to a new level. Moderated by Ham Fish.
VISUAL ARTS/AUGMENTED REALITY
Politico’s cartoonist Matt Wuerker, Music Inside Out’s Gwen Thompkins, and Slow Food USA’s Richard McCarthy will explore improv’s suddenly-quite-evident and impossible-to-ignore, dark side. Moderated by Rob Walker.