IN-DEPTH// Mark Jeffery and the IN>TIME Festival

Mark Jeffery, from “A Last, A Quartet” with Lucy Cash. Image courtesy John W Sisson Jr. and the artist.

By Michael Workman

How/why did you get involved with the festival initially?
From 1996–2009 I was member of the performance group Goat Island. I’m originally from the UK and moved to Chicago to be part of the group. We toured and had numerous residencies in North America and Europe. We would often be in performance festivals like IN>TIME and have an opportunity to see other artists work. This was very influential on me as a maker and artist and also as a teacher at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2005, as a company we decided that The Lastmaker would be our last performance together, that once we had completed the work and toured we would end and stop working together. The first edition of IN>TIME came in 2008 at the Chicago Cultural Center for one night taking place over 3 hours. As Goat Island ended, I had this utter panic that I would not travel and have opportunity to see work as I’d done, and I was also coming to a time in the classroom where I wanted students to see live performance and to help students, like myself as a young artist, who was given opportunity to grow and develop with residencies, and also showing work with others locally, nationally and internationally. IN>TIME came about as a grassroots, total passion of performance and wanting to place Chicago as a destination for performance and to also support and nurture local artists and to provide them with a network to develop and sustain in a supportive and creative environment. 2016 will be the 4th edition, and the second time performance maps itself ambitiously across the entire city.

Forced Entertainment. Image courtesy the artists and the IN>TIME Festival.

It seems as though the festival is kind of an aggregation of different venues. As the organizer, that must present some challenges in terms of the work’s aesthetic consistency. How do you think about that, as the organizer?
Growing up as the son of a herdsman I always think about the work that I do as a series of fields. At the family home, there are a series of photos of an overhead view of the small holding I was born in, and the changes that took place as the photographer in the helicopter. Below was a patchwork of fields, some ploughed, some grass, some barley, some with cows, some laid to rest. I am an artist, teacher, organizer/curator. Everything to me is connected. This can sometimes be exhausting to, as you say, connect these things, but for some reason I always have this overhead view. Fields connected together. For IN>TIME, it’s important to me that artists move across spaces and not just one venue, so for example New Zealand artist Sally J Morgan has taught a class at SAIC, will have an exhibition and performance in Sullivan Galleries and then will culminate at Defibrillator with a residency and performance. IN>TIME is about convergence and allowing for the time to see what conversations come about. It’s also important to me that we also move from venue to venue and to encourage us as artists, as makers, as audience to participate, to go to the unknown. I think we do this everyday in how we now research and search on the internet so why not do this through a search lens of a metropolitan city?

Now in its 4th edition, what do you think is different about this iteration of the festival? What has changed over time?
This 4th edition has expanded again from the 2013 edition. It has expanded its scope in working with new venues, such as the Block Museum, High Concept Labs and Sector 2337. It has expanded through I think a lens of what is practice, what is performance through the lens of the contemporary? How do audience members become curious of other artists and spaces they would not normally go to if we begin to tie these venues together through IN>TIME. Now we collaborate with a number of spaces like The Bridge, High Concept Lab, Hyde Park Art Center in the residencies we created this past fall and winter, allowing for artists to develop their work and to then present it at IN>TIME. As a teacher and artist, I always want to extend myself and give openings and opportunities so that an artist can expand and grow. This year, the residencies we’ve offered emerging artists has proven incredibly valuable. Opportunities are rare, so each artist has been given space to expand and really develop their work. I think of my role here in the city as not only a connector but also wanting to make change, to organize, to create space for others around me. I want to offer an open a hand of friendship. For me, friendship and gathering is what IN>TIME is about. To create an artist-run festival like this, one that expands definitions and foregrounds practice, allows for deeper, expanded engagement. As our self-curated fields narrow more and more, I want to expand, I want to see possibilities. I’m curious, as an artist and teacher; I also want to listen. To me, listening is key to being present and being in this city. This edition comes, I think, from a place of listening, expansion and curiosity and I’m thankful that in this space, opportunity, trust and collaboration can take place. Trust and commitment with the community. IN>TIME is an evolving experiment in practice, friendship and allows for us to see what Chicago is and allows artists and audiences to move fluidly through ideas, spaces and to learn and listen from one another.

Every House Has a Door. Image courtesy the artists and the IN>TIME Festival.

You’ve added, in addition to an expanded program schedule, a separate program of panel discussions and etc. for HUB, being held at the Chicago Cultural Center. What’s the goal of this added program?
As well as expanding our usual programming, and including the multiple residencies, earlier this fall we met with Shoni Currier, the Performing arts Director of the Chicago Cultural Center, and she offered us the Saturday HUB slots. Each Saturday now, the HUB becomes another space for expansion, engagement and provides a lens for looking back on what are we or what have we looked at this week. It also becomes a meeting place, a gathering to talk, listen to artists, curators, for audience members to get a closer look, a different angle on what’s being presented. It’s also an opportunity for reflection. Each Saturday, we will present a different topic, from the physical geographic locations of performance with Aine Phillips, talking specifically about Irish Performance Art, to Robin Deacon talking about British Performance Art and Roberto Sifuentes talking about Latino Performance Art — what does it mean to create work in a specific region, how does a specific location effect practice? The HUB will also address current concerns and ideas around performance curation that Shoni Currier is organizing with local curators and including Ben Pryor from American Realness, Ellina Kevorkian from Bemis Artist Residency in Omaha, Sarah Curran from Stanford and Caleb Hammons from Bard/Catch Series in NYC, asking what friendship and performance and long term mentorship all means. Sara Jane Bailes, a performance studies writer from the UK, will be in conversation with Artist and writer Matthew Goulish. Other conversations for the HUB come directly from IN>TIME programming. We invited Anna Martine Whitehead to create a program of conversations based directly on her work at High Concept Labs and the Black Lives Matter movement. We also asked the same of dance and movement artists Ginger Krebs, Michal Samama and Ingri Fiskal, to try to have a current conversation of dance in dialogue within the frame of performance art. For me, HUB programming creates a direct line to open up dialogue within the community and also to highlight, again, at a deeper level, this notion of the contemporary. What is contemporary practice? How do we participate and engage in the now through the lens of practice, of questions, of diversity, of geography, of making, of friendship and sustainability?

What are your own personal favorites from this year’s program? Or that you think might be a treat for people looking for something that really captures the character of the festival?
For me, it’s a spectrum that goes of what can be considered performance. I’m excited about Anna Martine Whitehead, she’s new to the city of Chicago and has developed a new work for High Concept Lab called Treasure that’s a meditation on the nature of the black body in our current moment of overwrought black death. This work feels important to me, living in this particular city during the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m also excited about Sally J. Morgan, who’s coming to us from New Zealand and was my former performance teacher at Dartington College of Arts in the UK. She has an exhibition and performance at SAIC Sullivan Galleries and also a residency and performance at Defibrillator. To me, having her here feels like an opportunity to say “thank you,” and to realize 25 years on, that I want to extend the hand she gave me as a young 18-year old to this city. Sally’s work confronts the emotional body, the personal, the traumatic, the vulnerable. She gave me permission 25 years ago to make, to be, and to be strange, to confront in a way that’s about listening, poetically weeping, and yet engaged and confronting the self directly with engaged and engaging actions that resonate and last.

Jillian Pena is a former student from SAIC 10 years ago, now a successful dance artist and choreographer. Jillian won the Prix Jardin d’Europe 2014 at ImpulsTanz Dance Festival in Vienna. She will be presenting her latest work, Panopticon at Links Hall, after its world premier with American Realness and Coil Festival in NYC earlier this month. I saw a small 7 minute extract of the work at Catch 70 in Brooklyn in the fall and it struck a lightning bolt in me. I admire Jillian a lot, and I’ve kept in touch with her for the past 10 years. She’s a remarkable artist and force and I think Chicago will be excited to see here, back bolder than ever. The way she places dance technique, queering it, playing with it, fucking with it, I really enjoy and admire.

Jillian Pena. Image courtesy the artists and the IN>TIME Festival.

I’m also excited for the work on the MCA Stage with Toshiki Okada, JP Forced Entertainment from the UK, Ingri Fiksdall from Norway, Faye Driscoll from New York and also, at the Cultural Center, Temporary Distortions and Ginger Krebs. I am keen to see work at The Bridge where Elise Cowin and Dao Nguyen have been artists in residence this past fall. I’m also interested in the venues participating through exhibitions, such as Mark Booth and his combination of exhibition and performances at Sector 2337 and Michal Samama and Iris Bernblum at Aspect Ratio.

The character of the festival I think is engagement of time and experience and waiting and being. I am thrilled that we have Eva Meyer Keller coming to us from Berlin via a partnership with the Goethe at Links Hall. Finally, at the Block Museum, the Charlotte Moorman exhibition and programming is extraordinary. This time, looking back at the avant garde, while simultaneously looking forward, considering the now and what can be, to me again is what IN>TIME is about. Take our time, be in time and be open and curious to the now, the unexpected.

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