In her 1961 novel Seduction of the Minotaur, Anaïs Nin famously noted, “we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are,” referring to varying interpretations of the same visual context. Subjectivity, after all, is at the essence of art, drawing its audience into a cellular dance of memories and sensibilities. We step out of a gallery or crowded theater and impulsively launch into a collection of sentiments and emotions over what we loved (and despised) about the work on view; art and criticism have always enjoyed an animated relationship.
Last fall, UCSB alum and emerging choreographer Weslie Ching launched a curated forum aimed to funnel audience reaction into a constructive exchange between artist and observer, naming it Crit and presenting it within the black-box intimacy of Center Stage Theater. “I wanted to create an opportunity for myself and others to get something that went beyond positive feedback,” she explained during a sit-down with The Santa Barbara Independent. “We all need constructive criticism to grow as artists.”
The forum is free to the public, and strategically presented alongside the Downtown Organization’s 1st Thursday offerings; Ching is hoping to lure passersby in to experience an evening of conceptual and exploratory works. “There’s a secondary audience at 1st Thursday that may wander in and see something that may be a little bit new or challenging for them, but they’ll engage in it and talk about it and hopefully enjoy something other than the usual.” This round, the works on offer include a collaborative dance piece by choreographer Robin Bisio and area band Ghost Tiger, two performance-art pieces by Ally Bortolazzo and Amanda Staples, a juxtaposition of movement and writing by Melissa Lowenstein, and a multimedia project by Ethan Turpin, Bisio, and Bonnie Crotzer.
Evaluating an artist’s work in their presence can feel eerily like analyzing who they might be as human beings, and in an effort to keep the dialogue flowing smoothly, art lecturer and moderator Elizabeth Folk has been brought in to ensure the proverbial gloves stay on. “The positive things are all really wonderful, but I’m looking for something more, and these artists are here because they want something deeper, too.”
Crit: Spring ’16 takes place Thursday, May 5, at 7 p.m. at Center Stage Theater (751 Paseo Nuevo). Call (805) 963-0408.