By Sharon Hoyer
“I’m interested in how we get to know people—or don’t and fill in the gaps,” says Carrie Hanson, artistic director of The Seldoms, after a rehearsal for her new piece “The Making.” “And how perception shapes this. How we recognize people in different contexts.”
This latest piece from Hanson plays with perception by moving the audience through three rooms of the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse; in those rooms seating, sound and stagecraft elements obstruct or magnify views of the action. “The Making,” created as part of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks series, completes The Seldoms’ triptych on the subject of individual and group power, beginning with “Power Goes” in 2015, which used the Johnson administration as a frame for how individuals wield power both physical and political to get what they want. Next came “RockCitizen” in 2017, an ode to 1960s counterculture. Hanson says, “’Power Goes’ was about those who have power, ‘RockCitizen’ about those agitating for power. In this we’re looking at powerlessness…and the capital of being alive, the capital of breath and heartbeat.”
Hanson takes a scholarly, collaborative approach to dancemaking (Robert A. Caro’s multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson was the catalyst for “Power Goes”) and “The Making” follows suit. “High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing” from the “Voice of Witness” book series provides source material for a section of the piece in which audiences sit in intimate semicircles around soloists, beneath projected “mini-documentaries” by visual artist Bob Faust. One story is of a girl growing up in Cabrini-Green who, while braiding her sister’s hair, saw her get shot through their window. The videos are just fifteen seconds long and Faust uses heartbeat and breath, that physical capital of aliveness, as a visual rhythm.
Hanson collaborated with three artists on setpieces for the three sections of the piece. Fraser Taylor created a forest of floor-to-ceiling hanging banners through which the dancers move in the first section, hiding an arm here, an entire dancer there, the partially obstructed field of vision different for every audience member seated in the V of chairs at the front of the stage area. No one gets the complete picture and their individual perspective dictates what they see. The final section of “The Making,” set in the Pulaski Park auditorium, features massive banners created by South Shore artist Faheem Majeed. Majeed worked with Experimental Station and Blackstone Bicycle Works to adorn the banners with tire tracks from bicycles, creating monumental objects from everyday materials. Hanson says this final section is meant to “capture traces, residue of relationships,” to convey “effortfulness, a life’s labor.” She says, “instead of looking at statistics, we sometimes see more looking sideways at a person’s life.”
At Pulaski Park Fieldhouse, 1419 West Blackhawk. November 9-18 at 7:30pm. $20 in advance, $25 at the door. November 9 and 16 performances are free. theseldoms.org.