Nameless forest  (2011)

is a multidisciplinary performance work conceived by Dean Moss and developed in collaboration with contemporary Korean sculptor, installation artist and poet, Sungmyung Chun. The project explores subjectivity and the nature of perception by both translating Chun’s installations into live action, and questioning the act of translation itself.  Structured in three parts, Nameless forest features diary fragments and war zone imagery by photojournalist Mike Kamber, neon sculpture from artist Gandalf Gavan, an original score by experimental musician and sound composer Stephen Vitiello, lighting and technical design by Vincent Vigilante, and costumes by Roxana Ramseur. The work is embodied by a deeply committed cast of six individual performers, each representing a unique combination of cultural traditions and contemporary, dance, music, and theater practices.

Nameless forest continues Moss' formal investigations of both the dialogue between self and other, and the role of the audience in the performance experience. Up to 12 audience members join the cast onstage for each performance reflecting through their undirected response, the community's role (and risk) in the perceptually individual and existential nature of art making. 

Nameless forest premiered at The Kitchen May 19-28, 2011 and was produced in partnership with MAPP International Productions.  Nameless forest was nominated for two New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Awards.

Online book of Nameless forest photos, interviews and critical writing.   Complete performance: (here)

Cast & Credits

Cast:  Kacie Chang, Eric Conroe, Pedro Jiménéz, Aaron Hodges, DJ McDonald, and Sari Nordman

Concept, Direction, Choreography and Set Design: Dean Moss with Sungmyung Chun

Sculptural Set Elements Design: Sungmyung Chun

Diary Entries, Field Recordings and Photography: Mike Kamber

Neon Sculpture: Gandalf Gavan

Original Music:  Stephen Vitiello, in collaboration with Patrick DeWit (drums) and Pauline Oliveros (accordian)

Original Song:  Aaron Hodges

Costume Design and Construction: Roxana Ramseur

Lighting Design, Technical Direction and Set Construction: Vincent Vigilante

Production Coordinator (Korea): Hyangsuk Choi

Co-Producers: Gametophyte Inc. and MAPP International Productions

Nameless forest is co-commissioned by The Kitchen, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Arizona State University’s Dance Department, Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at Maryland University.  It has also received funding from the Multi-Arts Production Fund (supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation), the New England Foundation for the Arts National Dance Project and The National Endowment for the Arts. Additional residency support is provided by the World Performance Project at Yale University. Nameless forest is supported in part by The Korea Foundation and The Asian Art Theater’s Project Development Initiative funded by The Office for Hub City of Asian Culture in the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Nameless forest at The Kitchen, NYC

Nameless forest is also generously supported by the following individuals: Wolhee Choe, Lili Chopra, Paulette Demers, Alan Gilbert, Mark Giglio, Mike Glier, Mildred “Dicky” Graff, Roberta Graff, Henry Hom, Michelle Lippitt, Carleen Sheehan, Melissa and Robert Soros, Christina Yang.

Be With Me: The Revelatory Work of Dean Moss

by Abbe Schriber, Curatorial Department at the Studio Museum of Harlem, NYC

for Studio Magazine Summer/Fall 2011 (excerpted)

“A sense of becoming, or metamorphosis, permeates the work of artist/choreographer/curator Dean Moss. As an attendee to one of Moss’s immersive, multidisciplinary performances, you might be selected to transition seamlessly (or awkwardly) from audience to performer, in a shift that is sure to forever alter your conceptions of the roles of each. You will touch others and be touched, you will speak and answer questions, you might feel, all at once, extreme discomfort and profound serenity. Moss is above all committed to his audience and trusts the intense emotional and aesthetic power of the ultimate surrender: of audience to the performers’ instructions. And conversely, Moss engages in a kind of surrender of his own, by allowing room for spontaneity and risking the direction of an artwork on participation and interaction. As audience contribution has been increasingly privileged by performance artists and art institutions, Moss’s work stands out as especially generous and powerfully about his viewers in a way that differs from most performance, which might use participation to further the ends of the artist. All of Moss’s work displays a vested dedication to the contradictions and fragility of interpersonal connections—though his performances can be quite dark, they constantly work toward the possibilities of understanding, embodying, and ever really knowing another human being.”

“Though not quite a metaphor for birth, Nameless forest echoes the arbitrary, overwhelming reality of where and how we emerge into life, and how we then muddle through the isolation, pain, and crisis that weaves throughout it. Thus Moss describes the effect of the work on these participants as “a wounding and examination of the audience.” Up to twelve audience members are seated onstage and called upon to interact directly with the performers, while the remainder of the audience watches from the traditional, removed perspective. This separation creates two vastly different experiences of Nameless forest: a full immersion into the events unfolding onstage and a more distant, consumptive experience, in which we empathize with our fellow audience members from afar. The brilliance of Moss’s work lies partly in this emotional mixture of compassion and confusion we feel while watching the metamorphosis, as audience members engage in situations that are by turns awkward, unpleasant, intimate and instructive. “Be with me,” the performers whisper at one point to the audience participants, and no matter our level of spectatorship, we have no desire to do anything but—Moss’s work draws us in, invites us not just to be, but to become.”  (complete review)

Audience participation in Nameless forest   photo credit: Julieta Cervantes

photo credit: Paula Court

photo credit: Paula Court

Audience participation in Nameless forest   photo credit: Julieta Cervantes

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