At the heart of our events were certain principles, followed more or less intuitively.
1. We sought non-traditional spaces or used traditional spaces non-traditionally to challenge the barrier between passive audience and active performer.
2. We invited a party or carnival atmosphere to charge performances and gatherings with a participatory, transformational, energizing power that the audience could bring into their own bodies.
3. We were willing to make physical demands, simple but demands nonetheless, of those choosing to come to our events--to remove watches, to be fingerprinted, to dress in orange, to leave the main space for a sojourn into the outside, to find venues which were then off the beaten path.
4. When curating a space, we sought to both provide individual artists with as much autonomy as possible and to heighten the interaction of all the elements of the event. We did this by making each artist aware of those elements and inviting them to weave this awareness into their own work.
5. We programmed the nights to move in waves, to have silences and crescendos, like a jazz score where all players will step forward to solo and to recede to the back.
6. We saw the spaces and events as a total experience. Every part of the space was a part of the whole. The fliers, communication, entrance way, and so forth were not separate things, but all served to create the total environment in concept and experience.
7. We welcomed all mediums and experimentations in form and content.
8. In this same vein, we did not prejudice one artist over another. The artist installing a work or doing a performance underneath the staircase that only 7 people will crawl into over the course of an evening is as essential a part of the gathering as the DJ bringing his entourage to the dance court.
9. We worked to ensure as much autonomy and freedom as possible for those at the events, a temporary safe space on the periphery to shed a skin at least for a slice of unknown time .
10. We shared all revenue with all participants.
These principles informed and inspired our larger performances, cultivating an ability and wish to engage those who shared the space with us on levels beyond that of audience or spectators. When we were in integrity with these principles, using the tools of theater, we invited the waking of light in the eyes and bodies of those with us for that moment in time.
tZara, Hotel Galvez, Fall/Winter 1997, East Village, NY.
tZara was the precursor to the Ransom Corp. The name is an homage to the founder of Dada, Samuel Rosenstock, who's pseudonym was Tristan Tzara. Taylor had just moved to New York from New Orleans and a small circle of his and Geoff's friends came together to host a surrealist-inspired variety show at a now defunct east village hotel bar. It was our first foray into the New York performing arts millieu: "tZara: Radioactive Grassroots Bingo," entrance 57 cents plus a beer. Humble, buoyant, opened armed, these nights featured the strong man one-word poetry of Loud Josh, striptease class with EEK, Radioactive Man's superhero storytelling in weekly segments (Doorley), word auctions, video-noise experiments with live musicians and vocalists improvising over video montages, live body-shavings and Tiny Tim impersonators DJ'ing the best ukelele music while calling the numbers.
Remain: Five Days of Myth and Ritual (with Garon Petersen of Art and Propaganda) , May 20-24, 1998, pseudo.com, 600 Broadway, 6th Floor.
Gatherings of the Pre-Apocalypse 1998-2000
Remain was a 5-day cross-disciplinary, multi-media gallery and performance festival involving 87 fine and performing artists, local to international, in the 10,000 square foot loft of pseudo.com, an internet broadcasting company owned by Josh Harris. Garon Petersen initiated the event and teamed up with Geoff and Taylor Kuffner. Barbara Gentille, Bianca Falco, Erin Kelly, Bisan Toron and David Getman played key organizing roles. Originally, the event was to be held at Josh Harris' private loft in Lower Manhattan. When this proved impossible, the event was moved to the pseudo headquarters. Free reign was given to the organizers to reinvent the space. The festival was envisioned and actualized as an immersive arts experience and community gathering from the sidewalk to the bathrooms. Fine art filled every wall. The entrance from the elevator was a cave space made from tin foil by Japanese artist Grande. Costumed performers manned the street level door. The five floor staircase was a stream of poetry. The room in the back was a tented enclave with 12 pipe hookah installation. Each night was a showcase of the work of New York-based artists including films, fashion, poetry, and vocal, musical and theater performances from puppetry to live drum and bass. Because of the support of pseudo and donated bar, entrance fee was a $5 donation. People came night after night, some slept in the space. Remain proved to be the basis for collaborations, friendships and collective gatherings for years into the future.
At the end of the millennium in New York, there was a feeling of acceleration. We were nearing an end, or, at the least, entering a new world phase. This new world phase was going to require a different way of being, a paradigm shift. We are still digesting and assimilating now, years later. The temperament of the impending Y2K moment was a certain excitement mixed with apprehension, even paranoia, and the provoking of fear by leaders, media outlets, computer experts. The TIME consciousness reflected a linear, western world view while calling into question whether, as the minutes ticked past and we wed ourselves more and more to technologies, we were actually progressing anywhere that mattered or actually creating and heightening the sources of our discontent. After the success of Remain and the founding of The Ransom Corp., we initiated and were invited to organize and coordinate a series of events. We envisioned these, not entirely tongue-in-cheek, as a series of festive training events for the coming apocalypse. Whether fundraisers, partnerships or events entirely for their own sake, these were always located in "fallout sites." We supplied the artillery and programmed the nights to maximize the transformation of this apprehension and isolation into celebration and creation. Events included dance, theater and destruction performances, video and slide projections, DJs, fire shows, prophetic devices, artist installations, etc.
The Subway Action Parties
The Red Line Action Party, 1-train to Staten Island Ferry, Valentine's Day 1999, 1 car, 150 + people
The Orange Line Action Party, F-train to Coney Island, December 3, 1999, 3 cars, 400+ people. (Part of the Millenium's Neighborhood Festival. "Official" recorder of the event: Richard Sandler.)
The Yellow Line Action Party, N-train to Coney Island, April 1, 2000, 4 cars, 500 + people
These train takeovers spun the stoic New York commute into a glowing baub of mirth. Everyone dressed in the color of the train. Decorations, pseudo ad campaigns to cover the paid for versions, dance and fire shows, a Marching Band, mobile electro musical units and cocktails supplied by the RC and stunt team entourage. Participants alerted by word of mouth, cryptic fliers and late afternoon phone calls. The routes had been scouted and the meeting points set for ease of access. The rear cars chosen for maximum availability. Those already on board often joined right in. Celebrations carried right off the trains to wherever they led.
Click here for an article written by agent mT.
Events on the Frying Pan Lighthouse Ship
The Frying Pan is a formerly-sunk then rescued old maze of a ship with a belly hull dance floor docked on the West Side of Manhattan. We brought a scale of art and performance it had not seen before, inviting artists of all types to inhabit and install work in its many spaces and using the open air pier as a performance and music stage, dance floor and ritual theater. Attendance reached capacity at over 1000 people for these gatherings. The cacophonous atmosphere that would suddenly come to a focused attention with ritual energy was described as being "like a morroccan market crossed with a baptism" (Paula Jeanine of American Ghazal). Attending a Frying Pan event had the quality of entering a magical space on the edges of civilization, which was heightened by creating elaborate entrance ways far from the main activity. The expanse of artists ensured a wide attendance and enabled us to book more experimental and risk-taking acts, exposing large audiences to talents in the NY scene who had modest followings or typically performed to more niche circles. Events we organized at the Frying Pan included:
Full Moon Gathering, April 30, 1999. The first of the Frying Pan gatherings and the sixth gathering of the pre-apolcalypse, was a one night circus of dance and trapeze performance, site-specific installations and projections, DJs and fire involving 80 artists that went well past dawn. The night blended a chaos of activity with an intent to dislodge the psyche from linear time to the time of the heavens. Artists' recreated every room on the ship, from bunks to navigation to engine room. Everyone was instructed to remove their watches at the entrance way. The pier was charged with a midnight ritual dance performance by Kathi von Koerber's Cosmic Dancer troupe. The hull leapt the time divide with a reading of Noah's Ark sending the boat to sea for 40 days and 40 nights marked with a sledgehammer destruction of a clock.
1738 KM, July 2 and 3, 1999
The radius of the moon. A two day gathering of tribes, with over 40 artists, installing art throughout the ship and pier, creating the set for live music, dance and DJs.
1000 Days at Sea, February 12, 2000
The most modest of the Frying Pan events co-hosted by core RC members: a marathon (8 hour) audio set by Zemi17, visuals by KvK, and featured dance performance by KvK, The Girl Erin Ellen, Kendra Floyd, Mistress Katie, Cowboy Case and several mannequins. Celebration and fundraiser for husband and wife spending 1000 days in a sailing ship to raise awareness for endangered sea turtles.
Sonar: Echo Network release party, June 23, 2000
Sonar was a literary chapbook including the work of 12 artists that was initiated, edited and published by Geoff K of the Ransom Corp. with Molly Lewis, Chris Doorley and Josh Lifrak. For the release party, all contributors were invited to install work on the ship. Live acts Antibalas and Collisionville played outside, DJs filled the hull.
Halloween Wanderbus, West 13th Street, October 31, 1998 and 1999.
Hosted with Wanderlust and Blackkat. The Wanderlust school bus souped up with speakers and DJs parked on an empty meatpacking side street after the West Village Halloween parade was the mobile headquarters for a free form street party into the wee hours. Who was that guy doing the robot dance?
LULL (the space between), The Angel Orensanz Foundation, 172 Norfolk Street, downtown NY, June 11, 1999.
After a series of high tempo gatherings, we shaped this event to meet the sound restrictions of this magic venue, the 2nd oldest synagogue in NYC, with its cavernous upstairs and elaborate crypt. Upstairs, we hosted a one day short film and performance festival: 7 hours of new, old, local and random short films curated by 4 local filmmakers, John McNulty, Kiley Bates, Kathi von Koerber and Christine Howards. These films were interspersed with performances by Akim Funk Buddha, Moustache, Loki Kevorkian, Evelyn Dann, Mara Smaldone, Dawn Crandell, Geoff Kuffner, Mehuman Johnson and Derrick David. In the crypt, we created "Submarine Conditions," a low frequency soundlab helmed by Philter and Zemi 17.
Alien Action Barge North Williamsburg Waterfront, June 30, 1999
A maze of pallets submerged in the hull of a boat, stacked to the point that you could walk across a flooded revine to rotted steel stair way and rope pull up to the deck of a lopsided bardge. A phone message sent you to a drop spot that sent you through 3 fences and across the property of NYC waste management to get there. The whole place is now a park but it was then just an oddly gaurded dump where barges were forgotton. Power tapped in off street lamps 400ft away allowed experimental sound duo Wa (click) with David Mustache on effected Banjo and Zemi17 on the Sing Ta Ha! .... Zemi17 on the Sing Ta Ha! toto perform with a rotating caste of percussionists, including Kente, Kogomo and Robby Colious, who utilizing contact microphones on the railings of the bow and oil drums as their instruments.
Leo: Zodiac, The Green Door, West 24th Street, NYC July 24, 1999.
The Green Door was an old recording studio warehouse in Chelsea where we hosted a deep summer gathering with prophetic devices, a large lion pinata, dance and thick heavy sounds till dawn. The next day, members of the RC left on an Old World Summer Tour
RA-dio Rising, October 2, 1998 RUBULAD South Williamsburg.
This fundraiser for the WJMZ micro radio at the old RUBULAD space on South 5th, brought together all 22 hosts of shows on the dial and a cadre of puppetmakers and live musicians. It also was particularly memorable for the world premiere of the Chicken & Egg Race, whereby an 8 foot chicken puppet and a 6 foot egg are pitted against each other in a quarter mile race to the death on the streets of Brooklyn. Derrick David, aka Bunny, was the puppet creator and choreographer performing with Loki Kevorkian.
Dos Blockos, 7th Street Squat East Village, NYC
This was a small free event with very few people and a couple of dogs. Zemi DJ'd and agent mT did the very first of his ritual destructions in the big headdress. It's here more as a memorial to Brad Will, friend and collaborator, who lived at the squat at the time, than a testament to any RC action. Brad blew fire, gave poetry and let go a mad dance that night. R.I.P.
Millenium's Neighborhood with Reverend Billy, Judson Church, Washington Square, New York, December 4 through 10, 1999.
The RC gave promotional, organizational and participatory support to this end of the Millenium Festival coordinated and hosted by Reverend Billy (Bill Talen) and Tony Torn. We orchestrated the Orange Line Action Party as a warm up event, then hosted an opening night party the following night at the Church. Members of the RC performed during the Festival.
Festival of Now, June 16, 2000 Fahnestock State Park outside Cold Spring, NY. Held "in the wilds" a one hour drive or train ride from New York with Wanderbus and van shuttles, the Festival of Now was an overnight event co-organized by the Blackkat Collective, Ransom Corp. and Wanderlust. It featured DJs, live bands, artists and dancers from across the NY scene along with the Amoeba Technology geodome, Hungry March Band and two traveling circuses, The End of the World Circus and the No-Nothing Circus. With over a thousand people in attendance, the event took a magical surprise turn when generators were restricted. Without electric sounds or electric lights, The Hungry Marching Band, circuses, performers, acoustic musicians, fire spinners and lure of the forest for green-starved city folk took over. The de-programming, instead of disappointing, heightened the adventure, the spontaneity and suspense. The performers had the full attention of the crowd and took risks that might otherwise have been missed. At dawn: a clown playing a piano going up in bonfire flames.
Return of the Earthworm Space Shuttle, Rubulad, August 26, 2000, South Williamsburg, NY.
Another RUBULAD extravaganza that filled to bursting at the seams the three main rooms and outdoor patio with revelers and performers, while welcoming back Zemi 17 (brimming with insect jungle sounds) and KvK from six months in Africa.
2 Days of the Purple Turtle, September 8, 2000, OHM, Chelsea, Manhattan.
Originally scheduled for The Frying Pan, this two day mini-festival was shortened to one day and moved to an indoor venue across town when the Pan was ordered by the Fire Department to rebuild entry ways that had served well for many years. Somehow it happened--SPAZ crew from San Francisco took over the downstairs. Upstairs contained as many acts as we could manage--a club transformed into a free for all burlesque, a night salvaged amid the hopes for more.