Name, Meaning, Misson
The name The Ransom Corp. arrived on the scene in mid-1998, a couple of months after the founders had co-hosted a five-day festival called Remain: 5 Days of Myth and Ritual that had introduced and inspired many of the people who would form its nucleus. It is rumored, but has never been fully substantiated, that the name was discovered during a hallucinogen-inspired, absinthe-infused reading of The Last Ransom Note by a member of the Assault Poetry Unit at the Roxy Theater in Prague at 3 am. If this did happen, it was after a long-delayed train ride through the Slovakian country side that canceled a DJ assignment for that night, opening the evening for inner voyaging to the naming land.
ransom n. a price paid for the release of a prisoner; v.t. To redeem from captivity (O.Fr.L. Redemptio, buying back)
corporation n. united body (L. corpus, body)
How are we bound, rather than freed, by our physics, our society—economically, socially, politically, culturally--and our individual minds? What is the ransom that will free us from that captivity?
The Ransom Corp. was a united body with a mission to extract the ransom that will free the human spirit.
In the context of theater and art, "Ransom" plays on the idea of a "captive audience." The theater or gallery or carnival, wherever this kind of theater or gallery or carnival is called into existence, is a highly-charged setting and context for discovery, transformation, catharsis and other fruits of heightened awareness. Brought or drawn to this setting, the audience is captive until some resolution or insight has been reached.
Use of "Corporation" invoked the dark, symbolic and TOO-OFTEN-TO-BE-REAL vision of the hierarchical funneling of power, greed, the bottomline drawn by those at the top, ends before means, the environment as raw material, individuals reduced to customers and life force reduced to work force with all the compromises this entails. We appropriated Corporation in order to serve as the antithesis to this dark vision. We imagined a Corporation dedicated to the remediation and prevention of the damage done to the human spirit by ascribing to, internalizing and participating in this kind of mass culture. The main method of remediation and prevention was to create the conditions for celebration, creation, collaboration, artistic exploration and actions and performances that break the stale norms of daily life and daily mind.
Structure and Currency
The name captured an umbrella vision for wide-ranging, meaningful, even necessary (for reasons of sanity and joy), creative personal and interpersonal exploration on the edges of society as an antidote of sorts to the forms and norms of that society.
Beyond the dark symbol, the corporate motif is expansive. Corporations, with all their departments and focus groups, serve as a perfect organizational foil for artists' collectives intent on exploring all mediums and venues in as autonomous way as possible. We envisioned the Ransom Corp. as a vast flow chart of liberation, creation and gift-minded departments. Departments of Meditation (for research and development). The Department of Sonic Resonance. The Department of Word Invention. The Task Force for Inventive Philanthropy. And so on. Any new idea or new medium could result in a new department that could take on a life of its own.
Corporations also seek to be vertically and horizontally integrated. A vertically integrated company controls all aspects of a products life cycle from raw material to fabrication to sales to its recycling. A horizontally integrated company controls, for instance, all the widget market in a certain area. To control the entire widget market and to control every aspect of the widget life cycle means you have a nice monopoly on widgets.
For The Ransom Corp., the raw material is relationship with the creative source, the wellspring or muse. From there, every medium has its process of production and bringing to manifestation. Done by one person or collective, this is the vertical integration. It involves the kind of time, space and autonomy needed to own our own creative powers and put them to use. Since we invited and sought out artists working in every media, this is the horizontal integration--the collaborative, multimedia experience. We liked to think of ourselves, in slightly silly moments of reverie, as a massive, completely invisible, monolithic entity. This concept drew from an earlier project of one of the founders, Aaron Taylor Kuffner (with James Leonard), called the Sky and Culture Company, whereby suited men went door to door selling subscriptions to parcels of Sky and membership plans to CULTURE.
Though we bartered and bought with money, our primary currency wasn't monetary. It was inner and outer autonomy, the immaterial magic that happens when we open, the things we create and share, the new value of things when we inhabit that space, the unknown slice of time we enter into when we risk something. This is the currency that pays the ransom.
Founders and Instigators
Bothers Geoff and Aaron Taylor Kuffner founded The Ransom Corp. before it was formally named The Ransom Corp., likely in 1997. The two used a variety of different names in 1997 and 1998 before The Ransom Corp. tbecame the umbrella organization for their endeavors.
The Kuffner brothers acted together as the main instigators from 1997 - 2003. Noting Geoff's Ben Kanobe type departure from New York in early 2001, he remained a patron saint and conceptual guide from afar. Kathi von Koerber joined them as a lead instigator especially for dance and theatrical projects from 1999 - 2002.
The Ransom Corp existed as a loose network of various people. It is especially noted that Erin Ellen Kelly and Evelyn Dann remained at the core of this network participating on various levels on the vast majority of happenings.
Aaron Taylor Kuffner (aka Zemi17), composer, musician, and media artist.
In the 1990s, Zemi17 brought his studies in new physics, technology, mixed media installation and experimental performance into the underground art scenes of New Orleans and San Francisco. In 1997, he moved to New York and formed the experimental multi-media performance group Ransom Corp. Taylor founded the 23 Windows Collective community arts studio in Brooklyn in 2001 and co-created and curated The Resonant Wave Experimental Multi Media Art Festival in Berlin in 2002. He was a guest composer at Theater Thikwa for mentally disabled adults in Berlin in 2003.
From 2004 through 2006, he lived and worked in Indonesia with the support of scholarships and grants from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry. He collected extensive field recordings of nature and researched classic gamelan music, performing with professional groups in Yogyakarta and Bali. His study focused on two archaic forms of gamelan: Sekatan from the courts of Central Java and Selonding from the Bali Highlands. His audio recordings and notation in System Notasi Nusantara were compiled into a summary report for the Indonesian Dharmasiswa Council for the propagation of Indonesian Arts.
For the last three years Kuffner has concentrated on synthesizing his knowledge and experience with new compositional and technological forms. He is the co-creator, composer and art director of the Gamelatron: the world's first and only fully robotic gamelan orchestra. With sculptor Ryan O'Connor and designer / producer William Etundi he is one of three ingredients of the fine art group Emma. He regularly composes for dance, theater and multi-media productions, owns and operates a 15kw sound system, is the resident DJ for the Danger events and performs with the experimental music groups Zero Gravity Thinkers and The Akashic Currency Bureau (ACB).
Geoff Kuffner, Healing Artist, Writer
Geoff is certified by the American Society of the Alexander Technique (AmSat), the Chi Nei Tsang Institute and the Traditional Medicine Hospital of Thailand. He has trained in Thailand, Burma, Nepal and India and taught at the healing centers in Auroville, India. Born in 1972 in New York's Hudson Valley, Geoff has a degree in philosophy from Wake Forest and studied literature at Oxford University in England.
He was a founder of the Ransom Corp. Performance Collective in New York City. He brings to his private practice and workshops a background in athletics (baseball, football, basketball, long distance running and track), performance (dance, poetry, master of ceremonies), creative writing, housepainting and the meditative arts. Through applying the Alexander Technique and Chi Nei Tsang, he recovered from chronic back pain, the impacts of typhoid fever and longstanding imbalances from four surgeries during his teens--two abdominal and two on his legs. His work is highly attuned to the unique needs and goals of every person. His classes and workshops are lively and creative, integrating Alexander Technique awareness practices, chi gong, meditation, ecology and poetry.
Geoff currently lives in downtown Napa and sees clients throughout the SF Bay Area.
Kathi von Koerber Director, Filmmaker and Dancer.
Born in South Africa to German parents, Kathi has been a global nomad right from the start. Raised in Africa and Europe she also lived in China studying mandarin and oriental painting, and later studied film in New York. Currently she lives between Colombia and New York.
For the past 15 years, Kathi has been filming and archiving dance films/footage and audio/visual recordings of tribal dance, rituals, and nature imagery. Kathi has made several short films, Vjd extensively international and produced many multi media shows. Kathi's work draws upon the power of the eternal present. She aims to portray the strength and inspiration of every isolated instance. Her work mirrors the alchemy of human behavior, exploring the archetypes of existence, and creating a dialogue with habits, rituals and unconscious behaviors.
Her projects are achieved by collaborating with people from all over the world in all mediums of expression. By drawing inspiration from the world's constant evolution, and by challenging the boundaries of film and dance, she approaches the deep wells of our subconscious behavior, and attempt to expose our species destiny through ritual, performances or films. The trance and intuitive movements of these rituals become a matter of fact.
Kathi is the director of the company Kiahkeya productions founded in 2004, which serves to inform and disseminate art, creativity and spirituality for the purpose of cross cultural and environmental equality and tolerance. Kathi has worked on projects with the Bushmen tribe of Southern Africa, and the Xawante who live in Brazil, The Tamashek Nomads of the Sahara, the Zulu of Southern Africa, the Lakota of the US, etc. Kathi searched to explore the universality of dance as an art form, and our connection to the earth. Kiahkeya projects are efforts to support the environment and its inhabitants, in this modern day and age.
It is a nearly impossible task to list all of the different people who were, at one time or another, members of the Collaborators with The Ransom Corp. Below is undoubtedly an incomplete list. We apologize to those who are not here but who belong here and sincerely value the contribution of all our partners.
Poets & Writers
David Jellyfish Siegel
Reverend Kogomo Dsi
David Moustache Getman
Akim Funk Buddha
Vic the Drummer
Paula Jeanine Potocki (American Ghazal)
DJs and Electronic Composers
Collectives & Bands
Havoc Sound System
Hungry March Band
Ten Pen Chii
End of the World Circus
No Nothing Circus
The Rogue Scholars
Kass and Schaeffer
Williamsburg Chamber Orchestra
Vis Plastica (Vienna)
Kathi von Koerber
Videographers, Filmmakers, Photographers
Melissa Gorman aka Atari2000
Anna Coralie Bausch
Installations and artists
Rolando Politti aka Waste Zero aka Recycle and Pray (RAP)
Disney Nasa Borg
Derrick David aka Bunny
Case and Katie
Clark and Sylvia