Over the years, Automata Arts has had various exciting and thought-provoking solo performances. One of the most exciting solo performances was the disappearing acts and resurfacing subjects by Sarah Wookey. The performance portrayed dance as a disappearing act, and erasure as a construct. The performance also questioned recurring topics that float the public sphere, such as the ownership, value, and preservation of dance. Through movement, text, and image, Sara reflected on being a subsidized artist in the 1990s in Europe, a freelance artist developing site-based performances in LA, and a selection of responses to her famous “Open Letter to Artists”. She spun together big themes of the economic uncertainties of artists, tips for making it (including a failed, but humorously touching Kickstarter fundraising campaign), and legacy in dance, to a funny, poetic, and digestible consideration of dance in our age.
Another memorable performance at Automata Arts was “A Machine For Living”, by Susan Simpson, together with her skilled object manipulators. The performance traces the journey of an artist from Southern California who slowly evolves into a very advanced alien. What made the performance so exciting was Simpson’s combination of eloquent puppetry, revelatory imagery, and live video. The dramatic tale starts when a woman inadvertently comes into contact with alien DNA. As time progresses she starts to receive aural and visual revelations from a different planet. Gradually her body evolves and she soon becomes capable of supernatural botanic reproduction, something that could completely revolutionize the human race. She then has to determine what to do when she starts being pursued as a biological terrorist. All the scenes were performed on stage with hand-operated special effects small-scale puppets and sets. The performance was enhanced by multiple cameras and combined light video for a memorable work of cinematic scope.
We cannot talk about Automata Arts without thinking about the two multidisciplinary artists who envisioned and brought Automata Arts to life: Janie Geiser and Susan Simpson.
As a multi-disciplinary artist, Janie Geiser’s work includes installation, performance, and film. Geiser’s work is distinguished for its sense of suspended time, its investigation of memory, its embrace of artifice, and recontextualization of abandoned objects and images. Her Artistic excellence has been acknowledged with an OBIE Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, Doris Duke Artist Award, as well as funding from Mapfund, Durfee Foundation, Centre for Cultural Innovation, NEA, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Creative Capital, among others. Geiser’s movies have been played at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, the London International Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Equifax, New York Film Festival, Sharjah Biennial, LACMA, San Francisco MOMA, Salzburg Museum, Centre Pompidou, Pacific Film Archives, Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others. Her movies are in the collections of the California Institute of the Arts, The Donnell Media Center of New York’s Public Library, the Museum of Modern Art, and many others. The Library of Congress selected “The Red Book” to be included in America’s Film Registry. Geiser’s 2000 movie, The Fourth Watch, was listed as one of the past decade’s top 10 films by Film Comment, and Geiser’s body of work was selected for preservation by the Archive of the Academy of Motion Pictures.