The Rebirth of Puppet Theatre

As one of the trailblazers of the rebirth of avant-garde puppet Theatre in America, Janie Geiser develops hypnotics, innovative installations, and performances that combine puppets, projection, and performing objects. Geiser’s work has been shown at The Walker Art Center, Redcat, St. Ann’s Warehouse, The Public Theater, and other places. Object Permanence, Geiser’s presentation at China Art Objects in 2014 in LA, featured photographs and one-channel movies. Geiser was awarded an Artist Fellowship by Los Angeles in 2006, for her work on The Spider’s Wheels. Look and Learn, one of Geiser’s most recent installations, was featured at Knoxville’s Art Museum. Geiser was also awarded a fellowship in 2011 by the California Community Foundation. Geiser has also been successful as an author. The Tornado Treaty, one of Geiser’s works, is in the Artists Book Collection of Moma. Currently, Geiser is a faculty member of CalArts and resides in LA.

Susan Simpson is a designer and multidisciplinary artist based in Los Angeles. Susan has been Automata Arts’ Artistic Director since the establishment was launched in 2004. Her practices include dioramas, animation, and puppet theater. She makes interactive public artworks and performances that are intimate and engaging. Susan’s works usually explore the mythology, social dynamics, and history of the sites where they are situated. As an experimental puppetry artist, Susan’s work revolves around experimental film projection and intricate marionettes.

Simpson’s original puppetry performances have been presented at The Durfee Foundation, The California Community Foundation, The Jim Henson Foundation, The Center for Cultural Innovation, The MAP Fund, Automata, REDCAT, The Santa Monica Museum, The Museum of Jurassic Technology, HERE in New York, among other venues. Susan Simpson is a recipient of the Richard Sherwood Award from the Center Theater Group, as well as funding from the financial group, Creative Capital. She also has design practice focused on kiosks, sculptural objects, and interactive cabinets for discovery and display. Susan Simpson has been commissioned by The Silver Lake Library, The City of Inglewood and Reading Hours Gallery, The Falcon Theater, The Readers Chorus, Gardens and Art Collections, and The Huntington Library. Other interests of Susan Simpson include designing a concrete time capsule for La Public Library’s SilverLake Branch. Simpson has received grants from the California Community Foundation, and the Durfee Foundation, She is also a member of Little Fakers and a faculty member at CalArts. Together with Janie Geiser, Susan Simpson presented Frankenstein: Mortal Toys in 2004 and 2005 at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, and the Velaslavasay Panorama.

Since its launch in 2004, Automata Arts has played a significant role in the advancement of puppetry performance, as well as pre-cinema, and other neglected or forgotten forms. Over the years, Automata Arts has become nationally renowned as one of the critical establishments for work that recontextualizes and redefines puppet theater and other overlooked art forms.…


Exciting Performances only at Automata Arts

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.…


Automata Arts

Founded in 2004, Automata Arts is a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization committed to the creation, incubation, and delivery of experimental film, experimental puppet theatre, and other modern art practices that focus on performing objects and ideas of artifice. Automata Arts stands at the fulcrum points between performance and objects, ephemera and artifacts, mechanics and magic, interface and artifice. The organization is committed to developing and nurturing new work that is based on world-class art practices and in-depth conversation with the modern culture of mimicry and simulation while embracing the aura of hand-operated and handmade. Automata Arts aims to radically recontextualize and redefine the concept of object performance, putting it at the intersection of modern performance, experimental writing, sound art, visual art, and media.

Since its launch in 2004 by artists Janie Geiser and Susan Simpson, Automata Arts has been developing and delivering creative and intimate performances, film screenings of historical avant-garde and modern films, workshops, lectures, and exhibitions across Los Angeles. Automata Arts is especially interested in intimate viewing scenarios such as those that have been the hallmark of early film and traditional puppet theatre: storefronts, tiny theaters, and living rooms. The art organization is interested in the informality and intimacy that exist when the audience and the artists can see each other. Rather than perform a show once to six hundred people, Automata Arts prefers to perform a show 20 times to thirty people.

This level of intimacy allows for the authentic development of a community through dialogue and interaction. Each event features a post-show social component to facilitate dialogue. Automata Arts draws from the life of the city and the neighborhood and uses performances and storefront exhibits as art, attractions, workspace, and peep shows, as a direct interface with city life.

Automata Arts is committed to work that explores, subverts, or mergers different art forms in unprecedented ways. The art organization has presented original works by Yulya Dukhovny, Carole Kim, Weba Garretson, Katie Shook, Marsian DeLellis, Paul Zaloom, Beth Peterson, Alison Heimstead, Caitlin Lainoff, Eli Presser, Clare Dolan, Janie Geiser, Susan Simpson, and Laura Heit, among others. Automata ArtsHas also delivered programs of experimental and early films including works by Carole Kim, Laurie O’Brien, Janie Geiser, Lewis Klahr, Jordan Biren, Perry Hoberman, Warhol, and others.

Automata Arts prides itself in being an artist-driven establishment. Since their premiere performances in 2004, Automata Arts has created a context in which experimental writing, interactive technology, video/film, performance, and visual art intersect with the puppet as well as its modern siblings. Working from various spots in Los Angeles, Automata Arts has invited composers and playwrights, new media experimenters, designers, and visual artists to collaborate and develop new works through the use of performing objects. Since its launch in 2004, Automata Arts was not able to find a permanent space until 2012, when they found a nice location in Chinatown. Since then the organization has used the Chinatown location to present performances, exhibitions, and screenings, as well as window installations. The establishment has also become a site for the development of new work.…