Provocateur (noun): an instigator and stimulator of dialogue surrounding difficult, deep, intriguing and awe-inspiring matters; a guide, a leader, and, when need be, a fly on the wall.
The Provocateurs in The Matter of Origins are artists, scientists, scholars, community members, and educators. As an integral part of Act II/The Tea, they are also cross-pollinators, collecting knowledge from multiple individuals to explore the seemingly disparate topics of art, science, and belief as presented in Act I.
The Matter of Origins has been previously presented by Arizona State University, Wesleyan University, and the University of Maryland, all institutions which had a captive academic community from which to source volunteers for both Provocateurs and Tea Servers. In this incarnation of The Matter of Origins, our partner, the Chicago Humanities Festival, extended invitations across several disciplines and multiple spheres of influence to recruit Provocateurs. The individuals who answered the call:
Leslie Baum, Amy Bretz, Marianna Buchwald, Kristen Cox, Amanda Denham, Deb Durham, Karen Faith, Cassie Hamrick, Axel Hoffman, Jackie Intres, Maggie Kast, David Lakein, Lisa Leszczewicz, Heather Lindahl, Onye Ozuzu, Barbara Pool, Chris Preissing, Elvia Rodriguez Ochoa, Ari Rudenko, Bryan Saner, Sarah Schnadt, Myah Shein, Annie Shuminas-Nelson, Tamara Silverleaf, Emily Stein, Gwen Terry, Lindsey Barlag Thornton, and Jacqui Ulrich.
We expect orderly chaos to ensue as each Provocateur challenges the audience and each other with questions pulled through layers of varied experiences. In preparation for the dress rehearsal, we asked three of the Provocateurs to share with us why they agreed to carve out time in their busy schedules to join us for this unique event:
“I danced with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange for a year-and-a-half about ten years ago. I am familiar with Liz’s great ability to interact with people from all walks of life, in all situations, including while they are being lifted and tossed around a stage. A few years ago I saw her piece on the genome project, and especially loved the parts where they reproduced her conversations with biologists as a soundtrack for the piece. Liz asked the scientists how they would choreograph a particular genetic structure, and they jumped in with suggestions. The dancers embodied the suggestions as the audience listened, and it was hilarious. I’m not sure there is any serious dichotomy between science and art, but I do believe that any area of cultural or ethnic conflict is likely to set off sparks that light fires of creativity. (Witness the dance theatre of bi-cultural Montreal). If science and art don’t collide next week, perhaps dance and tea will, and I hope we will all begin to glow.”
“Liz’s work has accompanied me through my dance journey from the beginning. My first significant mentor/teachers – Nia, and her father Ed Love — were from Washington DC and had worked with and carried stories, processes, and methodologies of Liz Lerman and the Dance Exchange into our work together. From the first time I participated in a Creative Response Process, early in my tenure as a professor of dance in the academy, I integrated it deeply into the way that I taught choreography, dance history, philosophy, and technique and into the way that I thought about artmaking, audience engagement, and dance administration. I just moved to Chicago and am coming into a significantly new chapter of my work as an artist. It seems timely and fitting that I see what Liz is up to. Her work has always navigated an important interspace for me — between an ancient sensibility of dance ritual and a contemporary and functioning tool of social and civic discourse facilitated by artists for the purpose of igniting the multiple complexes, polycentric sensitivities, and reflexive awareness of ‘the people.’”
“As I prepare to act as a Provocateur in The Matter of Origins, I find myself concerned with a question: why must our lives as humans be so limited by the finite? We can only see so far, hear so much, understand such a small fraction of the universe. And yet perhaps, the finite is the only lens through which we can even begin to understand the infinite reaches of our galactic and subatomic worlds. Our bodies are the most important tool we will ever have for experiencing the finite and through her choreography, Liz Lerman is inviting her audience to wrestle with the finite in order to penetrate the mysterious world of the infinite. I am so looking forward to the discussions that follow this performance as we spend some time sitting at tea with the biggest questions. Hopefully, our collective understanding of the infinite will be stretched and strengthened.”