Chalk Circles

Past event


The Gallery at REDCAT presents Chalk Circles, an exhibition and series of related performances and events that consider the ways in which performing and visual arts intersect. Curated by Ruth Estévez and José Luis Blondet, the exhibition Chalk Circles stages a number of ways in which artists think critically about live actions, theater and performance.

The title of the exhibition refers to the well-known play by Bertolt Brecht, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, written in Los Angeles in 1944. Brecht’s play is a parable about ownership, affection and justice in which two characters must prove who is a better mother by pulling their baby out of a chalk circle. The chalk circle determines the place of the body within impermanent but accurate limits. The classic geometric shape speaks also of the fragility of such limits: to act/to be, inner truth/public mask, actor/character. A chalk circle can also question overlaps and coincidences of the gallery, the theatrical and the civic space. 

Artists in this exhibition document, reimagine, and rearticulate acting methodologies to investigate performance as a form of production, not just as an event-based form. Their projects center on mixed traditions of movement, acting and gesture, as well as pedagogic models. The role of the actor, the figure of the performer, and their different perspectives in the construction of a character inform several projects in the exhibition, while others focus on the frictions of a body in a fictive—theatralized—space.

Chalk Circles features works and commissions by local and international artists who engage in theatricality and performativity as a tool to feed the instability of such terms. Artists included in the exhibition: Carola Dertnig, Dora García and Peio Aguirre, Adrià Julià, Joachim Koester, David Levine, Emily Mast, Silke Otto-Knapp, Santiago Roldós and Pilar Aranda (Muégano Teatro), Catherine Sullivan and Kerry Tribe. 

Public Programs:

Dora García and Peio Aguirre

Performance, 2016

Each Wednesday from 5-6 pm for duration of the exhibition.

Readers: Oscar David Alvarez, Peter Kalisch, Georgia Lassner, Juliana Luján, Kat Sayarath and Catherine Scott

Performance is a collaborative work by Spanish artist Dora García and Basque Country based writer Peio Aguirre. The script by Aguirre is based on conversations that he and García have been having on performance, acting, actors, representation, characters and fiction since 2009. The text written for five characters and a narrator is based on the characters in the British film “Performance” (1968), starring James Fox, Anita Pallenberg, Mick Jagger and Michale Branton. The performance takes the form of a staged reading, with six characters reading their parts in the script.

Emily Mast

Hold Your Tensiona performance in three parts. In collaboration with Sarah McCarron and Mikaal Sulaiman

Sunday, July 16 at 5 pm; Sunday, August 13 at 5 pm

For Chalk Circles, LA based artist Emily Mast presents a new performance in collaboration with Mikaal Sulaiman, a former actor trained in Lecoq technique. Mast uses the duration of the exhibition to develop a performance with Mikaal in which he recounts and performs his own personal history with performance. Sulaiman will retrospectively and subjectively consider his own career inside the institution of theater and share it with the audience. Three iterations of the piece will be presented: one at the earliest stages of its inception, one halfway through, and one “ finished” piece at the end of the exhibition. In this project, Mast “directs” Sulaiman in the telling of his own life’s story. She functions as an ethnographer and biographer interested in learning about what theater means to someone who has had success with it and pointedly chooses to refuse it.

Opening Reception June 17, 4-9pm

Opening events:

Performance by Dora García and Peio Aguirre, 4 pm

Hold Your Tension, by Emily Mast in collaboration with Sarah McCarron and Mikaal Sulaiman, 6 pm

Carola Dertnig

Double Me Double You, 2017

Thursday June 22nd, 7 pm

Collaborators: Lisa Dring, Joshua Morrison, April Totten and Rachel Yezbick

Vienna based artist and professor Carola Detnig presents a new commissioned performance Double Me Double You (2017) in which she analyzes techniques of copying, appropriation, and reenactment in her own work. 

Dertnig asks: “What are the differences between a double and a reenactment, copy, or appropriation? In my view, doubling causes a transfer of one’s own ego onto the other ego, enclosing it in a new way. What happens to the ego when one doubles? Does one take possession of the person doubled, appropriating the original artist? Does one become her? Does one take possession of the work from the inside? Or is it entirely different—a relinquishing and surrendering of ego? What emerges in this occupation? A hitherto unknown form of empathy, perhaps, because one is obliged to go outside oneself in order to put oneself inside a person and her work in this way”. 

Santiago Roldós and Pilar Aranda (Muégano Teatro, Guayaquil)

Lecture / Performance: Juguetes cerca de la violencia / la destrucción de todas las cosas (Toys close to violence / Destruction of all things)

Saturday, June 24th, 6 pm

According to Roldós and Aranda, Brechtian theater is not interested in the evangelization of the public, but the production and spectacle of the exercise of learning, knowledge and wonder, in order to question drama and representation. This theatrical/performative lecture is an opportunity to learn about the idiosyncratic methodologies followed by Muégano Teatro, who borrow freely from their sources, acting on their anthropophagic interest in the Brechtian didactic theater.

about the artists

Peio Aguirre is an art critic, writer and independent curator based in San Sebastian, Spain. He works with subjects such as modernism, Marxism, form and formalism and science fiction. In his critical approach, he is interested in crossing boundaries between critical theory, art, architecture and design. He has published in magazines such as Afterall JournalA Prior MagazineChto delatFrieze, Flash Art and e-flux Journal, among others.

Carola Dertnig lives and works in Vienna. Since 2006 she has been a Professor of  Performative Art at The University of Fine Arts in Vienna. She was a participant in the 1997 Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York, and has been teaching as a guest professor at CalArts in Los Angeles. Dertnig’s work has appeared in several exhibitions  at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Artists Space, MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Secession, and the MUMOK in Vienna. Dertnig has published books inclduing Let’s Twist Again, If You Can’t Think It, Dance It, Performance in Vienna from 1960 Until Today (2006) (co-edited with Stefanie Seibold) and Performing the Sentence: Views on Research and Teaching in Performance Art (2014), (co-edited with Felicitas Thun). She is on the Board of the Secession, Vienna.

Dora García lives and works in Barcelona and Oslo. She has represented Spain at the Venice Biennale in 2011 and 2013. She took part in the 56th Venice International Art Exhibition, dOCUMENTA(13) and other international events such as Münster Sculpture Projects in 2007, Sydney Biennale 2008 and Sao Paulo Biennale 2010. Her work is largely performative and deals with issues related to community and individuality in contemporary society, exploring the political potential of people in marginal positions, paying homage to eccentric characters and antiheroes. These characters have often been the center of her film projects, such as The Deviant Majority (2010) and The Joycean Society (2013).

Adrià Julià was born in Barcelona, Spain and lives and works in Los Angeles. His most recent solo exhibitions have been at Miró Foundation, Barcelona; Dan Gunn, Berlin; Project Art Center, Dublin; Museo Tamayo, Mexico City; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach; LAXART, Los Angeles; Artists Space, New York; Insa Art Space, Seoul; Galeria Soledad Lorenzo, Madrid and La Virreina, Barcelona. He has been in group exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum, New York; Museu Reina Sofia, Madrid; Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea; Lyon Bennial, Lyon; Generali Foundation, Vienna; 7th Mercusur Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brasil; Akademie der Künste, Berlin. He presented performances at 29th São Paulo Bienal and Galeria Soledad Lorenzo.

David Levine is an artist based in Boston whose work explores the conditions of performance and spectatorship across a variety of mediums, including theater, video, pedagogy, and visual arts. His performance projects have been seen at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams; Documenta 12, Kassel, Germany; and the Watermill Center, Water Mill, New York, among other venues.

Emily Mast is a Los Angeles-based visual and performing artist. Her video and performance work has been exhibited internationally and was included in the Hammer Museum’s “Made in LA” biennial in 2014. She has also performed live at LACMA, Human Resources, the Velaslavasay Panorama, Night Gallery, Public Fiction, and REDCAT. Many of Mast’s pieces begin with an abstract text and she says of her work, “I’m someone who’s always trying to squeeze things into their very essence.” In 2013, she received a grant from the Harpo Foundation to develop a new series of performances. 

Muégano Teatro (Santiago Rodós and Pilar Aranda) was formed in Madrid as a self-taught permanent workshop focusing on the analysis of the work of Bertolt Brecht. Years later they returned to Guayaquil in Ecuador where Pilar Aranda and Santiago Roldós founded the Laboratory of Independent Theater and the Theater Career of ITAE (Institute of Arts of Ecuador), which some of its current members joined. They inaugurated Espacio Muégano Teatro in 2014.

Silke Otto-Knapp lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Selected solo exhibitions include Land Lies in Water, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2015); Monday or Tuesday, Camden Arts Centre, London (2014); Cold Climate, Museo Marino Marini, Florence (2014); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2014); Fogo Island Arts, Canada (2014); Geography and Plays, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2013); A light in the moon / MATRIX 239, Berkeley Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley (2011); Many many women, Kunstverein München, Munich (2010); Present time exercise, Modern Art Oxford, Oxford (2009); and 50ft Queenie, Tate Britain, London (2005). Otto-Knapp is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

Catherine Sullivan lives and works in Chicago, IL. She is a video and performance artist. In 1992, she earned her BFA at the California Institute of the Arts, and in 1997 she earned her MFA at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, under the direction of Mike Kelley. Sullivan is a former actress. Five Economies (big hunt/little hunt) (2002) restages scenes from films including The Miracle WorkerMarat/SadePersona and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?Tis Pity She’s a Fluxus Whore (2003) combines filmed re-enactments of a 1953 production of John Ford’s play and a 1964 Fluxus performance. Her works D-Pattern and The Chittendens were made in collaboration with the composer Sean Griffin. She won a Herb  Alpert Award in the Arts in 2004 and her works are held in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Tate and the Miami Art Museum.

Kerry Tribe lives and works in Los Angeles. Tribe’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at The Power Plant in Toronto, Modern Art, Oxford, Camden Arts Centre in London and Arnolfini in Bristol. She is currently preparing her first solo show at SFMoMA. Her work has been included in recent significant exhibitions at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. She is a recipient of a Creative Capital grant and a USA Artists Award. Her work is in the public collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, The Hammer Museum, The Orange County Museum of Art and The Generali Foundation, among others.