UTOPIC MONSTER THEORY
J’SUN HOWARD & JENNIFER KARMIN
“Utopic Monster Theory” is a polydesirous bricolage of text-movement exploring 21st-century cultural work. Moving through four vignettes, the piece defines and attempts to understand why artists’ creative labor is undervalued. The audience is delegated participatory tasks in order to demonstrate the ways artists rely on their communities to continue their work. Utilizing the childhood song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” the daily struggle of trying to live successfully as an artist is amplified, moreover the competitiveness that grows from continuously applying for grants, residencies, teaching positions, etc. Superhero selves are awakened and summoned from both imaginary and realist realms. A series of poems based on the idea of the American dream exposes how artists and other cultural “monsters” are often hunted because they actively choose such a conceit. Finally, searching for the island of Utopia surmises the collective effort needed to reach that place where all are/is worthy.
Our performance highlights the everyday practice of creative activity that has become a force for international change. We are interested in interdisciplinary performance not only as it applies to aesthetics but also in the contemporary terms of race, gender, class, and sociopolitical activism happening around the world right now. This collaboration has provided each of us with a new freedom to take artistic risks, where there is no direct sense of success or failure.
Source material, text, and inspiration are derived from: Antony & the Johnsons, Joseph Beuys, the Black Panther Party, Bleach anime series, Family Guy TV show, the Internal Revenue Service, Andrew Joron, John Lennon, Bernadette Mayer, Thomas More, Eric Satie, Mary Shelly, and Hannah Weiner.
“Utopic Monster Theory” premiered at the 2011 festival To Art & Profit, curated by Chicago artists Abra Johnson and Meida McNeal.