Special Effects Festival, January 09-10, 2020

Special Effects Festival January 09-10, 2020
@ Wild Project, 195 E 3rd St, New York, NY

This year’s edition of Special Effects Festival asks…
How do we combine difference?
How do we assemble coalition?
and what is the power of togetherness.

Artist driven and oriented, Special Effects gathers experimental performance works by practitioners exploring contemporary issues. Drawing on a network of over 8K artists who are part of contemporaryperformance.com, the festival samples the diversity and richness of the discipline of performance and presents an open forum for critical thinking on the issues of the day.

Special Effects Festival (SFX) was founded in 2014 by Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson, artistic directors of Big Art Group and editors at Contemporary Performance Network. Our mission has been to present artists during the Annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference in January in NYC each year. We focus on presenting LBGTQIA+, POC, women, and non-binary artists, giving a platform for exciting, inclusive, genre-breaking work and voices.
Tickets are $20.

January 9, 2020 @ 8pm
Packing and Cracking
created by Rachel Karp and Joseph Amodei
Tickets: $20

Directed by Rachel Karp
Designed by Joseph Amodei

Do we choose our politicians, or do our politicians choose us? PACKING AND CRACKING is an interactive mapmaking event about gerrymandering: the pervasive practice of politicians choosing their voters rather than the other way around. Through participatory drawing and map-drawing games, PACKING AND CRACKING uses critical cartography, historical accounts of the first gerrymanders, and interviews with people dealing with gerrymandering today to show how easy and disenfranchising gerrymandering can be and ask what, if anything, we should do about it.

January 10, 2020 @ 8pm
Gray Spaces: Rally
Curated and hosted by Lisa Clair
Tickets: $20

Braulio Cruz  – The Braille of the Soul
Kristin Worrall – The Recipe: The Transformation of Milk
Sauda Aziza Jackson / April Sweeney – I DIGRESS: The intimate insights of a childhood weirdo
Joey Weiss / Kate Benson – PDF on painting

Braulio Cruz – The Braille of the Soul
Tickets: $20

The Braille of the Soul piece aims to connect themes of home, ancestry, and intimacy within the songs to a video collage running on shuffle.

Kristin Worrall – The Recipe: The Transformation of Milk
Tickets: $20

A brief investigation into the potentialities of milk.
Kristin Worrall is a pastry artist, performer, and musician who lives in New York City.

Sauda Aziza Jackson / April Sweeney – I DIGRESS: The intimate insights of a childhood weirdo
Tickets: $20

Sauda Jackson weaves together personal tales from her childhood with the media and memorabilia that defined her past in this multimedia performance piece, part memoir, a sliver of music, a quarter bio-drama, and a dribble of her own special sauce. I DIGRESS, a performance memoir, explores the weight of inheritance and the recollection of memories and material things once lost to time.

Joey Weiss / Kate Benson – PDF on painting
Tickets: $20

In the past painting was slow. In the future painting was free in the future without a job. PDF on painting is a presentation on painting.

Big Art Group

In Print: Doubleness on the New York Contemporary Experimental Stage: Bodies and Technology

Big Art Group is discussed in depth in the new article, “Doubleness on the New York Contemporary Experimental Stage: Bodies and Technology” by Emeline J. Jouve. The article can be read in French or In English.

“Doubleness on the New York Contemporary Experimental Stage: Bodies and Technology” explores the representations of bodies in a corpus of plays by New York artists from the “New American Avant-Garde.” Intermediality, or the co-presence or superimposition of different artistic media, creates dual bodies: technological monsters that are half-human and half-video, grotesque minotaurs at once men and puppets. A “place for viewing,” theatre, theatron, is turned by artists into a showcase displaying post-human bodies. To what extent does the use of technology annihilate or magnify the physical presence of the actor, the traditional soul and raison d’être of the art of the theatre? To answer this question, this paper focuses on works by the pioneering Wooster Group (1975-), the eminent Big Art Group (1999-) and the new rising star of the New York experimental scene, Andrew Schneider (2015-). I develop the concept of doubleness in order to define the nature of the interactions between bodies and technology in the various shows of the artists. – extract from the Transatlantica website

You read the article at this link – > https://journals.openedition.org/transatlantica

Photo: © Big Art Group
Pictured: David Commander, Edward Stresen-Reuter, Mikeah Ernest Jennings


Published: Big Art Group’s OPACITY (2017)

Big Art Group’s script from the 2017 work, OPACITY, presented at the Bard Live Arts Biennial is in Yale University’s Theater Magazine published by Duck University Press.

Opacity is built around the framework of the “interface,” specifically the threat of the increasingly opaque intermediation of algorithms between the real and the experienced. The performance uses sculptural, choreographic and computational models to hack, encrypt, spoof, troll, spam and camouflage our digital identities, and return these coded selves to the realms of the real.  The performance consists of modular scenes of mundane life staged in sculptural abstraction, exploring desires and attempts to connect to one another online through opaque interfaces (social media sites, romance apps, image-sharing web apps), with their simultaneous abilities of cloaking, catfishing, fake accounts, bogus avatars, twitter bots, algorithmic responses and the system’s constant surveillance from behind the interface.  Each scene alternates with synthetically produced contemporary songs, touchpoints to the obsolete and ‘warm’ technology that foreshadowed the all-enveloping cloud which entangles our daily lives of omnipresent data collection.

System, Installation, Sound, and Text: Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson
Performed: Kevin Ramser and Philip Gates
Code: Jemma Nelson and Sylvie Sherman
Assistant Director: Rachel Karp
Assistant Video: Adam Thompson
3D Modeling: Kevin Ramser

Developed with the Digital Devising Lab Class at Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama: Caitlin Ayer, Stephen M. Eckert, Philip Gates, Rachel Karp, Sara Lyons, Kevin Ramser, Sylvie Sherman, Adam Thompson

Manson, Caden, and Jemma Nelson. “Opacity.” Theater, vol. 48, no. 1, Apr. 2018, pp. 32–53.



Speaking At The Chaos & Method Symposium (Prague, CZ) May 28 & 29, 2018

Caden Manson will be speaking about FRAMEWORKS, a system for researching, thinking, and making Contemporary Performance created by Manson and Jemma Nelson (Big Art Group) at the The Chaos & Method Symposium at DAMU in Prague, CZ May 28 & 29, 2018.

This symposium is a gathering of pedagogues, artists and students where we share experiences about teaching the ‘unthinkable’: a place to sigh, collapse and think together. But it will also be a place of pragmatic mapping of the field: What are the existing, specific methodologies that we use in teaching contemporary performance? What are individual fields and disciplines thought at different schools? What is the proportion of theory and practice? How is the future ‘career’, possibility to build future connections, provided to students? How do we help them towards their own aesthetics? What is the form of the bachelor studies vs. master studies, what is the difference?

The symposium is organized by the Department of Alternative and Puppet Theatre of DAMU that has since its establishing in 1952 achieved international recognition and has since its beginnings cultivated new approaches to theatre making. It is vitally connected to the distinguished tradition of Czech ‘authorial’ theatre and puppetry, yet integrates the newest theatrical trends in the areas of object theatre, media, improvisation and visual arts.

Conveners: MgA. Sodja Zupanc Lotker MgA et Ph.D – Course Leader of the MA in Directing Devised and Object Theatre at KALD DAMU and and MgA. Lukáš Jiřička, Ph.D.

Other institutions giving talks: Tom Sellar (Yale School of Drama), Barbara Van Lindt (Das Arts, Amsterdam), Caden Manson (Carnegie Mellon University), Maya Levy (The School of Visual Theatre, Jerusalem), Steinnum Knuttsdotir (Iceland University of the Arts), Philipp Schulte (Hessian Theatre Academy, Frankfurt), Agnieszka Korytkowska-Mazur (Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw), Silvia Ferrando Luquin (ESAD, Barcelona), Florian Reichert and Sibylle Heim (HKB, Bern), Jan Hančil (AMU, Prague Rector), Ana Contreras Elvira (RESAD, Madrid), Lucia Repašská (JAMU, Brno),  Alexander Roberts (Iceland University of the Arts), Karmenlara Ely (Norwegian Theatre Academy, Østfold University College, Fredrikstad), Julika Meyer (HMDK, Stuttgart) and François Duconseille (HEAR, Strasbourg), Iga Ganczarczyk (PWST, Krakow), Zane Kreicberga (Latvian Academy of Culture, Riga), Bruce Barton (School of Creative and Performing Arts, University of Calgary).

Full schedule: bit.ly/ChaosMethod-schedule

Contemporary Performance Currents

Contemporary Performance Currents

Contemporary Performance has published Contemporary Performance Currents edited by Caden Manson and researched and written by the members of the Contemporary Performance Think Tank.

It is now available on Amazon

The Contemporary Performance Think Tank: Currents focuses on contemporary performing artists and companies redefining the formal relationships of architecture, artist, and audience. For this book, the Think Tank chose five areas on the forefront of this research to explore; Contemporary Choreography, Mixed Reality Performance, Performance Cabaret, Immersive Theatre, and Social Engaged Art. Each section of this book includes an introduction to the specific practice, a conversation with an artist, and a list of artists working in and around the specific practice.

Lecture: From Real Time Film to Cryptopresence: Big Art Group’s Performance Strategies (Toronto University) Thursday March 22, 2018, 3-5 p.m.

The JHI-UTM Seminar on Digital and Mixed Reality Performance presents:
Big Art Group (NYC)
From Real Time Film to Cryptopresence: Big Art Group’s Performance Strategies
Talk and Reception

Big Art Group


Thursday March 22, 2018
3-5 p.m.
Robert Gill Theatre, 214 College Street
Use the St. George entrance (on the east side of the building), and take the stairs/elevator to the 3rd floor
An RSVP is required to attend this event.  Click HERE to RSVP.
For more information, please contact the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at 416 978-7987.

Big Art Group is a New York City performance company founded in 1999 by Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson. The company uses the language of media and blended states of performance in a unique form to build challenging new works. Since its inception, it has toured nationally and internationally and produced critically acclaimed works including the ‘Real Time Film’ trilogy Shelf LifeFlicker, House of No MoreSOS; and its reality-based theatre series The People.

This event is part of the University of Toronto Mississauga / Jackman Humanities Institute Annual Seminar, “Digital and Mixed Reality Performance.” Read more about the series.

Co-sponsored by the the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, Jackman Humanities Institute and the University of Toronto Mississauga.


Caden Manson & Jemma Nelson Curate The Special Effects Festival Jan 11-13, 2018

Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson curate the 5th annual Special Effects Festival in NYC January 11-13, 2018 at The Wild Project in the East Village.

Artist driven and oriented, Special Effects gathers experimental performance works by practitioners exploring contemporary issues. Drawing on a network of over 7K artists who are part of contemporaryperformance.com, the festival samples the diversity and richness of the discipline of performance and presents an open forum for critical thinking on the issues of the day.
Tickets are $25 (Free Drink Ticket).

“This year’s edition of Special Effects Festival asks, how do we strengthen community, how do we build empathy, and how do we stay focused and carry each other through this clusterf*ck”.

Artist presented this year are Becca Blackwell, Kate Dakota Kremer, Maiko Kikuchi, Jeremy O. Harris, Cara Francis, Alex Borinsky, Zoë Geltman, Rachel Kauder Nalebuff. Lisa Clair curates Gray Spaces this year.



In Print: Imagined Theatres

Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson are published in “Imagined Theatres”  this month. http://amzn.to/2pBAeVo

Imagined Theatres collects hypothetical performances written by nearly one hundred leading theorists and artists of the contemporary stage. These dramatic fragments, prose poems, and microfictions describe imaginary events that put theory itself onstage. Each no longer than a page, and accompanied by a reflective gloss, these texts consider what might be possible and impossible in the theatre.

Caden Manson Teaches At LaMaMa International’s Director’s Symposium In Umbria, Italy July 23-30, 2017

This Summer, Caden Manson will be leading a week long workshop titled, Frameworks: Digital Devising For Contemporary Performance at La Mama International’s Director’s Symposium in Umbria, Italy July 23-30, 2017. During the workshop, students will be introduced to some of the key terms and techniques Manson uses for developing work with his company Big Art Group.

Frameworks is a set of techniques in digital devising for contemporary performance. It incorporates a new and expanding vocabulary for performance that reflects and embodies our hyper-connected world; it includes exercises for creators, collaborators, and participants in performance works; and it engages in working with contemporary technology.

“What Could We Build, or Is the Future Already Behind Us?: A Forum” – Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson published in Yale’s Theater Magazine

Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson have been published in Yale’s Theater Magazine. They were part of “What Could We Build, or Is the Future Already Behind Us?A Forum” during Prelude15 Festival along with David LevineDavid ConisonRyan McNamaraAlexandro Segadeand Tom Sellar. Available online at Duke Journals.

“For the 2015 Prelude festival, held at New York’s Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, cocurator Antje Oegel and I wanted to think about architecture in two ways. First, we invited artistic leaders of New York’s newest theater buildings—Performance Space 122 and St. Ann’s Ware- house—to present their plans to an audience of artists and professionals. We wanted to know why these structures were going up and what the ideas were behind their designs. We talked about how they would (ostensibly) contribute to the urban ecology and what opportunities they might o er artists and audiences.

For the second part of this initiative, we invited a handful of hometown theater makers to imagine ideal architectures for future performance: anything from a building to a technol- ogy, a public assembly or any other kind of structure. They presented their projects live and in a modest exhibit—and a spirited discussion ensued. Is architecture about more than just buildings? What’s the use of utopian fantasies like this—are they essential nourishment in a city dominated by commerce, where culture easily becomes another commodity? Was the curato- rial prompt a form of entrapment for artists who prefer to work around limitations and come up with something real? What did these artists’ thought experiments reveal about the creative needs of the city when placed next to the building projects actually going up in the metropolis?” – Tom Sellar