Art21 New York Close Up

Double Premiere Friday! Mika Rottenberg & Jon Kessler cast all shapes & sizes

Performer Juan Valenzuela during artist Mika Rottenberg and John Kessler’s Performa-commissioned work SEVEN at Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery (Chelsea, 11.19.11.) Production still from the series New York Close Up © Art21, Inc. 2012.

As promised this Friday’s release is a double premiere—it’s the first film featuring one of New York Close Up’s eight new artists as well as the first film featuring artist Mika Rottenberg.  So may we present “Mika Rottenberg & Jon Kessler Wanna Make You Sweat.”

One of the nice things about this blog is we get the chance to talk about stuff that we just can’t fit into our final films.  And this episode in particular definitely represents just the tip of a much larger narrative/backstory iceberg.  The biggest submerged part being the stories of the rather extraordinary range of folks that collaborators Mika and Jon cast for their Performa-commissioned performance/ installation work SEVEN at Nicole Klagsbrun gallery.  And I was the lucky producer who got to hang out backstage and talk with the performers.

*Sunita Sharma–Mika originally found out about Sunita–who had no prior acting experience–thru Sunita’s Mom, who runs a clothing store. Sunita’s family’s response to a three week-long run of performances in which she alternately bikes in a bath robe and is publicly “juiced” of sweat in a sauna-like sculptural installation?  “Oh everybody was very happy.  My mom said, I’m very proud of you.”

*Jason LilesNew York Film Academy graduate and 6’ 10” actor Jason described the professional ups and downs of being a (tall) actor in New York:  “When they need someone tall, like I am, I’m there you know.  Like Men In Black III.  [I played one of ] the really tall, aliens.  They had me wear three or four-inch boots which made me over seven feet . . . But, I do a lot of short films and anything I can get.  I just was doing an NYU film this morning.  Had to get up at six and then walk from set to here to do this.  And so it’s been a long day.”

*Chris McGinn–Acting coach and teacher (and dog walker) Chris told me about the rather unorthodox casting process: “There was a website where I’d seen this thing for submissions, it said, all shapes and sizes and types.  And they said, you’ll be sweating and bicycling.  I thought, that sounds so weird  . . . I know I’m a character actress and I’m not the skinny Minnie little ingénue.  And so I thought, you’re really stupid not to put yourself in if you feel that you’re right for this.  And so I submitted myself.  And then I got a phone call saying, we’ve got our six people.  And we wanted you as a seventh.  So would you come and you know meet with us?  And they said, can you fold your legs, can you pedal a bike, can you sit in the sauna?  And I thought, oh my god, it’s that project.”

And that’s only three members from a full cast of ten.  Perhaps some video excerpts of our backstage interviews are in order for future posts?