Yanira Castro, a canary torsi

Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, TBA Festival,
September 20, 2020      

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Sat, Oct 24, 2020, 2 pm
Sun, Dec 13, 2020, 5–6:15 pm

Performer Devynn Emory (above) is part of “Last Audience,” an interdisciplinary project developed by NYC-based choreographer Yanira Castro. Photo by Maria Baranova

While COVID-19 has flatlined many curatorial projects, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA), like many cultural art houses and performance venues, continues to explore ingenious ways of presenting and connecting artistic communities, albeit virtually. This year, the MCA partnered with artists and institutions nationally, hoping to present works that could be accessed at home through a combination of internet, phone, mail and interactive live events. Last Audience, was one of these projects reconceived as a performance manual.

With Last Audience: a performance manual, a canary torsi reimagines performance for an era of social distance. A series of printed manuals developed in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Last Audience: a performance manual transforms the public into performers in their own homes, guided by the artists’ voices through rituals of mercy, judgment, communion, and blessing. As participants stage their own interpretation of the artwork, they become both witness and creator, giver and receiver in an at-home performance of reckoning and transformation.

The manual consists of a set of printed manuals containing 28 performance scores, received via mail or a downloadable PDF. The instructional scores invite the public to interpret, recreate, and enact the performance through audio, video and text-based scores. Drawing on iconic images in US history, theater’s ancient roots in Greek tragedy, and the structure of the requiem mass, these scores are, in artist Yanira Castro’s words, “a manual for a collective imagination on reckoning.”

The manual is accompanied by a website, LastAudience.com. The site acts as a repository for the public’s collective engagement with Last Audience: a performance manual. It contains digital content for use by the public to enact performance scores in the manual. And it serves as an index of photographs taken by the public of the aftermath of their experience in performing the scores, keeping a record of the collective imagination.

Virtual gatherings throughout the fall of 2020 bring the public together to experience the work and meet the artists, taking on the themes of the work.

See this related article on one of the series of zoom events hosted by MCA.

You can purchase the manual from the MCA store.

Concept, Direction & Original Scores by Yanira Castro
Manuals Written, Compiled and Designed by Yanira Castro & Kathy Couch
Additional Writing Contributed by Leslie Cuyjet (Warning Solo), devynn emory, Pamela Vail, David Thomson
Audio & Video Performed by Yanira Castro, Kathy Couch, devynn emory, David Thomson
Music and Audio Design by Stephan Moore
Video by Peter Richards
Website Management by Leslie Cuyjet
Website Design by Fei Liu
Photographs by Simon Courchel
Performance in photographs by Leslie Cuyjet, Kirsten Michelle Schnittker
Costume in Warning by Miodrag Guberinic
Project Coordination by LD DeArmon
Dramaturgy for performances by Susan Mar Landau