STANCE asked Vanessa if she’d be willing to share some of the questions and responses Keith Hennessy and Circo Zero’s performance Turbulence: A dance about the economy and the Velocity Speakeasy talk THE ART OF POLITICS + THE POLITICS OF QUEER brought up for her regarding her own process as an artist, performer and artist supporter:

If the premise is one of participation, then what is an audience?

It’s great because I’m thinking about this all the time as I embark on participatory work. What are ways I want them to participate? How do encourage them to? What opens both my fourth-wall door and theirs too so we can be in transformative and receptive modes. I don’t want participation just because it’s kind of a cool way for audiences to be in my work.

How can we cultivate enthusiasm (love?) even when precarious?

I struggle with this, despondency, cynicism, sarcasm and ennui are such easy and hopeless states of our current times. Is it possible from all of this instability all of this constant change all of this falling down to create anything but cynicism…..I hope for love or at least enthusiasm. When I read the article on exuberance and exhaustion by Jan Verwoert, right from the outset I hoped that exuberance might win over exhaustion. Yes this is my personal dream and yes I am privileged and optimistic because of it. Also I look to the next generations, the artist who are sometimes two decades younger then me and I see empathy kindness fairness rigor in all sorts of unusual places and (this is huge) RECEPTIVITY. This heartens me.

How can we support artworks that make nothing? AND

What does it take to shift into the radical space so far removed from object, choreography, intentionality into that unknown space, the space of the body primarily?

I have something in common with Keith Hennessy and that is a desire to re-poeticize, to defeat the structures that don’t allow for magic or make something clear and coherent (his quote: “We work on everything at once, producing almost nothing coherent or clear…”)

This is what I’ve got right now. Through visiting Keith’s Turbulence page at Circo Zero I came upon this quote from Peggy Phelan and I just think it couldn’t be more vivid and perhaps why I was so mixed up stunned hurt and reeling from the workshop and the performances:

“If one is ambitious enough to want to create a shared history, then one must be willing to risk an impossible dance, one that pivots on a desire to out muscle exhaustion, a desire alive to our wavering capacities to bestow and receive responses, and an apparently insatiable desire to question these capacities and what motivates and blocks them, repeatedly.” -Peggy Phelan

Are there ways to allow or cultivate the “capacity to bestow and receive” in an audience?

Certainly in the close landscape of the studio or the practice, we work on this process, especially as improvisers. But what can do it for an audience, allow them to be in that discomfort of questioning even that which blocks them? I work this angle in intimacy. I work this angle by giving genuinely difficult engaging tasks to my small audiences, causing them to be not only viewers but also shapers.


Vanessa Dewolf is an artist, performer and poet as well as the creator and director of Studio Current and co-curator of Project: Space Available. The programs value process over product. Artists represent all media, genre, and intersections of art-making. Currently the COMPOST SUITE at Studio Current is offering workshops from an amazing group of Seattle based artists. Consider applying to be an artist in residence for the upcoming FLOWER SEASON.

Studio Current is an artist-run space that encourages creativity and innovation through rigorous dialog in a community of curated artist-residents. Vanessa DeWolf has a passionate aim to support the ecology and sustainability of an artist’s creative process. Studio Current has been in existence for 8years in the heart of the pike/pine corridor of the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle. Vanessa DeWolf has been running spaces in this neighborhood for nearly two decades, Studio Current is the culmination of all that experience intent on making a space that cultivates creative process and innovation over accessibility. It’s a place to take chances, to fail, to keep discovering, inquiring, research and more. Primarily it is studio-time in exchange for aesthetic dialog with a community of peers.

PROJECT: Space Available begins it’s third year of performance-installation artist residencies. Co-curated by Mônica Mata Gilliam and Vanessa Dewolf, artists are in residence for 1-2 months and given free reign to use the space as their work unfolds. The residencies are for artists working in ways that are responsive to the space and in ways that are speculative so that the artist discovers the work in the space. It emerged from this question: What happens to the work and practices of a performance-installation artist when they have ample time to explore, change and develop their work in the actual space of their performance & installation?

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