The Light BrigadeAnchorage, AK
So much has changed since we wrote our letter of interest to ArtPlace back in November of last year. At that time we had already assembled a strong team of local artists who shared an interest in inserting time-based work into the community and the broader contemporary art dialogue. We had a specific series of events in mind that formed the boundaries of our project. We had an exciting culmination in mind that we believed could potentially nudge the conversation from focusing exclusively on conventional performance seasons presented by long-standing arts institutions towards consideration of a broader definition of creative placemaking. We hoped to ignite an upsurge of work by artists that would engage old audiences in a different way and maybe more importantly engage an entirely new audience. Yes, I know that’s what everyone wants to do. Even the opera company and the community chorus and the downtown non-profit theatre company and the ballet and the symphony, the museum and the dance teacher non-profit all say that. And they all mean it because in the desperately sequestered climate enveloping America’s cultural landscape that formula (or some variation of it) has emerged as the leading slogan (masquerading as a strategy) for survival. But between the urgent desire and its implementation falls the shadow of constraint.
Collaborative groups of individual artists are far less constrained than non-profit corporations with boards and buildings—both heavy anchors to haul into untraveled terrain. One leaf on the branch of our budding theory was the idea that the most energizing innovation was likely to condense in the lightest footprint. We wanted to test that theory. The Light Brigade meets to discuss its plans in a sculpture studio and rehearses its urban art interventions in an abandoned power plant in an industrial quadrant of the city. No lease, no heat. Our interventions occur in the city’s natural and built environment according to a small list of dogma that includes making performances one time only, free to the public, radically site specific, and always different except for the fingerprint elements that are always the same. Doubtless you have already figured out the fatal flaw in this approach, no?
No board, no formal organizational structure, no hierarchy, no charismatic leader, no mailbox equals no money, yes? Yes, unless you turn those deficits into your strengths. If you are light enough someone structurally sturdier will not mind you jumping on their back. This is a childhood memory too often forgotten. The Light Brigade found a hale and hearty partner in the Anchorage Park Foundation. This began because the park foundation took an interest in a piece we were planning to perform in a park. They came and saw for themselves that art of the sort we were making has the power to change how one sees and thinks about the spaces around them—forever. This is how alchemy transmogrifies the ephemeral into the permanent.
Our next blog post (Part II) will highlight the changes this post’s first sentence refers to and catalogue some unexpected successes as the experiment unfolds.