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Notes On Empty Chairs Performance at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

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Taking place over three Tuesday evenings, “Notes on Empty Chairs” is a series of three interactive performances by Chicago-based artist Kirsten Leenaars that explore themes of empathy, loss, and remembrance in response to the exhibition Doris Salcedo. The performances are cumulative and collaboratively developed with local community groups. Audience members are challenged to become active spectators and partake in the theatrical events.

This first performance, “Notes on Empty Chairs (part 1),” explores the notion of (an empathetic) silence, both as a complicit space as well as a space for remembrance and listening. Rather than posing speech, or one’s voice against silence, silence is proposed as a way not to grasp but to reach emotively for other forms of connecting to what often remains invisible or unspeakable. The performance incorporates spoken text, sound, and a simple choreography or movement as performers and audience travel through the museum.

The performers and collaborators for “Notes on Empty Chairs (part 1)” include:
Marvin Tate, Kathleen Rooney, Martin Seay, Matthew Robinson, Regin Iglora, Monica Brown, Udita Upadhyaya, Sonia Yoon, Daniel Borzutzky, Christopher Gambino, Jada Armina Harvey, Soheila Sima Azida, Tongyu Zhao, Valentina Vella, Nora Sharp, Mallory Backstrom, Alex Main, Alison Auwerda, Billy McGuinness, Zachary Hutchinson. Drummer: Dan Bitney


About the Artist

Through her practice—a hybrid of social practice, video and performance based work—Kirsten Leenaars engages with specific people and communities. Her work oscillates between fiction and documentation by reinterpreting personal stories and reimagining everyday realities through staging, improvisation, and play. She examines the very nature of our own constructed realities, the stories we tell ourselves and the ones we identify with, and explores the way we relate to others. In her work she brings to light a shared humanity, often through humor and play. Recent projects include The Invasion of the Hairy Blobs, a science-fiction film she produced at the Hyde Park Art Center; Not In Another Place, But This Place… (Happiness), a video project that focuses on the Edgewater community in Chicago and explores notions of happiness, responsibility, and policy; andOn Our Way to Tomorrow, a soap opera series developed with staff and visitors of the MCA over a one-month research period and as part of the exhibition Without You I Am Nothing.