Frye Art Museum Presents Degenerate Art Ensemble

This first art exhibition and museum project showcasing Degenerate Art Ensemble (DAE), a groundbreaking performance company, was conceived and executed over a two-year process of dialogue and close collaboration between Frye Art Museum curator Robin Held and the artists, especially co-artistic directors Haruko Nishimura and Joshua Kohl. On view MARCH 19, 2011 – JUNE 19, 2011.

The multifaceted, interdisciplinary project supports the Frye’s commitment to present under-recognized work of significance and to engage diverse audiences through interdisciplinary, boundary-breaking artworks-in-progress. The project includes distinct but overlapping components, including an exhibition, a performance, and workshops and public programs.

DAE’s roots date back to 1993, when a group of Seattle-based artists formed the Young Composers’ Collective, a seventeen-member experimental orchestra including students and professional musicians, visual artists, dancers, and other innovators. Six years later, the group decided to change its name to Degenerate Art Ensemble, which refers to one of the twentieth century’s most important and galvanizing art exhibitions: the 1937 Degenerate Art exhibition presented six hundred fifty works purged from German museums because they did not support the ideals of National Socialism. For DAE, reviving the name “Degenerate Art” indicated a commitment to internationalism, interdisciplinary practice, intellectual rigor, and open expression that expanded political and artistic boundaries.

DAE has since garnered acclaim with more than five hundred concerts and performances in ten countries. It has explored a diverse variety of formats, including music, dance, theater, film scoring, recording, sculpture, and painting in over one hundred original performative works and nine commercial music recordings. The group has received commissions from On the Boards, Commissioning Music USA, and the Aaron Copland Fund, and has had artist residencies at the New Museum, New York City, and Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center.

Degenerate Art Ensemble: The Exhibition, March 19–June 19, 2011
This premiere touring exhibition introduces museum audiences to DAE’s dynamic, event-based sensorial extravaganzas through sound works, sculpture, props, costumes, films, photo and video documentation, and video projections. The exhibition includes signature works such as Sonic Tales (2009) and Cuckoo Crow (2006), and features artworks created by DAE for a museum context.

Public programs include a series of gallery talks by key DAE contributors, who in conversation with Robin Held, will speak from the perspective of their areas of expertise: sculpture, robotics, electronics, sound design, video and film, costume design, and/or dance.

The Red Shoes Project: Premiere Performance
DAE’s performances have ranged from full theatrical stage productions to intimate concerts. Flexible in its configuration and membership, DAE can transform from a dance company to a punk/jazz band to a forty-five-piece orchestra. In all of its iterations, the group electrifies audiences, creates uniquely memorable shared experiences, and explores new territories of perception.

DAE’s latest site-specific performance, The Red Shoes Project, will be presented at the Frye Art Museum and other First Hill locations, including the St. James Cathedral courtyard. The performance – a rich tapestry of dreams, creativity, artistic agency, determination, and reinvention – is an adaption of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of a ballerina whose red toe shoes will not allow her to stop dancing. Beginning in the Frye and spilling onto the streets, The Red Shoes Project features key DAE members, Korean vocalist Dohee Lee, a marching band, the sixty-member St. James chorus, and the audience. It will be presented on four consecutive Thursday evenings: May 12, May 19, May 26, and June 2. While free, tickets must be reserved in advance.

Degenerate Art Ensemble: Workshops, Programs, Reunion
Degenerate Art Ensemble is accompanied by a an exciting slate of dance workshops, conversations, video screenings, public programs, and a reunion of all DAE members, past and present. In April 2011, as part of the lecture series Performance | Art, curator Robin Held conducts an on-stage conversation with DAE artistic directors Haruko Nishimura and Joshua Kohl, addressing key methods and strategies evidenced in The Red Shoes Project and past DAE performances.

Degenerate Art Ensemble is organized by the Frye Art Museum and curated by Robin Held in collaboration with the artists. The exhibition is funded by the Frye Foundation with the generous support of Frye Art Museum members and donors and the Offield Family Foundation. Media sponsor for the exhibition is Seattle Met magazine. Seasonal support is provided by ArtsFund. DAE is supported by 4Culture, 4Culture SITE-SPECIFIC, the City of Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, and Washington State Arts Commission, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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