Installation photo from the inaugural and historic CREATION IN MOTION exhibition documenting  A Place of Sun  by choreographer Stefanie Batten Bland, May 18 - 19, 2012 at Eyebeam in Chelsea, New York City.  Installation photo and artworks by Benjamin Heller
Installation photo from the inaugural and historic CREATION IN MOTION exhibition documenting A Place of Sun by choreographer Stefanie Batten Bland, May 18 - 19, 2012 at Eyebeam in Chelsea, New York City.

Installation photo and artworks by Benjamin Heller

~ Stefanie Batten Bland
Creator, A Place of Sun

In general, I make work that focuses on the human connection to place, collective memory, adaptation, absence, ritual, and identity.  These states are crucial to how we as people, and other organisms, relate to one another and in our space.

Place can then get broken down into home-habitat space and communal-shared space. How we fill those spaces, public and/or intimate, either emotionally or materially, is the sensorial pool of matter that I swim in.

I see my work speaking to a universal audience.  I feel lucky that I have worn many skins in my career, and come from an artistic family that spoke "creation" on a daily basis. I think all of these experiences are a part of me and my make up, but my goal is to create a broad range of work that can speak to all generations.

Through dealing with the seen/unseen I think I can talk about anything, and allow us to feel everything.  

I never thought I would like creating. It was a total accident, and I'm glad it happened as I really think I can create a community that gives a voice to sensations and pricks our fingers without text. 

A PLACE OF SUN is an idea that has been brewing since I once again saw those all too familiar images of soaked birds and oil drenched marsh lands of the BP spill.  It threw me back to the oil spill in the south of France in 2009, EXXON VALDEZ...  Heck the spill this past October in New Zealand.  I'll say this was simply a trigger to open up a package of images and sensations that I've always been curious about.

How do we adapt? How does nature do it?  How does it know to incorporate in moderation a little bit of bad, and turn it into something that can be used for good?  How amazing that Darwin picked up on these survival techniques so long ago.  I think the essence to all of us is adaptation, through love, fear, anger.  We are brilliant at finding solutions.  Some of these solutions create ritual. They create our identity.  So, this is what got brewing in my head a year and a half ago.  

I met Benjamin Heller two years ago, and noticed we share very similar work ideas about environment and space.  He creates work that can be stepped into.  I love that sensation of entering and exiting.  It was clear to me that I was looking for something that could be an environment when inside and an object when outside. The serendipitous moment occurred when we realized we had both been working on a similar idea, and we thought, Well hey, let's marry installation and the physical arts together and dance!

What I find fabulous about our collaborations (this is our second) thus far is we have an insatiable appetite for discovery and appreciate accidents. Benjamin really "sees" me and my work. His cage/egg creates just the right environment for this piece to take place.  Our collective human connection to a place and a state of a space will be in full discovery, and I suspect we as a team will voyage far and create for ourselves, as well as the spectator, a sacred space that we can all share; and all have our place in the sun.

~ Benjamin Heller
Co-creator, A Place of Sun
Photography, Sculpture, Drawing and Video

I approach my work as an exploration and a conversation between the movement of the body and the physical world. I am fascinated by how our relationship with a structure is radically different depending on whether we are on the inside or out. I work to create structures that can contain these moments of awakening or rest that occur between the hold of two opposing forces. The word interest from Latin literally means between things. There is a transformative moment of pause and equilibrium – a still – found between the momentum and energy of the leaps we take, before gravity takes hold again.

The egg structure is held together by tension. The skeletal nature of the wood and reed forms an interior space both protective and exposed. The shell of the egg is formed in our imagination, yet the structure remains transformable. It is like a drawing in space as it is articulated by the movements of the dancer. As it is entered, the egg structure becomes an omni-directional form, moveable from the inside in any direction. In this way it opens a space for disappearance and emergence.

I lit the first photographs we created in exploration of movement with the eggs and the feathers in the studio, with the bodies falling into silhouette. This contrast of the silhouetted figure invoked a more universal human space of origin for the imagination, freeing the mind of the burden of classifying individual identity. The human form and how it lives in movement and light became more clearly revealed.

Around the time of a personal creative upheaval, I had just begun sketches of an outsized egg structure – a physical structure to manifest an internal idea – to exteriorize my internal space.  These drawings contained answers as well as questions. So, when Stephanie and I met, and she was talking about birds and the movements of feet in feathers, and how she was engaged in re-imagining what a dance floor could be, I felt an instant sense of interconnection between the places we were both trying to find within our work. We decided to collaborate. What evolved to become A Place of Sun, for me, resonates with the exterior upheaval of multiple crises that cause radical change in our environment. The egg becomes a metaphor for a shell of protection, and the comfort of the nest, which can give us a space to dream and develop.  What happens when this place that has comforted us becomes confining as a cage?  At this juncture, another world must be created.  My work relates to the human body, our original home. As much as we build layers of protection to separate ourselves from vulnerability - through architecture, the attitudes we adopt, and the costumes we wear - we are all breathing the same air; we are blood, bone, and skin stretching out into the same world.

I am honored and thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with Stefanie and her dancers in developing this project. We share a passionate desire to create immersive worlds that we can invite others into to experience. Stefanie and all of her company have a sense of adventure and invention that provides fertile ground for new ideas. In developing A Place of Sun and the egg sculptures for performance, we found a rich, physical conversation among us - each dancer’s contrasting voice coming from his or her own body, experience, and sensitivities in movement. I find collaboration to be a fascinating phenomenon. Two visions can come together from different origins and create something between them that could not otherwise have happened. From the two visions a third is created, greater than the sum of its original parts, which I think, is the essence of what art is.