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EAI Invites: Kate Valk

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Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)

535 West 22nd Street

#5

New York, NY 10011

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EAI Invites is a new public program series inviting guests to present a work or artist of their choosing from the collection. The series is intended to open the archive to fresh perspectives, providing a catalyst to consider familiar work from an unexpected angle or to call attention to artists or works that have a particular significance for the guest.

For the second installment, EAI is pleased to invite the Wooster Group’s Kate Valk, who has chosen to screen and discuss Pig, Child, Fire! by the radical Hungarian theater collective Squat Theatre. A document of a 1981 restaging of the 1977 performance, the work fuses disparate cultural elements including Dostoevsky's The Devils, 1940s gangster films, the music of Kraftwerk, a letter from Antonin Artaud to André Breton, concluding with a hallucinatory collapse of the stage and 'real life'.

Kate Valk has been a vital figure in the experimental theater scene for decades, and an integral part of the Wooster Group since joining the company in 1979. Working closely with director Elizabeth LeCompte, she has taken on roles as eclectic and varied as the Group’s repertoire: characters extracted from canonical works by playwrights such as Shakespeare, Stein, O’Neill, Williams, and Chekhov are shaped anew with often surprising cultural references and stylings. She recently directed the Group’s two Record Album Interpretations, Early Shaker Spirituals (2014) and The B-Side: “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons” (2017), to much acclaim. Valk has also appeared in productions by Richard Maxwell, Richard Foreman, and Jeff Weiss.

The fusing of disparate cultural elements was also a defining characteristic of Squat Theatre productions, which were influential for Valk when she was starting her career. The collective formed in Budapest, Hungary in 1970, but emigrated to Paris when their performances were banned by the government, ultimately settling in New York City. Their storefront space on 23rd street in Chelsea, where they performed and lived until 1985, was as central to their approach and group structure as The Performing Garage continues to be for the Wooster Group.

Performances were held on the ground floor, while the collective lived on the floors above. Seated on risers in the back of the space, spectators faced a stage in front of a window that looked out onto the street, providing a permanent, live, and often highly theatrical background to their performances. The action of an unscripted play would unfold in the space between the audience and the window, often inviting unwitting participation from the outside world. With their radical notions of theater, Squat questioned role playing, the act of spectatorship, and the boundaries between art and life, the fictive and the real.

EAI distributes video documents of three of Squat’s major theatrical pieces, Andy Warhol’s Last Love; Child, Pig, Fire!; and Mr. Dead and Mrs. Free. Valk will screen and discuss one of these works.

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Kate Valk is a theater artist working in experimental theater productions, best known as a founding member of The Wooster Group. Since 1979, Valk has had a formative role in all of the Group’s theater productions, dance pieces, and works for film, video, and radio. She has performed with the Wooster Group at Baryshnikov Arts Center, St. Ann's Warehouse, the Public Theater, and has toured nationally and internationally in the Group’s productions. Valk founded and directs The Wooster Group’s in-school partnership with Dr. Sun Yat Sen Middle School and the Summer Institute, a performance intensive for public high school students conducted at The Performing Garage every summer. Valk has received a Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, an OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence, a BESSIE Award for her performance in TO YOU, THE BIRDIE! (PHÈDRE) and a Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts Grants to Artists Award.

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Squat Theatre—whose core members included Stephan Balint, Peter Berg, Eva Buchmuller, Peter Halasz and Anna Koos—was a major presence in the downtown art and theater world of New York, where the group lived and worked from 1977 until 1985. The collective formed in Budapest, Hungary as an independent theater company in 1970, during the Cold War. After their performances were banned by the Hungarian government, they resorted to performing in members' apartments—a solution they embraced. In 1976 the authorities gave them the "choice" to either cease doing theater or leave the country and never return. Squat emigrated—first to Paris and then to New York. In 1977, the company presented their first storefront play, a commission by the Rotterdam Arts Council in The Netherlands, taking the name Squat Theatre. Partially inspired by the squatter movement in the West, the company's new name also grew out of their determination to occupy blank spots on the map of artistic and intellectual terrain.

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Date and Time

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Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)

535 West 22nd Street

#5

New York, NY 10011

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