Later this month, performance artist, educator and social choreographer ERNESTO PUJOL will present 9-5, a new group performance produced and commissioned by More Art at Arts Brookfield. The site-specific performance is tailored to the contemporary architecture of Brookfield Place and its glass Pavilion situated in lower Manhattan.
Pujol presents 9-5 in the city that he has called home for nearly half of his life. The physical and economic landscape of NYC has changed considerably over Pujol's residency. I wondered if Pujol's NYC experiences influenced the creation of 9-5 so I reached out to him with a few questions. In this week's interview, Pujol reveals the project's inspiration and performative structure. I am honored to share our conversation below. If you are in New York City, October 26-28, give yourself the gift of this experience! -Quinn Dukes
QUINN DUKES: What led you to create a performance honoring workers?
ERNESTO PUJOL: My performance has embraced the corporate office day as a basic choreography, as a distinct form, connecting us to the global experience of work. It is not an honoring of workers per se, in terms of an elegy, but an awareness of the possibilities within the experience of urban labor, turning it into a moment of deep presence, some might say of pure being. In our case, the work consists of the public exercise of deep sight and deep listening, entering an economy of consciousness.
DUKES: How long have you been preparing for this project?
PUJOL: I have been working on this project since November 2014, but, as with all creative work that connects deep within, I have been preparing for this project for a lifetime. It is part of a new stage in my performative practice, seeking to listen much more. It is the first of several new durational group performances about listening in place.
DUKES: How does the location (The Pavilion at Brookfield Place) influence the performance?
PUJOL: Being across the street from the former World Trade Center, now a memorial park and mournful museum, gives our three-day performance an incredible sobriety. It is our background, literally; you can see it across the glass wall, right behind the performers. But at the same time, we are in a beautiful place full of life which seeks a bright future. We are performing at the portal to a garden, a food court, colorful shops, and offices filled with activity. Perhaps we embody a liminal space and the performance occupies that wonderful borderline, vibrating. Of course, that is a statement about our hopefully rich interiority. On the surface, it will be a very tranquil day, quite unspectacular.
DUKES: Does the performance location act as a performer as well?
PUJOL: The performance location is integral to the piece's choreographic structure. This is truly a site-specific piece designed for that particular architecture. We are one with the site. The walls of the glass atrium are subtly divided into what I call "cubicles," and one performer (we are 11 total) is seated within each glass partition (with table and chair), breathing, seeing, listening, and writing. Our line-up is responsive to the walls, like a second skin. Our presence would consist of a different design elsewhere.
DUKES: It seems like numbers are important to your performative structure. Can you discuss your choreographic decisions in selecting a final number of performers for 9-5?
PUJOL: I am training 13 performers for the piece, but only 11 performers will be on view, because some are taking turns over its duration. Ten of us will be performing uninterruptedly over the three days, but three performers will be taking turns due to their other project schedules. Those three will amount to only one body onstage, like a daily temp worker variation within an otherwise stable work environment. So, we will be 11 performers on stage; 11 office workers at the site of 9/11 as a symbolic connection. In addition, I am responding to the mathematics of the architecture: there are seven central glass cubicles between the two main revolving doors, plus two more cubicles at either side, adding to eleven. I normally engage in calendar numbers, like the twelve months of a year in a city's life. For this site, we are using the number given to us by its architecture and recent history.
DUKES: I see that "each performer will write silently all day about the people they see, creating a literature of pedestrian life in the city." Will the writings be public or are they solely for the performers?
PUJOL: Right now, the writings are planned to be private, because we do not want to become so self-conscious that this sabotages the experience of being in the moment, writing in place, responding organically. However, I am scheduled to give a lecture about the piece to the Arts Brookfield community on November 4th at 6:30 P.M., and I am hoping to read from a careful selection of the writings. But More Art may also later decide to post selections from the writings on its website. For now, the writing is a performative instruction to make sure that if seeing and listening migrate away from site, the open book before each body brings back perception to the table. But I am also asking each and every performer to come out of the closet with their deep perception, which most artists experience, which many people experience, and dare to put in writing what they see. It is a daring task.
9-5 will feature performers Dillon de Give, Kate Harding, Young Sun Han, Sara Jimenez, Bess Matassa, James Rich, Valarie Samulski, Caitlin Turski, Michael Watson, Joy Whalen, and Jayoung Yoon.
+ For those of you who cannot view the performance due to your own 9-5, an Artist Talk with Ernesto Pujol will take place on November 4th at 6:30pm at Brookfield Place >> RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org to attend.
About Ernesto Pujol
Ernesto Pujol is a site-specific performance artist and public choreographer with a socially-engaged art practice. Pujol creates silent, durational, walking performances as collective portraiture within mythical landscapes and historic architecture, aiming to reveal their psychic underlay in the Jungian sense. Pujol is a student of the human condition, inhabiting dreams, secrets and visions as intangible but vital fragments to understanding and healing history. He is interested in contributing to greater collective consciousness through mindful presence, achieved through deep sight, profound inner silence, and considered gestures. His durational performances have often served as ephemeral mausoleums or monuments to forgotten, or remembered but unresolved social issues that have been mourned or reflected upon during the experiences. Pujol is the author of Sited Body, Public Visions: silence, stillness & walking as Performance Practice; as well being a contributor to publications such as Awake: Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art.