Public art project seeks involvement


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What do you need?

What do you want?

What are you afraid of?

These questions about relationships are the premise behind Marinov Dance and Red Dress Films' 10-day dance and art exhibition, "The Intimacies Project" under way in a storefront on the outskirts of New York City's Times Square.

Located at 41st Street and 8th Avenue, this unusual type of public performance uses live music, photography, painting, film and contemporary dance to encourage passers-by to reflect on their relationships.

"Everybody has some experiences with relationships and usually they have a response, and it's usually pretty heated," said Jordan Marinov, Marinov Dance director and a Pittsburgh native. "That was the goal to get people back into their emotional self."

Since Tuesday, the questions have played from noon until 7 p.m. on five television monitors in the space and in the window. Pedestrians are invited to enter the makeshift gallery and share their responses by discussing them with the dancers or by painting them on large pieces of studio paper.

The responses have been as varied as the individuals who created them. Marinov said one man earlier this week painted the phrase, "The impossibility of love is always a possibility." A young hip-hop dancer stepped in paint and left his mark by dancing across the page.

A couple of painters are selected each day to be photographed with their creations -- a process Bill Hayward calls taking portraits of the collaborative-self.

Hayward, a photographer and filmmaker who has photographed everyone from President Ronald Reagan to Bob Dylan, released a compilation of such portraits in 2001 in his book "Bad Behavior." Portraits he's taking during "The Intimacies Project" may be included in future portrait collections, he said.

A portrait taken during the day serves as the inspiration for the 6 p.m. dance performance. After Marinov and her dance partner, Billy Blanken, perform at 1 p.m., they spend the afternoon trying to translate the chosen portrait into choreography they will premiere in the evening.

The exhibit is being filmed for a documentary about the making of "The Intimacies Project" and the risks involved with relationships and the creative process, Hayward said.

"If we could get people to just contemplate," Blanken said. "You get stuck in autopilot so often you stop being a person and you start being a doer."

After the first day, they discovered that jarring tourists and New Yorkers from an autopilot existence may be more difficult than anticipated.

Blanken said that, two hours before the exhibit launched last Tuesday, a man wandered into the space and asked, "Is this art?"

This did not surprise him since he said the nature of the exhibit is not what people are used to seeing.

"We're doing something new here so there's no formula," he said.

Earlier this week, Marinov said that the exhibit attracted the most spectators during the dance performances.

"It was kind of tough to get [people] in in the first place, but once a few people were there ... other people came in," she said.

She hopes more people will stop once more signs about the exhibit are posted. Even then, they realize some people will just keep walking.

Still, street entertainment has become a big draw in Times Square, so much so that the Times Square Alliance earlier this year created the Best of the Buskers program, which regulates the number and location of street performers between 40th and 53rd streets between Sixth and Eighth avenues, including Restaurant Row on Ninth Avenue at 46th Street.

"There was no defined program in Times Square," said Gary Winkler, director of events and special projects. "With all the traffic and sound issues and different things and city regulations, you'd have a lot of performers show up and perform where they were not really supposed to."

The program addresses this issue by holding auditions and offering selected performers prime spots in Times Square where they can perform on the street for tips.

Winkler, who said he hadn't yet seen "The Intimacies Project," said performers in the Square range from singers to contortionists. "For the most part, people will stop and check it out," he said. "New York is the kind of place where people like to evaluate everything."

Although New York City may be the country's capital for street entertainment, Marinov hopes to tour the project to other cities and possibly bring it to Pittsburgh.

"I think Pittsburghers are down-to-earth people and if they like what they see, they'll stop," said Susan Stowe, dance chair at Point Park University.

Last month, Point Park University collaborated with the local Colcom Foundation, which provides financial support to cultural and environmental projects, to perform spontaneous street performances, or flash mobs, at three locations Downtown. The purpose of the project, which involved about 300 students, was to send a message of peace at the start of G-20 week.

"We really got a very positive response," Stowe said. "People applauded. People were excited about it. People were moved by it."

Although it's not known whether similar storefront projects will follow "The Intimacies Project," Marinov hopes her work can be an inspiration to pedestrians, too.

"I think that everyone lives different lives at different paces," she said. "At the root of [the performance], the core issue is about love."


Sara Bauknecht can be reached at 1-412-263-3858 or sbauknecht@post-gazette.com


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