By David LaGaccia
Martha Wilson and Franklin Furnace celebrated its 40th season Monday night with announcements and details on the new Performance + Performance Studies (P+PS) MFA program at Pratt, as well as announcing the recipients of its 2015-2016 Franklin Furnace Fund. The well attended event was held at the Pratt Film/Video Department, a new facility at 550 Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn that opened this past summer.
After the opening reception of food and wine, the crowd was asked to move to the department’s screaming room. There, the 96 seat theater was full with attendees and were greeted by Tracie Morris, a professor of the newly created Performance + Performance Studies program at Pratt Institute.
Morris addressed the crowd talking about the new two-year MFA program being offered at Pratt, emphasizing its focus in both theory and practice. A letter written by Morris was passed to the crowd, giving further details about program: “As a terminal degree designed to be completed in only two years,” wrote Morris, “the MFA is a great choice for students who want to be competitive as performers and/or as teachers at all levels (including higher education) without the longer haul of a PhD program.”
“The Program’s core courses include seminars and workshops in both performance theory and practice, and students will learn to use writing as a key component of their critical/creative work…Core courses will consist of classes in community-based practices and cross-cultural performance, workshops with artists-in-residence, and internships.”
Morris also announced in the letter several of the electives that will be offered in the program, including Special topics in Performance Studies: Speech Act Theory, Contact Improvisation for the Performance, Graduate Aesthetics, Special Topics in Form and Theory, Introduction to Acting, Contact Improvisation, and Voice and Performance.
Franklin Furnace’s reception marked its transition to its new permanent home at Pratt Institute, where the performance art centered arts organization is moving its operations. Martha Wilson went into detail about Franklin Furnace’s involvement with Pratt in a 2014 interview with Jarret Earnest of the Brooklyn Rail discussing how it will function as a part of its campus.
Wilson stated that the idea to move to a larger institution began in 2012 when discussing plans for the organization’s long term future. Taking a cue from what Rhizome has done with the New Museum, Wilson said she wanted Franklin Furnace “to ‘nest’ in the arms of a larger educational edifice.”
“We’ve reached an agreement: In the simplest terms,” she said. “Franklin Furnace will be housed at Pratt, but we will each continue to be governed by our own boards of directors. One example of collaboration: each year we give grants to the weirdest of the weird through the Franklin Furnace Fund; those selected recipients could be guest lecturers in classrooms of Pratt.”
Pratt will also digitize Franklin Furnace’s archive, which includes press releases, announcements, flyers, posters, and video as a means to preserve documentation. “Through collaboration with Pratt’s School of Library and Information Science we will be able to cook up ambitious projects to document and preserve ephemeral art practice for the long term,” said Wilson.
The night was also an opportunity to announce the organization’s 2015-2016 Franklin Furnace Fund recipients, each of whom were called to the front of the theater to discuss and present their work. The Fund, which was celebrating its 30th anniversary, awarded 14 artists and collaborations $64,000 in grants.
The full list of recipients includes Jeremiah Barber (San Francisco, CA), Maya Ciarrocchi and Kris Grey (New York, NY), Allana Clarke (Union, NJ), Melanie Crean, Shaun Leonardo, and Sable Elyse Smith (Brooklyn, NY), Tamar Ettun (Brooklyn, NY), Victoria Keddie and Scott Kiernan (Brooklyn, NY), Yve Laris Cohen (Brooklyn, NY), Shaun Leonardo (Brooklyn, NY), Leila Nadir and Cary Peppermint (Brooklyn, NY), Sheryl Oring (Greensboro, NC), Jacqueline Tarry (Brooklyn, NY), Mirland Terlonge (Brooklyn, NY), Justin Randolph Thompson (Florence, Italy), and Tori Wrånes (Brooklyn, NY).
2015-2016 Franklin Furnace Fund recipient Mirland Terlonge presented her work, including an exert from her 2015 performance, Feed it or Feed Yourself.