LOVE GASOLINE! A Discussion with Stacy Dawson Stearns

Celebrating artistic risk and creative vision, REDCAT’s New Original Works Festival presents Bessie Award-winner, Stacy Dawson Stearns visceral and sexy, LOVE GASOLINE! premiering on the opening night of the festival, showing July 27 to August 12.

Following  REDCAT’s premier LOVE GASOLINE! will go on to show at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Stearns has joined video and dance theater in an intimate look at Marcel Duchamp’s famously unfinished The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (or the Large Glass).

Before opening night DTLA-Weekly talked with Stearns about her inspiration for LOVE GASOLINE!
Stearns made the piece in a dialogue with Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass which is otherwise known as The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelor’s, Even.

“(Large Glass) was made over the course of about 12 years and then, of course, it says, ‘famously unfinished in 1923.’ It’s a revolutionary work and I love Duchamp,” Stearns said.

LOVE GASOLINE! features Stearns, William Tolan Lawrence, Tyree Marshall, B. Ehst, Audrey Olmos and on video, Gabriele Jimenez plays The Juggler of Gravity. Tolan Lawrence and Tyree Marshall are graduates of Cal Arts, where Stearns both teaches and worked with them. She wants to continue developing their dance relationship because they have a great, kind of ongoing pas de deux. Stearns wasn’t sure what the subject would be upon beginning this work. However Duchamp’s philosophies and practices as an artist appeal to Stearns.  So she engaged in a chance operation to see which one of his works called to her as a starting point.

“I’m attracted to him because The Large Glass has so many narrative components in the name but when one looks at it, it’s completely non-representational in a realistic way,” Stearns said. “So it challenges the idea of how we create narratives.”

The Large Glass is about 12 feet tall, executed on the glass are unconventional materials such as lead foil, fuse wire, and dust. The Philadelphia Museum of Art where it is on display describes its appearance as the result of a combination of chance procedures, carefully plotted perspective studies, and laborious craftsmanship.

Duchamp’s preparatory notes show that The Large Glass intends to diagram the erratic progress of an encounter between the “Bride,” in the upper panel, and her nine “Bachelors” gathered timidly below amidst a wealth of mysterious mechanical apparatus.

Stearns other source of inspiration for LOVE GASOLINE! is one of Duchamp’s last paintings, Nude Descending a Staircase, No.2. The Cubists disliked Duchamp’s painting. Duchamp received an unexpected visit from his two brothers at his studio. They informed their younger brother that the hanging committee of the Salon des Indépendants exhibition in Paris, which they were a part of, rejected his Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2.  Cubist painters refused to display the painting on the grounds that “A nude never descends the stairs–a nude reclines.”

Stearns notes that Duchamp is actually emblematic of Cubism now. He also participated in the Dada movement, in Surrealism, and in Cubism but he can’t really be captured within any of those.

“We have this figure in the performance,” Stearns said. “(It) has a consciousness that I find really intriguing. You can see the transmutation of this mechanized human form that continues through his work. It changes and morphs. One view is that the nude becomes what is the figure of the bride ultimately transmogrifies over a time into what we see as the bride figure in the glass.”

Duchamp’s work with many ideas and different studies over many iterations inspires fictional prompts to engage with in your imagination. Stearns became intrigued with the incredible amount of symbolic information.

“You have to engage with the history and the objects themselves through their various forms to animate the glass in your imagination as Duchamp did,” she said. “He didn’t just create the idea of a story. He also created different versions of perspective in his own form of physics.”

The essence of the Nude’s choreography derives completely differently from the bride or the bachelor’s choreography.

“I became really obsessed with Broadway style jazz dancing,” Stearns said. “I wanted to limit what the consciousness contained. I thought what if the Nude only has the vocabulary of walking down stairs, tempered with an awareness of the jazz choreography in the play, Chicago? I do a lot of physical rigor and a lot of research and submerge into a certain state. As I built the Nude, I set my body in motion based on the limited vocabulary I had in response to a recording of my own voice. The Nude came out of me and also my desire to channel text.”

Tyree Marshall is the bride and William Tolan Lawrence is the Bachelor apparatus, which is nine molds of images of men.

“The story of this is what Duchamp thought was funny,” Stearns elaborated. “It’s an erotic frustration sex machine because they all want to get with her. This is the bride’s domain which is super organic. She’s mechanized but mysterious. There’s a true form kind of perspective here that was important to him and rendered in a draftsman type of way.”

The apparatus functions by each Bachelor going through these movements in their attempt to get to the bride. In one area there are nine shots where Duchamp fired a toy cannon and hit the glass.

“It’s his own little game, Stearns said. “The bachelor’s get nine shots. He’s also a word pun kind of guy.”

Stearns and her dancers became so fascinated with the funny ideas that they started building episodes of different encounters. The brides function through this is to achieve a form of self-blossoming that arises from the passage of LOVE GASOLINE! that she secretes. It travels and breaks up into various forms of gas and moves through the mechanism. She’s thought of as an automobile, she’s thought of as a wasp, she’s thought of as a butterfly called a nocturne.

“That’s where I got the name LOVE GASOLINE! it’s sexy and very funny,” Stearns said. “What appeals to me as a dance theater artist is really, that you can engage with symbols and render them.”

“When people realize that something is an invitation to play then anything is possible.  I thought, ‘do I want to do some hetero normative piece?’ And the thing is it’s actually not. It is a turnaround piece where I feel both the bride and bachelors are liberated from expectation and for you to enjoy their psycho emotional eroticism.”

To Stearns, the invitation here is to apply our minds to these ideas and trigger our own humor, intrigue or engagement. Everything has a sexy pun inside of it that makes you laugh. If you’re witnessing Duchamp’s work, those that can see it are within it. If you’re seeing it you’re also in the work, participating in it.

“The message of the show is that you have the right to enjoy your life, Stearns said. “ It’s okay to play.”

She added the glass is a response to the mechanized world of World War I. Duchamp did speak about the way people were using machines to annihilate each other. He was choosing to invent machines that were fun.

“I believe in the imagination,” Stearns said. “I don’t think we can surrender our imagination to the news all day long every day and dive into the very troubling nature of human existence at this moment. I don’t wish to turn a blind eye. I just think there are other things to think about too. We lose our humanity when we lose our ability to engage our imaginations and our minds and in this case, our body minds.”

 

Love Gasoline Website: www.lovegasoline.com

Stacy Dawson Stearns website: http://www.impulseintoaction.com/stacy_performance.html

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/221813740

Instragram: @lovegasoline_edfringe

Twitter:  @LoveGasoline

Facebook: www.fb.com/LGasoline

Conceived and Directed by Stacy Dawson Stearns. Featuring: Tolan Lawrence, Tyree Marshall, Stacy Dawson Stearns, B. Ehst, Gabriel Jimenez, and Audrey Olmos

Music Composition by Ian Stahl

Sound Design by Sam Sewell

Light Design and Live Video Design by Jesse Fryery

Video Design: Jonathon Stearns

Costume Design by Stacy Dawson Stearns

Melina Paris

Melina Paris is a Southern California based writer. She blends her passion for writing and connecting people to their local community into pieces centered on cultural events, social justice, the arts, and food. As a music lover, Melina enjoys covering various genres but it’s Jazz that really captures her heart. Melina enjoys live music immensely and feels especially fortunate to have the opportunity to interview musicians while they are doing what they love. Melina strives to illuminate special qualities of the artists she profiles that their fans might not otherwise know about.