'Swept Away' Is an Organic Love Letter From West Coast to East - 27 East

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Arts & Living / 2027971

‘Swept Away’ Is an Organic Love Letter From West Coast to East

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Artist Christina Sun, standing at right with drum, responds to a love letter from West Coast artist Catherine Scott with a piece offered on East Hampton's Main Beach under the full moon of September 10. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Christina Sun, standing at right with drum, responds to a love letter from West Coast artist Catherine Scott with a piece offered on East Hampton's Main Beach under the full moon of September 10. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Elana Bajo's art installation under the full moon at East Hampton's Main Beach on September 10 was created in response to a musical love letter from West Coast artist Jasmine Orpilla. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Elana Bajo's art installation under the full moon at East Hampton's Main Beach on September 10 was created in response to a musical love letter from West Coast artist Jasmine Orpilla. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Elana Bajo performing her art piece under the full moon at East Hampton's Main Beach on September 10 in response to a musical love letter from West Coast artist Jasmine Orpilla. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Elana Bajo performing her art piece under the full moon at East Hampton's Main Beach on September 10 in response to a musical love letter from West Coast artist Jasmine Orpilla. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Elana Bajo prepares an art piece under the full moon at East Hampton's Main Beach on September 10 in response  to a musical love letter from West Coast artist Jasmine Orpilla. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Elana Bajo prepares an art piece under the full moon at East Hampton's Main Beach on September 10 in response to a musical love letter from West Coast artist Jasmine Orpilla. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Elana Bajo performing an art piece under the full moon at East Hampton's Main Beach on September 10 in response to a musical love letter from West Coast artist Jasmine Orpilla. ANNETTE HINKLE

Artist Elana Bajo performing an art piece under the full moon at East Hampton's Main Beach on September 10 in response to a musical love letter from West Coast artist Jasmine Orpilla. ANNETTE HINKLE

"Swept Away" attendees perform "Naiads" at East Hampton Main Beach on September 10 with artist Margaret Garrett (who is paired with LA artist Susan Kleinberg) © ROSSA COLE

"Swept Away" attendees at East Hampton Main Beach on September 10 take part in a drum circle led by artist Christina Sun (paired with LA artist Catherine Scott) © ROSSA COLE

"Swept Away" attendees at East Hampton Main Beach on September 10 participant in an art piece by Philippe Cheng (paired with L.A. artist David Horvitz). © ROSSA COLE

"Swept Away" artist Eileen O'Kane Kornreich (paired with LA artist Iman Person) creates her piece at East Hampton Main Beach on September 10. © ROSSA COLE

"Swept Away" artist Elena Bajo (paired with L.A. artist Jasmine Orpilla) creates her piece on East Hampton's Main Beach on September 10. © ROSSA COLE

"Swept Away" artists Scott Chaskey and Megan Chaskey (paired with L.A. artists Kathryn Andrews and Lionel Popkin) perform on East Hampton Main Beach on September 10. © ROSSA COLE

"Swept Away" at East Hampton Main Beach on September 10. © ROSSA COLE

"Swept Away" creator Warren Neidich. © ROSSA COLE

"Swept Away" video by Sutton Lynch (paired with L.A. artist Gabon Brown) is shown at East Hampton Main Beach on September 10. © ROSSA COLE

Art piece by

Art piece by "Swept Away" artist Eileen O'Kane Kornreich (paired with LA artist Iman Person) creates her piece at East Hampton Main Beach on September 10. © ROSSA COLE

authorAnnette Hinkle on Sep 20, 2022

On the evening of September 10, a group of art aficionados gathered at East Hampton’s Main Beach under the light of the full Harvest Moon with a desire to be swept away. That’s not to say these folks were hoping to be literally washed out to sea, per se, but rather swept up by the sights, sounds and creative impulses of several East End artists who, over the course of four consecutive Saturdays, will be responding to prompts from kindred spirits and artistic collaborative souls based on the West Coast.

The project is titled “Swept Away: Love Letter To A Surrogate(s),” and it is being offered by Guild Hall as part of its offsite series of summer events. This is the final remote exhibition of 2022 for Guild Hall, which is currently undergoing an extensive renovation, and every Saturday evening from September 10 to October 1, different artists are gathering at Main Beach to share their creations — from poetry, music and dance to video and visual arts.

“Swept Away” is the brainchild of Warren Neidich, an artist, writer and theorist who divides his time between Los Angeles, Berlin and East Hampton. In spring 2020, during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was Neidich who brought the East End community together through his socially-distanced “Drive by Art” event. Now, with “Swept Away,” which is co-curated and co-coordinated by Guild Hall’s museum director and chief curator, Christina Mossaides Strassfield, Los Angeles-based independent curator Anuradha Vikram, and Los Angeles-based conceptual artist Renee Petropoulos, Neidich is looking to start a dialogue between two artistic communities separated by several thousand miles.

“It’s a correspondence between East and West coasts,” Neidich explained in a recent interview. “I’m trying to create a transcontinental heartbeat with issues of solidarity. I believe in the power of art to heal and the power of art outside the market system. I would like to see more of art’s cultural and other values comes to the forefront.

“That’s what I do in my life as a writer, curator and artist — try to bring into the foreground the aspect of art I believe in and cherish,” he said.

Neidich’s “Swept Away” project involves 65 artists from Los Angeles writing “love letters” that serve as creative instructions to the East End artists who, over the course of four Saturday evenings, are meeting at Main Beach to interpret and perform those directives in an improvisational way. And incidentally, the West Coast artists writing the “love letters” don’t know the East Coast artists.

“We made a special effort to include North Fork artists, too. The West Coast artists are writing these love letters and the others are performing them on the beach,” said Neidich, adding that, come next spring, the reverse will occur, with the East End artists writing instructive love letters to their L.A. counterparts, who will then present their pieces at Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica in conjunction with the 18th Street Arts Center.

Neidich’s motivation in “Swept Away” is not unlike that of the late artist Allan Kaprow, whose famous “Happening #3” was performed in East Hampton in August 1966. As was the case in that famed art event, “Swept Away” is a wide open canvas that can involve performative gestures, time-based works or more traditional art pieces, depending on what each artist chooses.

“This whole idea of rule-based work for artists comes out of art history, people like Sol LeWitt and a lot conceptual art of the ’60s, which was full of shows and remote installations, and the Fluxus art movement,” said Neidich. “I like mining stuff to find things we can appropriate within the unique system and environment of the social, political and historical environment we’re in right now.”

You could certainly say that Neidich’s “Drive By Art” exhibit of spring 2020, in which East End artists presented works on their lawns, in driveways or by the side of the road so viewers could enjoy them from the safety of their own cars, definitely reflected where we were in the early months of the pandemic. Now, he notes “Swept Away” is an effort to bring the conversation back to the present and interactive after two years that have been heavily defined by remote access.

“In the early COVID period, all the institutions were closed and things like art exhibitions, and dinners were prohibited. The only thing left was the internet and Facebook, and there’s something very disingenuous about those social mediums,” Neidich said. “The feel good only lasts a minute. There’s no human interaction.

“What’s interesting is the pre-COVID and post-COVID period of digitality,” he added. “One of the things we were all ambivalent about was the way technology was taking over our lives around 2018 — driverless cabs, yes maybe the online course idea, all these digital platforms which we’ve now integrated.

“In this new digitality — the new social, political, economic and rule based world — how does it function today? It starts with this idea of a love letter,” said Neidich. “It’s a series of rules and instructions that are written in a fashion of allowing the respondent and collaborative artist to improvise, be free and open, and generate through their own practice on a platform on the basis of a love letter.

“That’s what happened basically, it’s about a new kind of freedom, emancipation. These artists are two people who don’t know each other and get to know each other through correspondences,” he said. “They’re pen pals — and the thing they use to communicate can be a piece of work, music, video, the materiality is the multidisciplinary techniques used to transmit information.”

And through the process of “Swept Away,” the artists come to know one another and their work. On September 10, the evening’s artistic presentations at Main Beach were offered inside performance areas delineated by rings of café lights placed on the sand and each artist was given a specific window of time to present their pieces. The offerings ran the gamut, from poetry and drumming, to movement and video. Though how the love letters are interpreted are left up to individual artists, Neidich notes that whatever they choose to do has to be organic and something that won’t hurt the environment.

“We are trying to influence them to do something eco-friendly,” Neidich explained. “I want them to use the sound of the beach, the waves crashing, the moonlight and really engage with the media that is nature. After it’s done, they’ll dissemble it. It’s a choreographed event with five sand stages illuminated by lights on the ground to create circles of light. Each artist occupies a circle for a various amount of time, then another artist will move to another performance area. There using different stages as one would choreograph on a dance stage.”

While the artists and their work takes center stage, “Swept Away” is ultimately a community happening and Neidich wants all East End residents to get involved.

“What’s key is it’s not just the performance of art, it’s also the audience moving around to see the various circles and engage in participatory ways with the artists, sometimes interacting,” said Neidich, who hopes to extend his interactive series of love letters to artists around the globe. “Some of the artists are asking the audience to read something or to engage with a photograph or what have you. It has participatory elements. It’s about this dynamic.”

“Swept Away: Love Letter To A Surrogate(s)” will be offered by Guild Hall: Offsite at Main Beach, 101 Ocean Avenue in East Hampton, from 7 to 10 p.m. every Saturday through October 1. Visit guildhall.org/sweptaway for more information and the full schedule.

Participating East End artists are: Pamella Allen, Suzanne Anker, Elena Bajo, Lillian Ball, Monica Banks, Dianne Blell, Scott Bluedorn, Sanford Biggers, Megan Chaskey, Scott Chaskey, Philippe Cheng, Andrea Cote, Ivana Dama, Peter Dayton, Katrina Del Mar, Jeremy Dennis, Sabra Moon Elliot, Carol Edwards, Eva Faye, Saskia Friedrich, Margaret Garrett, Veronica Gonzales, Kimberly Goff, Jeremy Grosvenor, Jerelyn Hanrahan, Candace Hill, Virva Hinnemo, Alice Hope, Erica-Lynn Huberty, Terri Hyland, Ruby Jackson, Ilya and Emelia Kabakov, Carlos Lama, Laurie Lambrecht, Joseph Liatela, Donald Lipski, Sutton Lynch, Josephine Meckseper, Paul Miller, Tanya Minhas, Richard Mothes, Michelle Murphy, Jill Musnicki, Eileen O’Kane Kornreich, Dalton Portello, Jaanika Peerna, Toni Ross, David Rothenberg, Will Ryan, Sara Salaway, Matthew Satz, Bastienne Schmidt, Barry Schwabsky, Christine Sciulli, Arlene Slavin, Janice Stanton, Christina Sun, Carol Szymanski, Sara Vandeerbeek, Ryan Wallace, Ross Watts, Allan Wexler, Nina Yankowitz, Darius Yektai and Almond Zigmund.

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