BRATTLEBORO — On Friday, July 7, and Saturday July 8, a series of events at Epsilon Spires in downtown Brattleboro and the Green River Bridge Inn in Guilford will feature a diverse array of artists, academics, and musicians exploring the theme of “Transcendence: Call & Response/Things Unseen” as part of the second annual Multidisciplinary Artist Salon.
“Makers and creators of art are in conversation - but with who, and with what?” co-curators Jamie Mohr and Shanta Lee said in a joint statement about the theme of the Salon, which was inspired by the latest sonification of the black holes in our universe and the idea of “call and response within the realm of the unseen.”
Mohr, who is the executive director of the nonprofit arts venue Epsilon Spires, has previously collaborated with Lee on events such as a three-day Celebration of Black Girlhood and Womanhood in 2021 and the first Multidisciplinary Artist Salon in the summer of 2022.
Lee, who is an award-winning writer, visual artist, and the creator and producer of Vermont Public's Seeing ... the Unseen and In-Between within Vermont's Landscape, will present a short film on the first night of the Salon titled Time Is ..., a film that was inspired by her second full-length collection of poetry, Black Metamorphosis, and attempts to address how race, gender, and colonialism impact the “forcibly shapeshifted body.”
The first night of the Salon will also feature a musical performance by the kora player John Hughes and cellist Stephen Katz, who will play an avant-garde fusion of African and European stringed instruments in a style they describe as celebrating “both tradition and improvisation in a spellbinding nexus of bliss.”
Hughes has studied the music, song, and dance of West Africa for over 25 years and has developed a style of kora playing that is both unique and deeply rooted in the ancient Mande tradition.
Katz, who holds a master's degree from the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and has premiered his cello compositions at venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York City, has also originated his own instrumental style which he calls “Flying Pizzicato,” which uses multiple voices on the cello to “make music that simultaneously lays grooves, weaves tunes, and lifts spirits.”
The evening also includes a presentation by the interdisciplinary artist Minne Atairu titled “The Metadata Memoir,” which explores the histories of the Benin Bronzes through Generative AI and 3D printing. The Benin bronzes are a collection of more than 4,000 sculptures that were looted from Nigeria by British colonial forces in 1897 and auctioned off to European art collectors.
To date, fewer than 100 of these artifacts have been repatriated, and Atairu's work recombines historical fragments, sculptures, texts, images, and sounds to generate synthetic Benin Bronzes in a decentralized archive that promotes accountability, transparency, and poses the question of whether a historic wrong can be corrected.
Atairu is the recipient of the 2021 Lumen Prize for Art and Technology and has exhibited and performed at galleries and museums around the world.
The Salon continues the next afternoon with two interactive workshops on the grounds of Green River Bridge Inn. At noon, the perfumer, interdisciplinary artist, lecturer, and storyteller Dana El Masri will lead a 90-minute workshop titled “Olfactory Imprints: Scent for Self-Reflection,” in which she will share six essential oils from several parts of the world and discuss their history and cultural significance.
El Masri's theory of “olfactory imprints” states that using our scent memories can help us re-identify ourselves through a new lens, bringing us closer to ourselves. Her unique perception is inspired by her deeply rooted Egyptian-Lebanese cultures and global life experience, and she describes her ultimate goal as swapping “the Eurocentric lens of perfumery with a multi-faceted, multicultural, flourishing universe of narratives.”
At 2 p.m., the Iranian-American poet and vocalist Haleh Liza Gafori will perform the work of the poet Rumi, whom she has translated into English from the original Persian in a collection titled Gold, published in 2022 by New York Review of Books Classics.
Gafori grew up hearing recitations of Persian poetry, and has maintained and deepened her connection through singing and translating the poetry of various Persian poets which, along with a selection of original work, earned her an Academy of American Poets Prize and the Goodman Grant for Poetry.
During the workshop, Rumi's poems will be used as prompts for discussion and for writing created by participants, exploring how his insights on love, ego-death, mortality, generosity, greed, and compassion dialogue with our lives and our times.
“This year's Salon is dedicated to this idea of creativity as a dialogue and conversation,” said Mohr and Lee. “What are we calling, or what is calling us? In our summoning, how do we respond?”
The Multidisciplinary Artist Salon is made possible by support from Vermont Humanities and the Town Arts Fund, which has allowed Epsilon Spires to offer tickets for Friday night on a donation basis. The suggested donation for each workshop on Saturday is $25 per participant, with tickets available for as little as $5 for those experiencing financial hardship at epsilonspires.org.
Space in the workshops is limited and advanced registration is encouraged. Please carpool when possible to the Green River Inn, and bring a bathing suit to enjoy swimming in the beautiful waterfall afterwards. Locally-sourced refreshments will be provided. For more information, contact Mohr at [email protected].