Illustration by Michael McConnell, poster design by Colleen Lamb (detail).
Theater-maker Samantha Johns may be best known for her collaborations with Savannah Reich, Bedlam Theatre, or George McConnell, with whom she worked most recently with this summer on car.sick, an art installation that was also a free taxi service and performance piece. As 2014 begins, Johns is venturing out in a new direction. This weekend, she's orchestrating an evening of performance at the White Page, a house-based gallery in the Standish neighborhood where Johns will also be doing a residency in a couple of months.
We chatted with Johns about the upcoming event, as well as her self-published book, we don't know how, which will be available for purchase at the show.
Catch a ride with car.sick
Samantha Johns: It's an evening of performance, and I think the theme is the title in a way. With the people that I'm asking [to contribute], I sent them personal emails and I asked them to present work at this space. I essentially told them that I really like how they live life and how they do art and I wanted to squish them all together for an evening because these people make me feel good in different ways -- or their art does -- and I kind of want the world to have it and to hold it. Also, I like New Years and it feels slightly tied to New Years or winter.
What draws you to these people in terms of how they live their life?
I think it's different for all of them, but mostly they're critically engaged with the world around them, and they treat themselves and the people in their lives with a little bit of soul and hope. They're dedicated to the things that they do, and they're intense about it in whatever way intense might be for them.
What will the show involve?
There are some people who know really specifically what they want to do and how they want to do it and how they need help from me, and then there are some people who don't. So, I know about 50 percent of what will happen. Of the 50 percent I know of, only about 10 percent of that will actually happen. I kind of have an idea in my head about how it will flow and how crowd control works, but I think I'm just going to have to be flexible.
So will it move to different spaces?
It's going to be like a gallery show but performance art is going to be happening with theater and music and visual art in a way. A lot of shit is going to be happening.
It's not cabaret. None of the pieces are going to be introduced. There's going to be a flow where a thing is happening and people will move towards it, and then music is kind of a palate cleanser. It'll go from 8 to 11, but it's like a cocktail atmosphere.
So if you want to get up you could move somewhere else?
Illustration by Michael McConnell
Yeah, I want people to feel they can do what they need. I went to a great show in New York earlier this year; it had this great feel and it was in a gallery. I feel like this is happening a little more everywhere. The performance was happening, but because you're not in a theater, because you're in a space that says, 'I don't know how to exactly be here. I don't know how you want me to be exactly,' you kind of feel like you can watch it a little differently, or you can take it in in a way that feels a little better to me than asking someone to sit and always face one direction.
Will you be performing?
I'm up in the air about reading a part of my book. I don't know if the evening needs it. I'm thinking about the energy and the flow and maybe we don't need another 10 minutes of Sam, maybe all the stuff we have is enough.
What's the book you wrote called?
It's called we don't know how
. I published it through Lulu, it's a publishing site. So I wrote this book and I didn't really get it proofread, which is very much in my style, so there's a lot of typos. At first I was like, 'Shit! I should, but I kind of just don't care.' The typos don't bother me like maybe they bother the rest of the world. But it feels really scary to have somebody read something that feels personal.
So is it a memoir?
No, it's like... Justin Spooner has dubbed it a book of 'ones.' And I didn't understand why, but when I would talk to him about it, he would say, 'Oh, this is a good one, or I want to read this one to you.' He had suggested that idea.
I don't want to call it poetry, because it's not. But the format appears as though it maybe is. It's coming from a lot of different things and places, little spews of stuff.