Christine Shaw is in the early stage of convening An Assembly Sustaining Dreams of the Otherwise, a curatorial project that appropriates the form of the opera in order to write, choreograph, and mount a disaggregated polyvocal drama in diverse localities around the world. With pre-existing planetary realities of oppression and injustice laid bare by the contingent spread of a zoonotic virus, the project asks: what form of gathering can support the scale of coming social and political transformation and reimagining? By making reflections on the limits and obstacles that shape international collaboration in times of global crisis part of the overall approach, the opera-as-exhibition will create not only an extension of the current cultural discourse on how artists respond to socio-political perturbations, it will also encourage novel forms and methodologies for co-constituting and presenting a work in shared separation.
Shaw’s curatorial research will take multiple forms in 2021-2023, beginning with a survey of the resonances and tensions between opera, the Wagnerian legacy of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total artform” concept), and fascism. From there she will set out in search of contemporary artistic propositions for non-fascist living amidst “new” reactionary forces and travel to conduct studio visits with international artists who propel critique of the present into propositional modalities and engage in the robust task of envisioning and materializing the world otherwise. She will host think tanks on circuits of relation, plural ecologies, planetary imagination, and creative responses to conflict and crisis at various scales and develop partnerships with international venues to support the presentation of the opera’s multi-sited scenes. Along the way, she will enlist choreographers, performance makers, installation artists, poets, experiential theatre directors, immersive and documentary filmmakers, transmedia storytellers, choirs and ensembles, intimacy coordinators, collective intelligence systems designers, translators, and scholars in the arts and humanities to contribute conceptual and practical tools for composing, connecting, and circulating this international art project. Shaw’s curatorial research will lay the groundwork for an ambitious decentralized exhibition project of international collaboration, composed in cooperation with artists, performers, and audiences from Guatemala City to Toronto, Delhi to Bucharest, Marrakech to Buenos Aires, and beyond.