Salon NOTEBOOK: Asimina Chremos
by Zachary Whittenburg
With a soft welcome to her home and studio, Asimina Chremos kicked off the last CDF Salon of 2009. "Each one of us is the creator of our own life," she reminded us, underlining the point by recounting her decision, inspired by a website about feng shui, to paint her front door green. In the space that attendees of the Salon series have come to know as an uncommonly homey venue, Chremos explained how her Wicker Park loft is a mirror not only of her goals as an artist and individual, but a space custom-designed to facilitate continuous growth precisely toward them.
"It's really important to me that I remember that anything is possible here," she said. "It's a space for transformation and for balance, for myself and to share with others." She found the former painter's studio five years ago in a Chicago Reader ad, when an inheritance from her father's passing opened up the option. "I thought, ‘I can live it up for a little while, really do what I think is important, what I want,' but due to the support of the community I've welcomed into it,"-Chremos rents Silverspace to working artists and teachers-"it's become sustainable."
A brief but informative primer on the vagaries and requisites of sharing space comprised a sort of opener to Chremos' presentation, specifically on the experience of expanding into the loft with which she shares a floor, a former office now called Outer Space. It operates in a more formal arrangement-no one lives there-but is still more community- than business-minded. "It's not one of my goals to enter into a situation bound by red tape," Chremos said. (She also freely admits the third floor of her building is, legally speaking, a "grey area.") She calls the co-op's tenants people with whom she's "aesthetically connected," and noted that the case-by-case basis on which new members have entered the fold is no different than the genesis of established venues like Links Hall and Movement Research in New York. "There's no lack of artists who need room to make dance," she said. "As Ayako Kato, another choreographer here in Chicago has said-and I think about this all the time-‘Space is our life, because we need it to make our work.'"
The second half of Chremos' Salon was a guided tour through her latest project: Dance videos on YouTube (here) of solo improvisations she shoots, edits and posts within a single day. Like many of Chremos' artistic adventures, the CircadianDancer series is a functional practice kept open to creative impulse; she's making movement part of her daily routine while simultaneously experimenting with form, content, composition, narrative, design, and desktop video-editing software. About starting the project in September, she stated, "On a basic level, as a solo artist, I just wanted to see what I was doing." Constant production and the light, un-precious touch with which she approaches these sketches makes them "a daily journal of ideas, and of learning," she said. Moreover, they flesh out some of the dialogues Chremos has with items she shares her house with, reminding me of Tony Leung's hilarious and touching conversations with his dishtowels in Wong Kar-Wai's Chungking Express. "I develop a long-term relationship with the objects that are here-they find their way into the work, and become tools." The video titled oct1 is a good example: A stick Chremos keeps by her westward windows becomes a kind of antenna-tail when stuck in the waist of her skirt, her crouched walks suggesting a forage for grub or a search for something lost.
Discoveries she makes in the editing booth are sometimes a surprise. "There's something about time in these videos," she said. "When I'm dancing, certain events seem very long to me, but when I play them back, they didn't take much time at all." The marking in media of these bit moments is, for Chremos, a reminder of her priorities as an artist. "There's no end date for this project; I think a lot about Eiko and Koma, about how their approach is to dance until death. They did these wonderful pieces where they would lay with people in the hospital, and with just these tiny movements, be with them, and dance with them. Dance often gets framed as a kind of athletic endeavor, but there's nothing that says it has to be that-it's really just about the expressive gesture."
Being in Chremos' company is a great antidote to unnecessary assumptions. "Creating for a formal dance space is not the be-all, end-all, as far as I'm concerned," she told us. Taking her CircadianDances into an ever-wider exploration of non-proscenium environments walked that talk, as we were shown footage of Chremos lunging and slicing through space underneath the Blue Line tracks, and doing a petite solo with one hand inside a train car. As she reminded us, "We're always bringing our home space with us, and dancing with it."
The CDF/Silverspace Salon series will resume in February 2010, with four additional salons throughout the spring. Stay tuned for details!