Jan with Donna Summer, Queen of Disco Era, at Neil Bogart 1975 celebration Platinum Party featuring hit “Love to Love You.”
Some credit Artaud with being a founder of post modern theatre – for me, his insights are a guide to what a theatrical vision of photography aspires. The phrase “Theatre of Cruelty” was coined in March 1932. “To spoken language I am adding another language and trying to restore its old magical efficacity, its power of enchantment . . .”said Artaud. For him cruelty means diligence and implacable resolution. Transfiguration is Cruelty.
It should be noted that in this postwar era, new technology including Television appeared and changed everything. Photography became a presence, along with Look and Life Magazine subscriptions, the 35mm film camera format became popular, and many hobbyists took up darkroom development and printing. Schools often had their own Newspaper and Yearbooks, and I participated as photographer.
Nietzsche said that nobody can get more out of things than he already knows. For what one lacks access to from experience one will have “no ear.” I spent a good deal of my life learning about my subjects and involved in the processes of photography of my era, finding particular joy printing black and white in the darkroom and found employment in film processing and printing for American Automotive Advertising.
I formally studied classical ballet and method acting after leaving university studies in art history and philosophy. I apprenticed with several successful commercial photographers–Mickey McGuire in automotive advertising, Max Eckert in architectural photography, Marv Lyons and George Meinzinger in commercial studio work in Los Angeles. Instead, I chose a kind of quasi- journalist/artdirector,company photographer’s path toward capturing images that best resonated and evoked “the Performative Moment” from stages and set atmospheres with working dancers, directors and actors: subjects I most admired. I followed a desire for mastery of craft and personal vision; ignoring commercialism with its financial rewards, perhaps responding to secret need to “perform”. Let us hope that from within my personal sense of meanings and contexts, a more refined set of values can be conveyed and enjoyed by more viewers. My effort here is to present and preserve memory of the work of brilliant if not popularly recognized figures is deliberate and regretfully incomplete. I believe Artaud would have blessed this peculiar passion/madness– and seen my photographic quest in light of a “certain poetry in space which itself is taken for sorcery.”
Artaud from The Theatre and Its Double
“For all this magnetism, all this poetry, and all these direct means of spellbinding would be nothing if they were not used to put the spirit physically on track . . . to give us the sense of creation. ”
I see this collection as tribute to the conclusion of an era of Hollywood performance photography(1971-2001) that consists of what was known as The Dance Explosion, concluding with a devastation in the dance world by AIDS; a unique “poor theatre” proliferation called Equity Waiver Theatre; and the revolution against convention called Performance Art. All images are sourced from film. I claim all copyrights to photos and respectfully request they be credited Jan Deen. They may be shared in use by theatres and talent identified as well as future community institutions representing their legacy.
From Peter Handke, Cries for Help, produced 1967:
I heard noises, I saw things I had seen before. I became conscious.
I have acted as though I were alone in the world.
I have not been well-behaved. I have been obstinate.
I have been weak-willed . . .I have been alone too much.
I have been alone too little.
I hope to demonstrate that there is a living language surrounding us that needs attention and expansion of purpose, that an audience which appears to be literally devolving through lack of stimulation and meaningful dialogue can change the fate of a species falling deeper into collective psychosis, and that individual genius and clarity of intentionality is the greatest revaluation over what seems now to matter most: as one producer so succinctly stated “asses in the seats.”
On a lighter note, I include in my image collection a taste for things “Gothic Fantastika” published on assignment in Femme Fatales/Cinefantastique. My “Retrofuturist Pinups” for Fred Clarke’s first and original standard bearer of behind-the-scenes Fanzines elicit a fresh take on well-worn genre styles by updating cliché projections of working actresses performing at the end of this era. I was inspired by a study published on 19th Century painter’s imagery, Bram Dijkstra’s brilliant IDOLS Of PERVERSITY, documenting and analyzing the iconography of female archetypes– I chose our fin de siècle pop culture movie screamqueens for my update. The challenge was to reflect but refine yet not fall into a pretentious Men’s Magazine limited visual valuations. There is apt comparison between how we view feminine talent today reflecting our current psychology and those more distant frightened fantasies from a previous century of popular art history. Let us celebrate and not confuse the empowerment of the feminine. Hopefully those who work in the sci-fi, fantasy and horror entertainment genres as well as its many enthusiasts, will find my view relevant and amusing.
In a current context, I am seeking print publication for a project called DARK STAGES, employing what I see as my method based on an approach currently lacking for placing theatrical images in a scheme of values that will permit more detailed and precise discussion.
I leave you with this best of guiding principles from Nietzsche,
THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA:
You higher men, the worst about you is that all of you have not learned to dance as one must dance–dancing away over yourselves!
What does it matter that you are failures? How much is still possible! So learn to laugh away over yourselves! Lift up your hearts, you good dancers, high, higher! And do not forget good laughter. This crown of him who laughs, this rose-wreath crown: to you, my brothers. I throw this crown.
Laughter I have pronounced holy: you higher men, learn to laugh.
COPYRIGHT JAN DEEN PHOTOS APPEAR IN THE FOLLOWING BOOKS:
THE WORLD OF TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, COVER for RICHARD FREEMAN LEAVITT , HANSEN PUBLISHING GROUP, 2011.
DREAMS 1900–2000: SCIENCE, ART, AND THE UNCONSCIOUS MIND, EDITED BY LYNN GAMWELL, CORNELL UNIV. PRESS,2000.
RACHEL’S BRAIN AND OTHER STORMS, UNA CHAUDHURI, CONTINUUM INT. PUBLISHING GROUP, 2001/2010.
PERFORMING WOMEN: FEMALE CHARACTERS, MALE PLAYWRIGHTS, AND THE MODERN STAGE, Cover for GAY GIBSON CIMA, CORNELL UNIV. PRESS, 1993.
RACHEL ROSENTHAL, MOIRA ROTH, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIV. PRESS, 1997.
REZA ABDOH, DANIEL MUFSON, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIV. PRESS, 1999.
ACTING (RE)CONSIDERED, PHILLIP B. ZARRILLI, ROUTLEDGE, 1995.
GEOFFREY HOLDER–A LIFE IN THEATER, DANCE, AND ART, JENNIFER DUNNING, HARRY N.ABRAMS, INC. PUBLISHERS, 2001.
CALIFORNIA THEATRE ANNUAL: 1983, BARBARA ISENBERG, PERFORMING ARTS NETWORK, INC. 1983.
ADDITIONAL PHOTOS OF PERFORMANCE APPEARED IN PRINT PERIODICALS TDR (drama review) AND HIGH PERFORMANCE AS WELL AS DANCE MAGAZINE, LA TIMES CALENDAR,
LA WEEKLY, DRAMALOGUE/ THEATER WEST, Los Angeles THEATRES, THEATRE WEEK, VILLAGE VIEW, AND MORE.
THIRD RAIL, ART DIRECTOR, Uri Hertz, 1986
LA SALSA, ART DIRECTOR, Manny Gonzales, 1990
DANCE ACTION INT. ART DIRECTOR, Kay Canon, 1992
LAS VEGAS TLDG, ART DIRECTOR,WRITER, PHOTOGRAPHER, Todd Nelms, 2001-2004
CINEFANTASTIQUE, FEMME FATALES, character glamour for genre actresses,Frederick C. Clarke, 1985- 2002
FILMEX and AFI, FESTIVAL OPERATIONS and OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHER.
UCLA FINE ARTS PRODUCTIONS, HOST AND PHOTOGRAPHER FOR EVENTS.
SHAKESPEARE SOCIETY OF AMERICA, GLOBE PLAYHOUSE, PHOTOGRAPHY/ PR, 1976– 1995.
Most recent updates in print appear in THEATRE JOURNAL by Guy Zimmerman “Reza Abdoh’s Bricolage and the Rise of Neoliberalism” Johns Hopkins University Press, March 2017.
Rachel Rosenthal with choreographer Reza Abdoh, The Zone Photos with performance text, in
(TDR)The Drama Review, MIT Press, MA 02142 and London.
“Imprisoned Airs,” BIDOUN Summer 2012, Salar Abdoh and Daniel Mufson on Reza Abdoh, BIDOUN PROJECTS, Art & Culture from the Middle East, The Prolific Group, Canada.