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Local artists, actors collaborate in new screendance exhibition at UICA

Three films and photography will be shown at the UICA starting Friday as the result of a collaboration between local artists, including Amy Wilson of Dance in the Annex, Erin Wilson of ArtPeers, local hip-hop artists Rick Chyme and Nixon, and actor Joshua Burge from The Revenant.
Joshua Burge in "Pull Me Back”

Joshua Burge in "Pull Me Back” /Erin Wilson

Underwriting support from:

Attend the opening

Opening reception for the exhibition:

Friday, January 8

Includes a live, site-specific performance by Dance in the Annex.

Members preview starts at 6 p.m.

Exhibit opens to the public at 7 p.m.

This event is free for members and $5 for non-members. 

The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is located at 2 Fulton Street West.




Dance in the Annex

Joshua Burge, actor

Erin Wilson, Director of Wealthy Theatre

Rick Chyme (Patrick Cleland)

Nixon (Jason Burke)

SideCar Studios

LaMarre and Dancers

Peace To Mateo


The Light Box


Alex Hamel

Erin Lenau of Tokyo Morose

Joshua Tyron
Raleigh Chadderdon
Miranda Smith
Marianne Brass
Rachael Ahn Harbert
Lisa LaMarre
Hannah Sullivan
Hannah Loss
Carolina Pava
Autumn Horrocks
Rachel Finan
Stephanie Cohen
Corey Gearhart
Miranda Smith in "mechanical response"

Miranda Smith in "mechanical response" /Erin Wilson

Hannah Sullivan in "As in Life"

Hannah Sullivan in "As in Life" /Joshua Tyron

"A Gallery Exhibition of New Works in Screendance" will be showing at the UICA this coming Friday, January 8 through Sunday, January 17. Local artists Amy Wilson of Dance in the Annex, Erin Wilson of ArtPeers, local hip-hop artists Patrick Cleland (known on stage as Rick Chyme) and Jason Burke (stage name Nixon) and actor Joshua Burge from The Revenant have collaborated with multiple dancers, organizations and other professionals to create a collection of three films. These films and a selection of dance photography make up the exhibition at UICA.

"Screendance is a growing form of diverse media in which movement is the primary expressive element in the film. The three films,”As In Life,' 'mechanical response' and 'Pull Me Back' are abstract narratives, all produced in Michigan,” explains Erin Wilson, co-creator, director and producer of the films. “People will get to see a new framework for dance. It’s new context for dance, a new way to experience it."

While exploring similar themes like isolation, loneliness, mortality and addiction, Erin Wilson says the three films are not prescriptive morality tales, but “more an examination or sharing of a moment.”

“Pull Me Back” was filmed in the woods in northern Michigan, by Erin Wilson and Seth Thompson, with music by Chyme and Nixon. Where the other two films were filmed and then the scores were written for them afterwards, “Pull Me Back” was inspired by Chyme’s music and then filmed. “Pull Me Back” also features actor Joshua Burge, currently in Hollywood movie The Revenant with Leonardo DiCaprio.

The filming was done right after Burge had returned from filming The Revenant. 

"I had spent the previous seven months in Canada working on a film, which I had to grow a beard for. I got word that I was allowed to shave my face and then I realized I had nothing else to do," he says. “I thought it would be great fun. After the first meeting I realized I was not as well versed in dance as the other performers were, so I was certain I was going to screw it up for everyone else. I don't come from theater, from dance, from ballet, but they said ‘Don't worry about it, you're going to play an angler fish.’”

Chyme was surprised by the visual interpretation of his musical work.

“If you were to listen to my song without the visuals, you would never draw the conclusions you would when you see what Erin [Wilson] was inspired to make. I would never have guessed that this was a visual inspired by this song, but in a good way," Chyme adds. "In typical hip-hop videos, the performer performs the lyrics most times, but in this, there’s none of that. The music becomes almost like a soundtrack to a silent film.”

“And the mosquitos!" Erin Wilson laughs. "That day was right after it had rained for like a month. You can see them throughout the film." 

“Dear god, you wouldn't believe the mosquitoes. They were terrible," Burge adds. "But everyone was so smart and so talented and we had blast making it.”

Erin Wilson says the "Pull Me Back" film was timed to coincide because of the amber tones of the full moon in June, often called a strawberry moon or honey moon. 

"The last 45 seconds of the film are pushing boundaries, shooting by the light of the moon only, using cameras that were specifically made almost for no light," he says. "There’s a big difference between that light and the gorgeous light on the bus. They’re both really special.”

“Like what [Chyme] was saying about how the environment became a part of the film, it was the same in the other films, especially the bus where we spent 15 hours filming," says Amy Wilson says of the "As in Life" filming process. "It was almost like the bus became another dancer; the way the bus moved dictated how we moved.”

“As In Life” was shot in cooperation with The Rapid on a local bus driving around Grand Rapids. Sidecar Studios and Seth Thompson of Epiglottic Photographic were filming collaborators for "As In Life and "mechanical response."

“Every step along the way, The Rapid Transit- I was shocked by how willing they were to help us. When we needed another two hours, they sent out another driver to us. They’re doing bus billboards to promote the film. That’s a lot of trust to put in the hands of artists. It was one of the best partnerships ever because they were really in it,” says Erin Wilson. “Having no money, no grants, no government funding, nothing like that- we’re really always trying to remember that this was possible because of everyone’s collaboration.”

“Mechanical response” was filmed on Linwood Avenue at The Light Box in Detroit, Michigan and has already been screened at the The N’Nambi Center for Contemporary Art for six weeks to great reception.

“It was standing room only. George N’Namdi built the screening room for our exhibit. He really took a liking to it. It was originally exhibited at N’Namdi in November and it got extended through mid-December,” says Erin Wilson.

All the artists are very excited about their collaboration and how their art form can be expressed in new ways through screendance.

“Not that I don’t like watching classical ballet, but I’m more interested in dance expressing our humanness and not necessarily that we’re fairies," says Amy Wilson. "Although there is a place for archetypes, I think it’s relatable because we’re not just doing tricks and turns, but we’re expressing humanness.”

Chyme sees the same archetypes and norms expected in music has he does dance.

“I grew up watching my sister dance, and you see these routines that have been drilled, and that’s one thing. Comparatively, hip-hop is highly improvised, freestyle, and that’s to me, what they’re doing - one giant freestyle. There’s maybe a structure of 'we’re going to move here to there,' just like if I was rapping. The beat is going to give some kind of anchor, but the environment is going to dictate the rest. We try to accomplish a mood, but outside of that, it was, ‘be human,’” says Chyme. “It’s not customary to see [hip-hop] presented in museums or 'high art' environments and it wouldn’t be if this risk wasn’t taken, if the collaboration wasn’t taken outside of our little bubble. This further cements in my mind that there is no bubble; there is no one way to do it. That song is going to be at the UICA for 10 days and it’s going to reach people that would have never heard it. People hear 'hip-hop' and they think, guns, drugs, misogyny. I’m excited to see what happens. A hip-hop fan might learn about the kind of dance that Amy [Wilson] leads and a dance fan might learn more about what hip-hop and rap can be.”

Amy Wilson agrees.

“You could replace dance with hip-hop. A lot of what I’m interested in doing right now in specific work is trying to reach new audiences," she says. "You don’t have to buy a $40 ticket to a show and sit down. You could experience dance at ArtPrize, or Art Downtown, or UICA, or wherever it is that you might experience other art, other high art.”

“So often a video or film is created and it lives on YouTube and Vimeo and you experience it on the go. This will be presented with intention instead of someone experiencing it on their phone," says Chyme. "We’re creating a moment that respects the art.”

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