Monday, May 18, 2020

Artists Reach Out: Tara O'Con

Dear friends,

Welcome to Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation. I dreamed this series of interviews out of grief for my work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance. In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.

But there's no distancing around what we still can share with one another--our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.

So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I'm glad they're part of our beautiful community, and I'm eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.

--Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody



Tara O'Con



Tara O'Con
(photo: Jon Burkland, Zanni Productions)

Tara O'Con says her bio is threaded throughout the interview answers given below. So...read on!


Tara O'Con in The Grand Paradise,
a work by Third Rail Projects
(photo: Darial Sneed)


Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?

Some numbers: March-June 2020 (estimate):

Performances cancelled: 55
Rehearsals cancelled: 20
Directing gig cancelled: 1 
Teaching artist workshops cancelled: 3

Total Gross Income Loss (estimate): $10,673

As for non-monetary impact...

I was also scheduled to lead a workshop at the HERE Festival in Pasadena, CA at the end of March. HERE is a summit for the Immersive and experiential industries spanning performance, theater and tech. While this was not an income loss, my trip and lodgings were paid for; the in-person relationship-building opportunity in the immersive and experiential community is priceless. I’m hopeful that they are able to reschedule that when it is safe to gather again.

To round out this picture, I’ll share that I am currently In Residence at Town Stages as part of their Sokoloff Arts Creative Fellowship Program for 2020. Even though we are doing our best at staying connected virtually, and the staff is amazing at keeping us tied to resources and facetime with the team (shout outs to TOWN!), without access to physical space, the development of a new performance project is certainly delayed.

I have not exercised the physical manifestation of my creative process as an independent maker/choreographer in a full-focused capacity for many years now. However the dawning of 2020 and the extended opportunity to have TOWN as a creative homebase has lit that particular fire in me once again. For the first time in a long time, I’m wanting to make something resembling movement in a physical space and share with people. I do think there is a welcome opportunity here to imagine what may feel like for us when the time comes and conjure that into my visioning.

Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.

In the beginning:

I came out of the womb early and started dancing soon after. I attribute this to following after my Mom who was (at that time) a dancer (and still is in spirit and in Zumba), and my father, who holds a major appreciation for ballet, as well as my childhood obsession (never realized outside my living room) of being Clara in The Nutcracker.

Fast forward:

Since graduating college in 2003 as a Dance Major and moving to NYC, my artistic practice has involved performing, making, and administrating in various combinations throughout years which has brought me to where I am currently.

Currently, according to my website, that means:

I am an artist, facilitator, and transformation coach. I specialize in building empathy and trust inside interactive environments, and supporting people as they create big, empowering change in their lives. I draw from over a decade of experience as a choreographer and performer across many theatrical settings both as an independent artist and as a collaborating-artist with Third Rail Projects.

As a designer and director, I create interactions and experiences that put as much emphasis on being-with and caring for people as they do on disrupting reality, examining perspectives, and pushing boundaries. My workshop and consultation offerings center around how to craft meaningful audience-centered experiences in immersive storytelling environments. In all of my work I bring my passion for thoughtful user experience, audience-centered design, and a commitment to meeting people where they are and expanding what’s possible.

In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning? How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?

Right now? Stillness. Silence. Listening. Following intuition. The power of less is more, and the power of observation. This way of being as an artist and as a walker through life, has been cracked open inside of my performance practice over the last decade. Always coming back to the mantra of slowing down and the power of active listening in order to be truly present with myself and with the people I am sharing space and storytelling with.

A colleague of mine, Janet Howe, recently said to me in a conversation about their practice, “It’s about humans being human together,” and that really nails it for me in terms of what I’m envisioning and where my head is at.

Personally, I’m much more interested in digging into presence and connection than I am about artifice and spectacle. I believe there is magic and virtuosity and rigor and darkness and lightness and joy and integrity in being real and vulnerable and embracing dualities.

How does your practice function within the world we have now?

I have been putting a lot of energy into developing my own care rituals and putting new attention into my writing practice. Outside of that, I have been connecting to my communities through coaching, participating in the occasional impromptu remote collaborative art project put together by some fellow artists of Third Rail Projects to help raise funds for TRP’s Artist-Emergency Relief Fund. I’m also just starting to become involved with my local neighborhood COVID-19 response organization.

Aside from all that figuring out how to live and be in community day-to-day stuff, I am about to put out a podcast with two colleagues which was actually in the works before the pandemic, but remote life and changing times in our respective fields have kicked that into gear--which is exciting. I’m not gonna share what is yet but stay tuned! I am also engaging with a personal calling to make a (dance?) film in my apartment.

In the bigger picture, I have been deeply inspired by so many amazing and prolific people in this time (artists, witches, social justice organizers, coaches, somatic practitioners, etc.) speaking truth to power and about listening to our planet and to our hearts and bodies. It gives me hope.

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.

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