Skip to content

Tiny Performances in Empty Rooms


Collage of six headshots in two rows of three.
Collage of six headshots in two rows of three.

About the Program

With The Arts Club of Chicago in a pandemic-induced hibernation during the cold winter months, three polymath artists explore The Arts Club’s rooms and think experimentally about how to perform in an empty institution. Musician/composer/improviser Angel Bat Dawid (collaborating with composer/multi-instrumentalist Isaiah Collier), dance-maker/performer/choreographer Jasmine Mendoza (collaborating with filmmaker Keaton Fox), and theatre artist/performer Kurt Chiang (collaborating with performer Livia Chesley) present their findings in an evening livestream titled Tiny Performances in Empty Rooms. Each artist is given free rein of the empty building to devise and produce with the support of a team from The Arts Club. Each performance is pre-recorded and runs between 15 and 20 minutes, streamed back to back.

In Kurt Chiang’s “Livia to the Stage, Please. Livia to the Stage,” a Performer (Livia Chesley), cast in an undefined role and committed to an ambiguous task, needs to get to the stage immediately. An Audience (Chiang), filled to a capacity of one, waits with middling yet curious anticipation. With urgency Livia navigates all corners of the building’s galleries, salons, backstage corridors, and emergency exits. Sounds of doors opening and shutting fill the empty space. Playfully physical and highlighting the architecture of the Arts Club, “Livia to the Stage” is an ode to the absence of eventful circumstance.

A strange living organism made up of silvery, iridescent flesh investigates its own inquisitiveness and capabilities while stuck in echoing, never-ending rooms made up of kitchen utensils, staircases, mountainous pieces of furniture, and stacks of paper in Jasmine Mendoza’s new work with filmmaker Keaton Fox.

Angel Bat Dawid’s “Sonata for an Empty Room” reflects on the historical form of the sonata as a metaphor for our moment. Each movement a corollary to a frame of mind—the contrasting keys of the Exposition and our polarized political climate, the chaos of the Development and our absence of normalcy, the Recapitulation’s reminder that we do still have a ground beneath our feet–Dawid and multi-instrumentalist Isaiah Collier take the stage in the empty Arts Club’s salon for an exploration of musical consciousness.

About the Artists

Angel Bat Dawid is a Black American composer, improviser, clarinetist, pianist, vocalist, and DJ. In 2018 Dawid composed Song of Solomon: A Cosmic Space Opera that was performed by prominent free jazz musicians in Chicago. Her critically acclaimed album The Oracle, released by Chicago label International Anthem, was created entirely alone—performing, overdubbing, and mixing all instruments and voices by herself—and recorded using only her cell phone in various locations, from London to Cape Town. In the fall of 2019, she composed and premiered Requiem for Jazz, a 12-part Requiem Mass celebrating the life and death and Jazz at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival in Chicago. Dawid tours internationally with her septet Tha Brothahood and released their album LIVE, making NPR’s best of 2020 list. She also leads the all-woman trio Sistazz of the Nitty Gritty, and has released the album Message from the DAOUI with electronic artist Oui Ennui as the duo DAOUI. Angel curates a series called Mothership9 at Elastic Arts in Chicago, and hosts a monthly music show on NTS Radio.

Music is a language, you see, a universal language.
—Sun Ra

Kurt Chiang is a theater artist, writer, and performer. He is Artistic Director Emeritus & Ensemble of The Neo-Futurist Theater, where he created more than 300 two-minute plays for the acclaimed, ever-evolving show, The Infinite Wrench. Over the course of a decade with the company he wrote and directed multiple premieres, produced and curated The Neo-Futurist Kitchen Festival in 2016, and co-created The Arrow, an original performance that subjects personal essays to spontaneous acts of inquiry and disruption (in collaboration with Lily Mooney). Chiang has taught writing and performing locally and nationally at institutions including Abrons Art Center, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Chicago, Theatre Performance Magnet at Lee High in Huntsville, Alabama, and as a bedside teaching artist for hospitalized youth with Snow City Arts. This year, Chiang begins work on his premiere short film Chicka-Dee-Dee-Dee! with support from 3Arts and a crowdfunding campaign on their 3AP platform. He is a 2017 3Arts Make a Wave grantee. Chiang lives in Chicago and originates from Maryland/Washington, DC.

Jasmine Mendoza is a visual and performance artist based in Chicago. She creates and performs multimedia performance incorporating improvisation, sound, film, objects, and theatrical play. Mendoza is fascinated by imagery, time, environment, and the body’s ability to transform and extend beyond its human form when informed by these ideas. She has presented work and performed at the Art Institute of Chicago, Elastic Arts, Links Hall, Comfort Station, Experimental Sound Studio, Chicago Art Department, Contemporary Art Center of New Orleans, Music Box Village, and the Lyric Theater, and held residencies at Links Hall, Carrizozo AIR, and the Banff Centre. Frequent collaborators include FORCE! (Anna Martine Whitehead, Jenn Freeman, and Zach Nicol), Lia Kohl, Corey Smith, Kioto Aoki, Kim Alpert, and Charles Rumback.

Livia Chesley is a performer and writer from the Bay Area, California. Her solo works have explored the magnification of inner worlds through mercurial physicality and have been seen in Berlin, Chicago, Asheville, Vermont, Detroit, and Massachusetts. She is currently researching falconry, domestic life, and the economic role of marriage in the Victorian era for a new performance work titled Green in the Leaning Wood. Among her teachers, she thanks Sara Shelton Mann, Elena Demyanenko, Miguel Gutierrez, Hilary Clark, and Oguri and Avner Eisenberg for their ongoing influence in her practice. She is currently working with Detroit-based company, The Hinterlands.

Isaiah Collier is a Chicago-based writer, arranger, and composer. An alumnus of the Jazz Institute of Chicago and The Chicago High School for the Performing Arts, Collier has worked and played with Chicago legends such as Willie Pickens, Delores Scott, Ernest Dawkins, Ari Brown, Dee Alexander, Maggie Brown, Robert Irving III, and Charles Heath IV, in addition to national and international artists Rene Marie, James Carter, Chance the Rapper, Stefon Harris, Roy McCurty, Carmen Bradford, Carl Allen, Bennie Maupin, Bobby Broom, Quincy Phillips, Lisa Henry, Wyclef Gordon, Lewis Nash, and the AACM. He has had many mentors, including Antonio Hart, Joan Collaso, Ari Brown, Willie Pickens, Ernest Dawkins, Bennie Maupin, James Perkins, Charles Heath, Bobby Watson, and others. He has played at festivals such as Chicago Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Englewood Jazz Festival, Sons d’hiver Jazz Festival, and International Jazz Day at the White House, and is a former fellow of The Brubeck Institute in Stockton, California.

Keaton Fox is a Chicago-based multidisciplinary artist, endlessly toying with human perception. Fueled by 21st-century fascinations and frustrations, Fox collages the natural with the virtual to create visual experiments that playfully investigate the varied realities of our time. Her work has been exhibited nationally, internationally, physically, and digitally. Fox is currently a Moving Image MFA candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to her return to academia, she was the Assistant Director of the nonprofit art organization and gallery, Boston Cyberarts. Prior to her curatorial work at Cyberarts, Fox worked as the Media and Technology Education Coordinator at the community media center and public access tv station Cambridge Community Television.