Gardens of Babylon, Chinese Scrolls and the Eternal Quest for Utopia / by Valerie Green

Visual Artist Keren Anavy on the Making of Utopia's Pillars

Tell me about your background as an artist?

I got my bachelor degree in history of art at Tel Aviv University, and then I studied MFA at Haifa University, so my whole education was in Israel. I’m a painter and I do drawings, but mostly I present site specific installation that I create from all kinds of materials. I came to New York two years ago and did the NARS Foundation residency for six months in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I started to research local artists and one of them was Valerie Green from Dance Entropy, which was an amazing experience.

How did Valerie broach this project with you?

We did a collaboration in the Flux Factory two years ago. It was a good experience that we had, and we saw that we both have interest in lots of similar topics: Landscape as a metaphor for example, and the relationship between people and communities through arts. So we decided to do something from scratch together.

Keren Anavy's scroll paintings

Keren Anavy's scroll paintings

I was in the middle of research about botanical gardens in New York and thinking about how nature is like small pockets in the urban city of New York. I was also in the process of making new paintings that has lots of influence from Chinese painting scrolls.

We had this idea that the paintings look like hanging gardens. I painted them on Mylar, which is a transparent material. So when the paintings hang in my studio it looks like hanging gardens of Babylon. They were considered to be one of the wonders of the world, but they never really existed. So after Valerie saw this painting, we started talking about this utopian situation: a perfect place that doesn’t really exist but we all the time kind of aspire to. Then she responded in her way with choreography. So it was like a dialogue through art.

What’s been the most challenging part?

You should ask the dancers! But my challenge is to think about all kinds of technical issues. The company needs to move from place-to-place in the future in order to show this piece. But the challenge is that this technical issue will not affect the art. How we can do it without giving up elements that we really want in and are important? We don’t want to compromise.

What does Utopia mean to you?

It’s very dreamy, it’s very nice. But it’s also trying to control the future, trying to control the reality. We do this with the social media trying to control how we look…I think that utopia for me, I would want it to be something peaceful so we don’t have to be changing all the time. Then you can take your mind off struggling. And you can see it in the choreography because there is all the time this struggle. They kind of build something and then destroy it.

Don't miss the premiere of Utopia with Danspace Project at St.Mark's Church: Thursday, December 13, 2018!