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Laura Peterson is a choreographer and artist who lives and worked in New York City. Her latest piece focuses on the much-dreaded topic of failure. Her newest work--which is more of an installation performance piece--tackles the subject from both a personal and societal point of view.

The performance will take place from June 29 to July 1 at The Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan. Laura hopes the play will make audiences think about how we deal with failure in various contexts. Via sculptural designs and choreographic language, Laura explores this concept and ties in commentary on the outcome of the Presidential election in November 2016.

Laura recently discussed “Failure” and more via an exclusive Interview.

Theater

Blasting News (BN): What prompted you to enter the field of arts and are you more prone to producing visual or performance pieces?

Laura Peterson (LP): I can't remember wanting to be anything other than a dancer and a choreographer. In fact, I remember making a dance in my backyard next to a tree when I was around seven years old. I wanted the neighbor kids to be up in the tree, and at a certain point in the dance, I wanted them to fall to the ground! Naturally, it didn't go over really well. Does that count as a site-specific performance?

Dance has always been my primary form. I trained as a dancer for most of my life and attended the University of the Arts where I received at BFA and then NYU's Tisch Dance Department for graduate school.

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At UArts, I took visual arts classes while I was a dance major and this has always been an integrated component of my performances.

BN: From a visual arts standpoint, what mediums do you enjoy working with most and how do you translate your sculptures into your performance piece?

LP: For the last ten years, I have created visual dance performances which incorporated a variety of materials interwoven with the choreography: there was 1,500 feet of gray insulation tubing, fifty fluorescent lights, 1,000 square feet of living lawn... All of these elements need each other in my pieces; it is a symbiotic relationship.

Paper is my latest favorite material. My upcoming work “Failure” includes multiple sculptures made from large sheets of paper and wood which look like nine-foot origami. These are broken and collapse during the performance. It's a mess by the end.

I have been working large rolls of seamless paper used in photography as a backdrop, and I use acrylic paint. Because this paper isn't meant for acrylic the paper wrinkles, puckers and creates a texture.

This adds a three-dimensionality to the paintings which inspire movement. Some of the paintings are very large, like 9 x 36 feet hung from the rafters in a theater. Others are much smaller, 5 x 12 feet.

Performance

BN: Your latest piece is called “Failure” so what do you think failure means for an artist?

LP: Failure is a subjective concept. As a professional artist, I think of failure as the unwillingness to grow and change; to fail means to stop trying to achieve something better and more honest, rather than a commercial or financial success – which is one thing I really question in our society. Part of what inspires this performance is this exact idea. Why is money synonymous with success in America? I am looking for what is underneath the gold-plated surface.

BN: How do you personally handle failing and failure?

LP: Oh God…that depends. I can think of two very different experiences of failure – one professional and one personal. Once when I was working on a dance and had just shown a work-in-progress version, I really thought it failed. I felt it was disconnected, self-indulgent and boring. That seemed like a failure. I sat on my couch for many days. Then I got up and just started again. Resilience is crucial. The hardest failures are the ones you can't fix. When you can't start over. To me, failing another person feels like a real failure.

BN: The work also comments on societal failure so what areas do you think America is most failing in and what do you think can be done to remedy the problem?

LP: America has been failing people since its beginning, and in ways that sometimes don't seem remediable. Poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, deep inequities, and forgotten histories. If I knew the answers, I'd be able to make better art. My new work addresses a specific idea present in our national consciousness since the 2016 election: the idea of winning at all costs. This piece asks: Have we failed each other? Have we failed our ideals? Have we unleashed hatred, and a willingness to lie and be lied to from such a depth that we can't recover? I think art can serve as a way to communally acknowledge the depth of emotions people experience, to find solace in communicating some of it. That might be a kind of remedy.

BN: What are your next projects and what are your biggest goals regarding your career?

LP: My next idea is to make a small-ish room out of thick paper where viewers can fold and tear the paper to change their own environment. There would be a movement chorus appearing and disappearing in the changing landscape. Here are my career goals: To have enough support to produce my dances and artwork continually for the rest of my life. To create situations in real life around art. To create opportunities for people to think and feel, to meet, to talk to another human being face-to-face and not through a screen. I want this thing I am doing to be both a communal exorcism and a form of enjoyment.