projects and exhibition

Brian McCorkle (PPL)

Brian McCorkle is a composer, performance artist, and musician. He is the Co-Director of the Panoply Performance Laboratory (panoplylab.org), creating interdisciplinary work that operates in performance art, music, and other fields. As PPL, Brian has composed the operas On the Cranial Nerves of Barbarians (Dixon Place, ABC No Rio, The Manhattan Theatre Source and elsewhere), The Last Dreams of Helene Weigel or How to Get Rid of The Feminism Once and For All (ABC No Rio, Surreal Estate, Cabinet Magazine Event Space and over PostTV), Institute_Institut (LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, the cell), NATURE FETISH (University Settlement, City Reliquary, the ITINERANT Festival, Bronx Arts Space, Center for Performance Research, and Grace Exhibition Space), and incidental and interactive music, sound design, and technological set-ups for other projects like The Silviculture Museum (chashama installation with Pine Thumbs sound software) and Calmly Engaged (Flux Factory and Wilderness Gallery). Brian has also been part of PPL’s collaboration with new music ensemble thingNY to create TIME: A Complete Explanation in Three Parts (The Brick Theater) and Brian’s projects with PPL have also been a part of SUPERFRONT’s Public Summer at Industry City, BOB the Pavilion at Columbia University, the BABEL exhibition in a QMAD pop-up gallery, and FIGMENT on Governor’s Island. With PPL, he has been the beneficiary of Swing Space from LMCC (14 Wall Street for Workforce/Forced Work), two residencies through chashama, the LAB Residency at LPAC, a residency through Performance Project at University Settlement, and at Grace Exhibition Space.

Born and raised in Michigan, Brian spent his childhood touring the US and the world with the Battle Creek Boychoir before attending the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and writing a lot of noisy electronic rock music. In Michigan, he played with the metal band Cojum Dip and many other bands while cataloging science fiction tropes, working at libraries, and studying comparative literature (Spanish and English) as well as poetry with Thylias Moss, sound synthesis with Mary Simoni, and jazz piano with Geri Allen. Brian also studied sitar in India with Anand Mishra and algorithmic music with David Cope in California. Now living and working in Brooklyn, NY, in addition to co-leading PPL with Esther Neff, Brian plays as a jazz musician (with Joseph Keckler, Sanda Weigl, and gypsy trio Djangos and Tangos) and as a sound designer (working at the Cell, Dixon Place, Theater for the New City, Theatre Row, Interborough Repertory Theater [IRT] and elsewhere), and technical director (of Surreal Estate and Serials at the Flea Theater), and performer (most notably in Robert Ashley’s That Morning Thing and as a musician in Davis Freeman’s Too Shy to Stare as part of the COIL Festival), also as a member of the durational composers’ collective Varispeed (varispeedcollective.com) performing Perfect Lives Manhattan in PERFORMA ’11 and John Cage’s Empty Words at Roulette, Exapno, and other venues.

Brian’s work, collaborations, and music has been reviewed in the New York Times, Time Out New York, the Village Voice, L Magazine, Flavorpill, nytheatre.com, online music blogs, and almost all of that work is available for viewing online at vimeo.com/brianmccorkle or vimeo.com/panoplylab.

iCan Artist Profile

Name: Brian McCorkle
Age: 27
Occupation(s) outside of art-making if any/how you survive economically: Personal Assistant to Bunita Marcus, Record Cleaning, Jazz Guitarist, Web Designer, Odd Jobs


Where are you from? Battle Creek, Michigan and Detroit, Michigan (I’ve lived in both places long enough to call them home)

Where do you live now (street or neighborhood)? Why do you live there? I live at 104 Meserole St, Brooklyn because it’s the best place I could find in the New York City area for the best price for what I want to do with my living space, that is, to turn that living space into performance space, rehearse in it, and get my friends/strangers to perform there for other friends and strangers.

Can you speak to your relationship with your current neighborhood? At the moment my relationship to my neighborhood is somewhat strained. For example, I accidentally walked off with someone’s card table during a dumpster diving frenzy, but she was very understanding and talked to me a little about how she’d lived on this street her whole life and now I say “Hi” when I see her. I say strained because I hear people talking about how this is/used to be (depending on who you ask) a “bad neighborhood” and now that “white people” live here it’s “middle class.” To hear this and be running a performance space in this same neighborhood is the strain for me, given the historic relationship between art and gentrification, especially in New York City.

What is your role as an artist within your current geographic community? Are you satisfied with this role? My current role as an artist is one of facilitating art made by the community of people who surround me, I am thrilled to serve this role.

How do you understand your current cultural situation and/or what communities do you locate yourself within? I locate myself within a class of professional artists who are unable to make art for a living wage at the moment (due to lack of funding, ideology, or just bad luck). Culturally, I operate within the performance art and classical contemporary spheres, with a definite leaning towards what most people call “experimental” within those genres. I don’t like the word experimental (as it implies you believe others are able to repeat your process and obtain similar results), but am unable to come up with a better one as of this moment. The cultural situation myself and the aforementioned community of people I work with/alongside find ourselves in and locate ourselves within seems to be one parallel to academic explorations of artistic expression but without a focus on “the academy” as such or the university circuit. I believe that we have a lot to offer in terms of something new that moves you in a way you haven’t been moved before and in a way that isn’t what you would normally call “experimental” “avant-garde” or “boring.”

Can you describe your “social background,” i.e. any biographical details that you feel identify you culturally, socially, economically? Economically I grew up with a fairly solid economic background as both my parents were lucky enough to work full-time my entire life and we were able to avoid any economic disasters. My father was a professor of finance and works for a bank, my mother had her own business and works for a major corporation. My social and cultural background is complicated, as I moved as a kid and young adult; lots of cities, schools, social groups and projects. I would say that in relation to the most stable part of my background, music, I had piano lessons from my father and studied oboe in school, then was in choirs and played guitar in Catholic church services. I joined/started a bunch of punk, metal, folk-rock, gothic surf rock, psychedelic, and cover bands. I also played in jazz band, showchoir band, gamelan ensemble, and orchestra. After moving to New York I released an album with the Wicked Hemlocks and started composing for theater and contemporary classic ensembles. Now I perform art, new music, and write operas.

How do you understand your current economic situation? I understand it to be day to day, and live in fear of sudden health problems. How, if at all, do you monetize your art work? Usually the operas I write and perform with Panoply Performance Laboratory charge a pay-what-you-can admission at best and a $15 ticket price at worst. A piece of the admission price to a show or alcohol sales is the only money I ever make from art, apart from music and sound design gigs/jobs.

Can you say a bit about your opinions regarding if/how artists should be paid, your participation in art markets, art’s role within economic structures, your goals as an artist in terms of recognition, sale of work, etc? Artists should be paid as much as possible for their art. I make every attempt to pay everyone I work with as much as I can and as promptly as I can. However I am squeamish about soliciting donations and believe that all art should be available to all for free. Art’s role in economic structures is very similar if not identical to art’s role in social, cultural, and political structures: to inform and create ways of viewing a structure and being in it, to express and invent new forms. My goal in making art is to participate in this process as much as possible by practicing it and sharing it with others.

What are you doing/what will you be doing as part of iCan? What aspect of the problematics/issues/conceptual frames for the exhibition and projects relates best to your practice and your primary concerns (i.e. environmental, cultural, economic, etc?)?  I will be collaborating on a performance (or two) with PPL co-Director Esther Neff. My practice is an attempt to use aesthetics to express theoretical implications, to “hear” or enact systems of thought and of consciousness. The iCan project itself is an opportunity to express the systems I perceive as being part of my life as an artist in 2012 and thereby gain a better understanding of them. The temptation to focus simply on work that has nothing to do with oneself is often so strong that one’s socio-economic position is ignored completely, to say nothing of it being analyzed and acknowledged. I am most excited about the possibilities of iCan to learn about the lives of my fellow artists and to expand my community.


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