Art on theMART’s Fall 2022 program is slated to premiere Thursday, September 8, at 8:30 p.m., and will feature two new projections highlighting the city of Chicago’s Year of Chicago Dance: “Love Letters” by internationally-renowned, Chinese-born, Chicago-based artist Yuge Zhou, and “Trap Moulin Rouge,” a commissioned piece by local performing artist Jasmin Taylor.
“The Year of Chicago Dance is in full swing and Art on theMART is pleased to continue our alignment with this city of Chicago initiative,” said Cynthia Noble, Art on theMART Executive Director. “As a large-scale, centrally-located platform, Art on theMART is a new kind of stage for performing artists and shows the world the breadth and depth of Chicago’s creative talent.”
“Love Letters” is a video projection by Zhou and portrays a lively courtship dance between two urban dwellers searching for each other through a labyrinth of colorful geometrics with growing curiosity, electricity and affection.
“While my solo works often depict simultaneous and ephemeral encounters amidst the rush of contemporary life, ‘Love Letters’ tells a singular story of connection through dance and technology within my video art,” said Zhou.
“Trap Moulin Rouge,” by Jasmin Taylor, in co-production with Motion/Pictures Dance Project, takes audiences to Chicago’s South Side to showcase the vibrant Black culture and dance that emanate from it. Taking sonic and aesthetic inspiration from the 2001 film “Moulin Rouge,” “Trap Moulin Rouge” combines classical, R&B and jazz melodies with a variety of dance styles with the aim of creating and promoting equity in Chicago through the performing arts. “Trap Moulin Rouge’s” production team is 95 percent Black and 100 percent women, with funding for the project going directly to the collaborators.
“We want to create and promote more equity in the city of Chicago, and Art on theMART has partnered with us to do so,” said Taylor. “The production of ‘Trap Moulin Rouge’ supports all of the Black and POC cast and crew members involved in the project who bring the piece to its full potential.”
Taylor told the Crusader, “The name ‘Trap Moulin Rouge’ was inspired by three things. A piece of music by Pop Smoke entitled ‘Aim for The Moon.’ As a dancer, singer, and choreographer, from the moment I heard this song, it made me feel like I was in a circus, and how the circus makes you feel so full and excited—so fun and free!
“Once I thought of this themed circus of dance, music, and freedom, I immediately thought of one of my favorite movies that gives me the same feeling every time I watch it—the Moulin Rouge!! The bohemian/renaissance era it’s set in, art and what’s acceptable/being challenged is changing; and the Moulin Rouge is a safe place for all of that change to happen and unfold, vulnerably.
“This felt more near and dear due to COVID. So many artists, Black people, and honestly all people were just searching for safe places to deal with all of the changes.
“Trap (music and culture) is a big part of Black culture in America and Chicago because of its attention to rhythmic cadences and the ability to help us rise above our circumstances, persevere, and pursue liberation through music and movement. Plus, I’m a South Side of Chicago Black Girl—Trap, truly, just naturally came to mind.”
She said it took her and her co-producer 13 months to create the four minutes of choreography, a lot of tears, a lot of prayer, a lot of yoga, flexibility in vision and process, an all-woman crew of 10, a cast of four, a sound team of three, an animator and illustrator located in Egypt with a seven-hour time difference, one twelve-hour shoot day in March, one b-roll day on Juneteenth, among other exciting situations.
I asked Taylor what is the message for a wider audience, outside of the South Side, which is represented in the installation?
She said: “To help bridge the racial, socio-economic, and cultural resource divide between the privileged known and revered cultural attraction that is downtown Chicago; and the equally culturally rich but underfunded, underrepresented, disrespected, compassionate, intelligent communities and Black people along Chicago’s 79th Street and the South Side!
“Come to this area of the city, love on these people, acknowledge how beautiful we are, see yourself in that beauty. Spend your money in this part of town, have picnics and take pictures on this side of town, meet new people in this area without the goal of gentrifying and kicking them out, invest in initiatives that help these people’s everyday lives, that may not seem like they affect you directly.
“And lastly, recognize that Black people don’t have to prove we’re worth coming to see our neighborhoods and beauty, it’s up to you to come and see. Hopefully, ‘Trap Moulin Rouge’ is your first glance.”
When Taylor isn’t creating art, she runs the Munching Millennial, which she founded last May. “This initiative is important because there’s no reason for world hunger, we have enough food. I am also a person that thinks about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs a lot. How, if you don’t have the basic necessities in life, you can’t really think of much else—I know what that’s like, and all Black people know what that’s like in this country.
“Food is a necessity, and it’s something that Black people have been very skilled at (cooking and even our different styles of eating and sharing food for camaraderie and ceremony) since the beginning of time. Food has been passed down to me, from both sides of my Southern parents/families and that’s so meaningful to me. I want to share this cultural history with all, and also bridge cultural gaps and increase connections through an activity we all have to do. Even though all people are so unique and so different, the bottom line—we all gotta eat.”
Art on theMART’s Fall Program will be on view twice nightly at 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. through November 18. Art on theMART is free and can best viewed on the Chicago Riverwalk between Wells Street and Franklin Street, where accompanying audio can be experienced. For more information, visit artonthemart.com.
Art on theMART, presented in partnership with Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), is the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, projecting contemporary artwork across the 2.5-acre river-façade of theMART.
theMART (formerly The Merchandise) is interwoven into the fabric of Chicago as an innovator in business, technology, culture, art, media and more.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader. She is a National Newspaper Publishers Association ‘Entertainment Writing’ award winner, contributor to “Rust Belt Chicago” and the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood: South Side of Chicago.” For info, Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago (lulu.com) or email: [email protected].