This August, flameworker Carrie Fertig will take the stage at the International Festival of Glass in Stourbridge, England, to once again shatter barriers between disciplines, between artist and audience, and between fine and performance art. Fertig, founder of the Torcher Chamber Arkestra, has scheduled her collective’s second live premiere titled “Torcher Tailor” for 9:30 PM on Saturday, August 25, flame workers, glass artists, dancers and musicians will play with fire – and invite the audience to join.
It is tricky to explain exactly how this will pan out, as Fertig’s vision is on a scale so grand it can hardly be imagined. Beginning with a fire dancing “bride,” (she is trained in poi, the traditional Hawaiian fire dance) the flame workers will move around her, constructing a wedding dress of glass with various torches. This fuses the teamwork element of hot shop technique while allowing more freedom for movement and improvisation between the dancing bride and the glass dress architects. The whole affair will be accompanied by percussionists on glass instruments designed and constructed by Fertig herself. The audience will then be invited to get in on the action by adding embellishments to the dress while it is still cooling. In addition, the wedding gown is designed to be deconstructed and moved for entry into the International Festival of Glass finale “Glasshionistas.”
Before beginning her study of glass art at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and then Pilchuck in Seattle, Fertig was a dancer. In an email correspondence with the Hot Sheet, she attributes these two seemingly disparate backgrounds as the breeding ground for her “fascination with the performance potential of flameworking.” Other artists have made this connection before, marrying the physical and improvisational elements of dance and hot shop techniques. Ann Wolff and Pina Bausch come to mind, as does the now defunct performance art ensemble, B Team.
The Arkestra’s performances, while bombastic in execution, begin from a lofty conceptual impetus. At her 2011 opening of “Homing” at Chichester Cathedral in Southern England (covered here on the Hot Sheet) Fertig relied heavily on the audience’s interpretation of her work. She encouraged visitors to speak, whisper or sing about the nature of the word “spirit.” The “Torcher Tailor” performance is dedicated to the notion of “Union” – a concept she deals with both personally and politically. While American born, Fertig attended the Edinburgh College of Art and is still working out of that city. The whole fiery performance is centered around the idea of “union as in marriage. But also union between England and Scotland, known as the Act of Union, the future of which we will be voting on in 2014.” Torcher Chamber Arkestra strives to illustrate the concept of union through this epic collaboration of mixed media artists.
—Katharine MoralesIF YOU GO:
Torcher Chamber Arkestra
Saturday, August 25, 9:30 PM
International Festival of Glass
Ruskin Glass Center
Wollaston Road, Amblecote,
Stourbridge, West Midlands DY8 4HF