Trained as an actor at the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris, Colin Gee is currently the founding Whitney Live artist-in-residence at the Whitney Museum of American Art. From 2001 – ’04, Gee was a principal clown in the Cirque du Soleil production, Dralion. Film/performance works include: Dakota (2005/6), recipient of the Best Male Performer award at the Dublin Fringe Festival, and Across The Road (2009). Objective Suspense (2008) was commissioned and premiered by the Whitney Museum in the exhibition “Alexander Calder: the Paris Years.” Video/dance series, Portrait and Landscape (2006 – current), premiered at Dance Theater Workshop in 2006. In 2009, 27 new works were added to the series, including 12 short films created at the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine where Gee was the 2009 Visiting Artist-in-Residence. Nested (2009), a video work, was commissioned by SFMOMA. History Plays (2010), a video series responding to works in the Whitney Museum’s permanent collection, premiered under the auspices of Whitney Live. The Band (2010), was performed in the Whitney 2010 Biennial on Martin Kersels’s sculptural installation, 5 Songs. A video series, I felt I’d been here before (2010), responded to images in the Belfast Exposed photographic archive, from which was commissioned.
Colin and Erin Gee (composer) have been working as a sibling duo since 2004. Whitney Live presented works by Erin and Colin at the Whitney Museum in October of 2009. The opera, SLEEP (2009), composed and performed by Erin, with a libretto by Colin, premiered at the Zurich Opera House. The concert opera, Mouthpiece XIII, Mathilde of Loci, Part I, (2009), commissioned from Erin by the American Composers Orchestra, was composed/performed by Erin, with writing/direction/performance by Colin, and premiered at Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall. Erin has received the Guggenheim fellowship, the Radcliff fellowship, and the Rome prize.
Frontier is a solo theatrical opera, comprised of nested stories inspired by John Ford’s 1956 film, The Searchers.
The performance will occur within a series of locations – video stills projected against layered semi-transparent screens – in which one actor will, as one story is nested into the next, embody all the characters. The shifting between characters, throughout the piece, will employ historical performance genres such as melodrama, tragedy, clown, and Commedia dell’Arte. The shifts between performance styles will also parallel shifts from the linear events of the narrative to the inner psychological processes of the characters.
The locations in which the narrative is set will reference those seen in specific works held in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s permanent collection, made available as a resource through Colin Gee’s Whitney Live residency. The use of locations from other works of art indicates and explores the ways in which a process of individuation uses landmarks that have become archetypal.
The project’s narrative involves the return of the protagonist, John, to his brother’s home in a rural town after several years. John’s checkered past, involving military service, is revealed. Following a family drama his niece disappears and he begins a quest to find her with the help of another man. Over the course of their travels through wilderness and rural landscapes, John fills in parts of his own history and reinterprets himself in response. When the young woman is found, her story is revealed to be more complicated than originally thought. John’s antipathies and prejudices are invoked, and considered, before they return home.
Interposing the live spoken voice into an electronic score, Frontier extends the operatic use of spoken dialog.