Multidisciplinary artists answer the Berrie Center’s call

Every year, the Berrie Center holds a call for artists with new multidisciplinary works-in-progress to be featured in their spring showcase. This season’s theme was Rediscovering Community. Three artists took the Sharp Theater stage on Saturday evening to display work that reflects how the arts can help us come together to rediscover community.


“New Work: City Symphony Films in 3D”


The first artists of the night were husband and wife team Marylou and Jerome Bongiorno. The Bongiornos are artistic 3D filmmakers that focus on their local communities. They screened three of their short films from a collection called “New Work: City Symphony Films in 3D.”

When introducing themselves and their work, Marylou Bongiorno said that “city symphonies are a genre of films that were popular in the 1920s and ‘30s, and they generally show a day in the life of cities.” One of their biggest inspirations was the 1921 film “Manhatta” by American artists Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand.

Though just showing everyday city life may seem mundane, the original filmmakers of city symphonies made powerful discoveries of local communities, and the Bongiornos did the same within their own communities. Their films were of Newark, the Brooklyn Waterfront and Staten Island. All in black and white and 3D, each short film places a strong emphasis on the infrastructures and individuals in the cityscapes with sensory sounds, which truly capture the essence of rediscovering the community around you.


“…An eye illumined by another sun…”


Composer Joseph Bertolozzi is notable for challenging the way we play music and experience it. With his specialty being in percussion, he has turned structures within large communities into his instruments.

Bertolozzi spent his time on stage showing videos of his work, giving commentary on his experiences and ended with a 12-minute performance on a single gong. He first talked about his solo percussion project “The Bronze Collection” which “explored expressive and unexpected nuances within gongs and cymbals utilizing the whole range of musical expression.” This project eventually led him to develop “Bridge Music,” an extensive and experimental endeavor that used New York’s Mid-Hudson Bridge as his only instrument.

He spent about five years working on this project. He explored all areas of the bridge and recorded its range of percussive elements. He ended up gathering hundreds of individual sounds, all of which he used to create the album “Bridge Music,” released in 2009.

This project intended on having a large live performance on the bridge, but it never came to fruition. However, he was able to eventually go to the Eiffel Tower in Paris to record sounds of the iconic tower and create “Tower Music.” 

After showing videos of his infrastructure compositions, he gave an intimate performance on a gong on stage, where he used several types of mallets and brushes to create an atmospheric experience. Bertolozzi used extended techniques to utilize every inch of the gong to its full sonic potential.


“Your Coat, Turning”


The final piece of the night was by Jane Rigler and Tessa Brinckman, unconventional flutist composers that seek community by engaging everyone through our senses. The two women attended the event virtually, but their piece was “both a film and sound performance” that let the audience co-create.

When entering the theater, audience members were given an envelope that had a pen and mystery item inside. The text throughout the film instructed the audience, telling them when to open their envelope and how to make sounds with their item.

The eerie video invoked feelings of discomfort yet excitement. It was clear that the participants were laughing and having fun with their sounds, but there was also an intensity from the film’s experimental sounds and imagery.

The women believe that their “concept of ‘community” offers an experience of building reliable and meaningful work, that people can belong to, and build their own futurism. [They] are interested in how to transform our individual and collective metaphorical coats to form other inevitable and necessary coats, through the experience of sounding and imagining.”

Their performance inspires the power of engaging with the community through shared human experiences.

Featured image courtesy of Bongiorno-Productions