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WOW (Work-In-Progress)

January 23, 2014 · 8:00 PM
BRIC Arts | Media House

Created by Joe Diebes, Christian Hawkey and David Levine


BRIC continues its inaugural season with work-in-progress performances of WOW, an experimental opera by Fort Greene residents Joe Diebes, Christian Hawkey and David Levine developed, in part, during a BRIC House Fireworks Residency. All three artists are known for trying to radically rethink or reinvent their respective backgrounds: musical composition (Diebes), poetry (Hawkey), and theater (Levine). This is the first time that all three of them have collaborated together, putting their drive for reinvention towards the creation of the most antiquated multimedia spectacle of them all: the opera. The chosen subject of this work-in-progress opera? The story of Milli Vanilli, a manufactured German pop duo whose spectacular rise and fall has become an American legend.

Milli Vanilli's troubled history is not only tragically operatic in terms of its story; it is also a tragedy of the digital. WOW challenges the endless repetition of the CD-skip moment that led to the destruction of the pop duo's career with a real-time opera production environment in which the score, libretto, and staging intersect differently during each performance, evoking news ways of thinking and feeling about a story that's not as simple as it first may seem.

The developmental version of WOW uses nearly all of the architectural spaces inside BRIC House (gallery, ballroom/performance space, media production room, rehearsal studio and  Project Room) as a laboratory for a multi-layered experience. Using Milli Vanilli's four major videos as cardinal points on, and settings for, their journey, Levine’s staging of WOW continues his examination of the relation of performance to labor by taking the audience through BRIC’s various spaces as they witness Milli Vanilli’s rise and fall. Hawkey has generated a libretto using remixed, pirated, and appropriated language, including transcriptions of various Milli Vanilli press conferences and interviews; examining how exploited labor and racism are often at the heart of manufactured fame. Diebes has constructed more of an information-processing system than a traditional score, recombining fragments from Wagner’s Der Meistersinger von Nürenberg into a sound stream that jumps, skips, and loops. Both the orchestra and singers receive their parts ‘just in time’ on live feed video monitors as Diebes composes the score measure by measure live during each performance. Renowned artist duo Merkx & Gwynne bring their vision to the piece as art and video directors,  and acclaimed downtown choreographer Clarinda Mac Low rounds out the creative team.

Learn more about "Former Models: An Exhibition," curated by Merkx&Gwynne in conjunction with WOW. >>

This work is supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation’s NYC Cultural Innovation Fund. Support for WOW has also been provided by New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New YorkState Legislature. 

Christian Hawkey, Joe Diebes, and David Levine
Christian Hawkey, Joe Diebes, and David Levine
Photo: Andrew Federman


WOW: An Interview from BRIC on Vimeo.

Christian Hawkey on BK Live 11/1/13 from Brooklyn Independent Media on Vimeo.
(Segment on WOW  begins at 35:40 mark)


Friday, JANUARY 24, 8pm: WOW
Saturday, JANUARY 25, 8pm: WOW
Thursday, JANUARY 30, 8pm: WOW
Friday, JANUARY 31, 8pm: WOW
Saturday, FEBRUARY 1, 8pm: WOW

Read the full WOW PRESS RELEASE >>

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This event will occur as scheduled.

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$15, $18 at the door



Venue Information

BRIC Arts | Media House

This 40,000 square-foot multi-disciplinary arts and media complex in the former Strand Theatre is a true home for artists audiences and a place where emerging and established artists can create work that deepens their practice and engages the diverse audiences of Brooklyn.

647 Fulton Street
(Enter on Rockwell Place)
Brooklyn, NY 11217
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Tel: 718.683.5600

2/3/4/5 to Nevins Street
B/Q/R to DeKalb Avenue
G to Fulton Street