Silk graffiti artist Aubrie Costello constructs beautiful words from silk, pins, and nails. But what does she do when words are not enough? Later this month, Costello will debut her first foray into film with Show Me What You Want Me to See, a multidisciplinary treat for the senses. The film and live dance performance are an exploration of feelings that stem from different phases of romantic love, and an extension of the story that Costello has been spinning for years. Read on to learn more about Aubrie and this special project.
What is Show Me What You Want Me To See?
Show Me What You Want Me To See is a two-night-only short film screening, site-specific art installation, and live dance performance happening on September 22nd and 23rd, as part of the 2017 Philly Fringe Festival. The film and performance intimately explore loss in a few forms and also all the peculiar stages of love, from its dawning to its dimming, to its inevitable darkness through modern movement, dance, film, fiber art, poetry, and an original score.
I feel that collectively we have been faced with and challenged by loss and uncertainty as a whole in this country. Individually, we're often challenged with personal losses in our lives. In a strange way, loss has brought a lot of us together, and it's something that we all share, that we cannot avoid, but it seems that we have a hard time talking about it, taking the time to really explore it, and honor and celebrate it.
Exploring loss in the mediums we chose to work in was not easy. It's a loaded subject, and in the short film, we decided to explore loss in a bit of an abstract way, definitely in an emotive way, through two mysterious and obscure love stories.
All collaborators involved with the project have experienced a personal loss during the creation of the work, and I think you can feel that when viewing the work and entering the space. We're trying to hit all five senses with Show Me What You Want Me To See. In addition to seeing art and dance, viewers will experience live music and of course, there will be cocktails to make the evening that much sweeter - because, let's be real, with a bit of a heavy theme, we think booze is necessary. But we hope that with the graceful movements of the dancers, the ephemeral fabric installation, and the dope & beautiful music by Josh Hey and Jesse Sparhawk, we'll bring some fun and levity to the night too.
Where was the idea for Show Me What You Want Me To See born?
Show Me What You Want Me To See was inspired by the 2015 Fringe Festival performance Sit Down. Stand Up. created by contemporary dancers, collaborators, and Show Me What You Want Me To See stars Jessica Noel and Leslie Davidson. But to be honest, I've wanted to make some sort of short film and work with performers in some capacity since I was 19. I just didn't quite know where to start. My work lends itself to storytelling, and I'm drawn to the moving image. So I've been slowly mustering up the courage to go for it and step into the realm of performance and film. After experiencing their dance performance two years ago, and leaving in tears because it was so damn powerful and really resonated with me at the time, I knew that this was it. This was the inspiration for a piece that I had envisioned for so many years.
How do dance, music, and film interact with your work in this context?
All of the parts play with each other and inform each other to tell a fuller, richer story. The dance creates a lot of energy and emotion, the art brings movement and a handmade quality to the experience, the music sets the tone, and the film gives all of these moving parts context and feels like a memory. The installation itself will act as a relic to the film. Taking the pieces from the film and putting them in the actual physical space gives viewers a little more time to hang out with the silk words and spend time with them and, hopefully, reflect on their own personal experiences of love and loss. It felt really natural and organic to work with Lendl, Josh, Leslie, Jessica, Fatima, Victoria, and Jesse for this project. They are friends and collaborators, and I was already very inspired by their work before this project. They are superstars in my eyes, so I'm very grateful and honored that they wanted to work with me to create this. We all work in different mediums, so we were able to create a really multifaceted, layered experience using all of our different backgrounds.
You've referred to this as your "biggest project yet." Why is that?
Scale! There are a lot of people involved, moving parts, tickets to sell, and lots of art to create for just two nights! I'm used to smaller scale, month-long exhibitions. This one is big for me, as I'm not a performer or used to that energy. We only have one shot to do this thing right, so I'm nervous but really excited! I have an awesome team. We've been working on this project for a long time. I've also wanted to do this type of thing for so long, so it feels really big for me.
How do you want audiences to feel when they’re viewing this film?
I hope the audience will simply feel - plain and simple. What they feel is up to them. But I hope they experience something along the lines of what I experienced back in 2015, watching Jess and Leslie's work.
Their piece was powerful, authentic but with a touch of fantasy, and it made me reflect on my own life, and took me to another place for a little while. I hope viewers will feel like they've escaped from their daily lives for a couple of hours, while also reflecting on their own experiences too.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
Everywhere! But mainly I'm inspired to make work in response to what I'm observing around me and what I'm feeling. I pay attention to other people's experiences, my own personal history and evolution, the nuances and subtleties of everyday city life, and the world around me and I make work to reflect those things.
What challenges you about your work?
I'm always looking for ways to successfully tell a more universally resonating, strong story and reflect the times in a smart, considered way while retaining a graceful, intimate aesthetic. It's challenging to create thought-provoking work in just a few words in fabric, and I'm always thinking about ways to balance strength and delicacy. I work intuitively, so it's challenging to work from the heart to make something that satisfies all of those desires and hopes for each piece.
How do you strike a balance between your more commercial undertakings, your political efforts, and creating art for art’s sake? Is there a balance?
I'm still trying to balance all of these things - as different as their intentions may be, I try to come from the same place with all of these undertakings when making the work. To be honest, finding time and money dictate this balance, so right now I'm currently working on carving out the time and looking into more available resources to make more work. I'm excited to create custom art for brands and clients. But I'm really hungry to make more personal work and activated work in the public space. That's my goal for next year: more public art, more pointed, collaborative political work, and more time to make the work.
What are you working on next?
I will have work at the Mainline Art Center's exhibition Happily Ever After, which investigates the female gaze, modern femininity, and contemporary challenges to women’s rights. I'll be creating a piece live during the opening reception on October 13th and will speak on the artist panel Happily Ever After and the Female Gaze: Philadelphia Women Artist Trailblazers – Then and Now on Thursday, October 26, 6-8 pm with Cindy Veloric, research assistant at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And we will be working on our second iteration of Signs Of Solidarity. Stay tuned!