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Awardee: Joseph Keckler

Performing Arts, 2016

Joseph Keckler is a singer, writer and interdisciplinary artist whose works often involve humor, autobiography, cultural observation, and classical images and themes. His performances have been presented by SXSW, New Museum, Goethe Institut, Issue Project Room, BAM, PEN American Center, and various other institutions in the U.S. and Europe. He has been featured on BBC America and WNYC Soundcheck and his performance piece I am an Opera was commissioned by Dixon Place. In 2013 The Village Voice named him "Best Downtown Performance Artist." The recipient of a NYFA Interdisciplinary Fellowship and Franklin Furnace grant, he has been awarded residencies at Yaddo and MacDowell, was the 2015/2016 Witt Artist in Residence at The University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design, and is currently in residence with Times Square Arts Alliance.  He sometimes writes freelance about contemporary art for publications such as VICE and he recently made his off-Broadway debut as Chaliapin in Preludes at Lincoln Center Theater. He is currently working on a book and an album.

Project: Let Me Die

At the core Let Me Die is a multitude of death scenes from the operatic canon. This material, all taken from the public domain and performed live with a pianist, is interwoven with Keckler’s original narratives to create a new hybrid work. The piece draws on the way in which death is at the center of both the form of tragic opera as well as the conversation around it—"opera is not dead," "the audience is dying," etc—and illuminates the ways in which our contemporary daily lives are operatic.  Using fragmentation as a poetic strategy, Let Me Die borrows its title from "Lasciatemi morire," the Monteverdi aria which is itself the fragment of a lost opera.

The work began development through a Witt Residency at The University of Michigan School of Art and Design and was presented at Musuem of Contemporary Art Detroit for 4 hours as a work-in-progress preview.