Inventing the wheel backwards
When I was nine years old I developed a curiosity about the basic materials that constituted theater. With this question I began a long journey. That was in 1957, I was growing up in Montana and Merce Cunningham was working on his choreography in New York City. His path would eventually cross mine, opening my life to a river of artists and an ocean of information that has constituted my education and becomes the substance of the Six Viewpoints theory and practices. The first structure of this work became formalized in 1976 and taught publicly in 1978 in workshops and for the first time at The Experimental Theater Wing, Undergraduate Theater in Tisch School of the Arts at New York University where I continue in part to reside as a teacher. The work finally reached completion in April 2003 in a series of conversations that took place with professor of avant garde theater, Branislav Jakovljevic. To my great shock and surprise and then instantaneous understanding the discovery of the final conceptual frame of The Six Viewpoints comes to form a circle that returns The Viewpoints to their origins in the wild freedom of the native growing up in Montana and the question, what is theater made of, that started this evolution.
I see The Six Viewpoints as a kind of structure erected on ground that inspired them to be built. "Inventing The Wheel Backwards" is my code name for the era that marks the assemblage phase of The Six Viewpoints. This era started for me when I came to New York to live with the artists who were looking at art from an entirely different perspective. Soho, January 1970. I joined them in "inventing the wheel backwards".
We worked our way back. We did not try to know what was known. We tried to un-know it. We lived in caves and watched as the beasts roamed around us. The caves were our minds and the beasts were the elements of form. We were reforming art into a democracy. We were studying phenomena. Formalism disappeared through the act of scrutiny and reappeared in a new position of equality. How we got to those caves with those beasts is a curious story that I am still working to understand but what is clear is that the commitment to bring others there is at the heart of this work.
- Mary Overlie 1989
Now I read this and think that the caves were also the huge cheap lofts that we heated with wood burning stoves.
I claim not to have invented this work but I do proclaim myself the originator of The Six Viewpoints. Much of the body of this work can be found articulated in the works of Robert Wilson, The Ontological hysterical Theater Company or Richard foremen, The Wooster Group, Mabou Mines Theater Company, The choreographies of Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, Barbara Dilley, the sculptures of Richard Serra, Richard Nonas, Keith Sonnier, Donald Judd, Gene Highstein, the music of Philip Glass, Ornette Coleman, to name just a few artists who work in areas close to this artistic philosophy. The people mentioned above have had profound influences on the formation of The Six Viewpoints as I dialogue with their work and sometimes worked for a few of them I was training my understanding of how to deconstruct and why. My contribution to this world has been to gather the material now called The Six Viewpoints and through this structure articulate the new perspective on art that they represent. In a beautiful dichotomy, to a great extent none of this is mine and because I have articulated it all of it is mine.
I encourage you to seek out the work of these artists if you are not already familiar with them.