Apart From Me

Using a combination of wearable fabric sculptures, interactive sensors, movement and sound, artists H. Gene Thompson, Arvid Tomayko, Anna Azzizy and Ru Emmons create a language addressing the push and pull of human connection. Elastic wearables act as membranes to resist against and barriers to break through, both joining and separating. Straining against them, the performers examine the abstraction of language through touch and separation, activating their environment with embedded sensors that control the soundscape.

The abstract narrative of Apart From Me explores the dynamic of three characters as they interact with each other and their surroundings. The artists strive to create their own languages of movement, sound and color. As the performers interact with the wearable sculptures and sensors that create music based on their movements, they are growing their communication with one another, and with the audience. By listening to the sound generated by their movements and using that to inform how they perform the wearable sculptures, the performers create a feedback loop of motion and sound. But, like human languages both verbal and non-verbal, these systems facilitate both connection and separation between individuals, admitting the imperfections of these tools for human expression.

The colorful, flexible sculptures transform from one scene into the next, developing a narrative of expanding shapes and surprising colors. Unfurling tubes prompt exploration, while images of holes that performers create are like voids in ourselves created by society and carved out by the world around us. Some sculptures are designed to unite all the performers, while others are designed to keep them apart. Often one character is left out – a sort of “monkey in the middle” – while the other two connect.

In Apart From Me, the artists are focused on posing questions. The only answers that they have are ones that you must read between the lines for. The performers present unanswered questions and moments of images that create feelings of uncertainty, making audiences nervous, even if they might not know why.

The artists want to create moments of questioning around how people interact. What is it about unclear images that sometimes make people uneasy?

When performers activate the sculptures, there are moments where there are impressions of human bodies created, but it is uncertain how they are connected, either to themselves or to each other, prompting uncomfortable feelings in the audience. Can you hold onto that and question it, asking what makes you uncomfortable – what makes you feel the way you do? What makes you happy when you see people connect and be together in a way you’re familiar with?

This work is connected to the masks that people wear and the layers that we all experience in ourselves. What walls do we put up between each other? What are the ways that we try to protect ourselves, but at the same time make it more difficult to connect to each other?

Special Thanks:

  • Lindsay Huffalo
  • Christiane Dolores
  • All the visionary artists in Pittsburgh and around the country who have performed with us
  • Everyone in our lives and our community who encourages and inspires us to make and show this work!

Performer bios:

H. Gene Thompson’s work questions human connectivity through the exploration of wearable fabric sculptures holding a space that challenges social interactions. Morphing wearables with movement, Thompson performs unsettling images to distort the state of consciousness people assume is stable. Thompson earned their BFA at CMU, and has been the resident artist at the following centers: AS220 (RI), Neu Kirche (PGH), Charles Adams Studio Project (TX), Kelly Strayhorn Theater (PGH) and Laboratory Spokane (WA), Tough Artist 2017, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

Arvid Tomayko is an experimental musician and multimedia artist exploring the intersection of expressive electronic sound performance, process driven composition and interactive installation. His pieces are realized as unique auditory and visual performance systems that alternately focus or expand the capabilities of the performer. Tomayko holds a BA in Computer Music/Multimedia and Geology from Brown University and has been a resident artist at Laboratory (Spokane, WA) and Tough Art (Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh).

Anna Azizzy is a performance artist, video artist, and experimental musician from Pittsburgh. They wish to insert humor, honesty, and queerness into the spaces they occupy and strive to process their identity by performing absurd exaggeration of their life. Azizzy’s work creates space where laughter leads to learning.

Ru Emmons is a queer, nonbinary Pittsburgh native. For Emmons, movement is a way of reclaiming their scrambled body and inviting others to do the same. In their free time, Emmons dances, rock-climbs, and bikes out their feminist rage. This will be Emmons’ second performance at The New Hazlett Theater.