COCKAIGNE FOR PERFORMA 11
In his debut work of performance art, Cotton employed the forms of both ballet and burlesque to create a celebration of whipped cream and cotton candy. Curated by Stacy Engman as part of Performa 11, Cockaigne was an exploration of the peculiar nature of two ephemeral confections, incorporating music and dance, in addition to scent.
Cockaigne began with the "Whipped Cream Dance" as choreographed and performed by Miss Ruby Valentine (a burlesque dancer Cotton has often painted). The movements for this piece came out of the tradition of the erotic fan dance, and were set to music composed by Caleb Burhans and performed live on violin by Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim. An accompanying whipped cream scent, which was dispersed by Hannah Cohen during the dance, was developed in conjunction with senior perfumer Pascal Gaurin, flavorist Marla Wright, and Nicolas Mirzayantz, Group President, Fragrances, of International Flavors & Fragrances. In part two of Cockaigne, the "Cotton Candy Dance" was performed by three ballerinas, as choreographed by Charles Askegard, to music composed by John Zorn. The dancer's movements were designed to evoke the airy strands of spinning sugar, becoming clouds of cotton candy. This segment was played live by Keith Cotton on keyboard, with Heung Heung Chin on triangle.
The title is a reference to the Land of Cockaigne, a mythical land of plenty as described in medieval poetry written during a time of famine. The theme has been explored by artists as diverse as Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Umberto Eco, and Voltaire. In addition to conceiving of and directing the piece, Will Cotton painted the backdrops and designed the costumes.