Five Questions for Phil Soltanoff
Name: Phil Soltanoff
1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?
I grew up in Stamford, CT right on the border between middle class and upper middle class white cultures. I didn’t like it there, but I did find a starting point working as a technician in a local regional theatre. I didn’t really connect with the theatre they were making, so I moved on….and on…working with various people in various places until certain questions about space and time began to solidify. I made my first original work, TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN in 1996. It was a huge leap, a rip of some sort, between my old self and a new aesthetic position that I was inventing as I went along. I’ve followed and advanced those ideas ever since.
2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?
I think its John Cage’s book SILENCE. It expressed in a very clear and naive form, ideas about space and time that I was grasping at but couldn’t articulate. I had been hung up on an idea of the right notes and the wrong notes, so to speak, for a very long time. Cage’s writing freed me from that conundrum. Its a very simple thing really: Why is it every time a child or dog walks on stage they’re totally compelling to watch? They’re doing all the wrong things onstage, but they’re unforgettable! I finally found a way to think about the whole space, what’s happening regardless of the rules, and that opened the door to everything.
3. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?
Honestly, I’m in awe of people who can really cook. My dearly departed wife Stephanie used to improvise in the kitchen, no cookbook or anything, just grabbing this and that spice with an intuitive knowledge of what each one could do. It blew my mind.
4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.
I feel very fortunate to make a living as an artist. Luckily, I don’t need or want alot of stuff. Granted, I have a high-end road bike and a small army of stratocasters, but other than that, my life is about my next project. I work all the time. Each project has its own notebook and portable hard drive, so as ideas come to me out of left field, I just grab a notebook and jot it down. I don’t worry about where it fits or what it means, I just note it and let it stew. My day is about working and practicing–making work, working to get more work, riding 40 miles a day, practicing music. Sometimes I socialize, but I’m pretty much a monk devoted to the pleasure of working. I should add that I’m not independently wealthy. I don’t have a trust fund or anything like that. I did it all myself.
5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?
I taught at Skidmore College for a long time. Actually I had a wonderful position there: Full-time-half-time-Senior-Guest-Artist-in-Residence. It was a position cobbled together year to year by the department to keep me around. I would work a semester, then go make art for a semester in New York. Eventually, the demands of art making put too much pressure on my time, so I leapt into the unknown. Its terrifying to give up a regular salary and benefits but I’m thoroughly glad I did it. Its turned into an amazing adventure including the creation of two works with CIE111 that have taken me around the globe. Matter of fact, I just got back from India where one of those shows PLAN B, created in 2002, performed in Mumbai and Chennai. Amazing!
Phil Soltanoff’s LA PARTY will be coming to the COLLAPSABLE HOLE (146 Metropolitan Ave. (Berry St.) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn 11211) on Feb 18 – 20 and Feb 25 – 27. Shows are at 8pm with 10pm shows on the Fridays and Saturdays 19, 20, 26, 27. ALSO a benefit show for Haiti on Sunday Feb 21 @ 5pm (all proceeds to a Haitian relief fund, specifics TBA)
TIckets will be 15.00 cash only and reservations can be made via email at LaPartyCo@gmail.com For any other inquiries about this production of LA Party please email LAPartyco@gmail.com