Audience surveys!

Unlisted: Second Steel’s series of [three site-specific performances around the city] ran from September 25-28, 2013. Did you see one of them? Please take two minutes to let us know what you thought by responding to a brief audience survey! Choose the location of the performance you saw below.

We also WELCOME responses that go into greater depth than a short survey allows. Please email with those thoughts. THANK YOU!


A video of a village in the woods on a hill in a city at the crossroads of the world

We’re excited to share these excerpts from the Second Steel performance in the Hill District (Sept. 28, 2013), interwoven with audience responses shared during the post-show talkback. Video edited by curator Monika Ponjavić.

Watch a village in the woods on a hill in the city at the crossroads of the world from MoMa (for Monika&Marina) on Vimeo.

Second Steel audiences on revitalization: pictured words

If you were at one of the East Liberty or Northside performances, chances are good that you got “surveyed” by someone from Unlisted. In the last part of the brief survey, we asked you to share with us your thoughts or feelings on revitalization, whatever it might mean to you.

We’re keeping all of the surveys anonymous and private, but we wanted to figure out a way to share back out the way our audiences are thinking about and responding to revitalization. Wordle is always a fun and cool-lookin’ fallback. So we Wordled all of the responses and here’s what came out (bigger words are ones that popped up most frequently in answers):
revitalization wordle

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at this:

1) because of the format of the Hill District performance and a few other factors, we were only able to survey three of our 80+ audience members in attendance on September 28. Those answers would likely have changed this visualization dramatically.

2) because the survey was administered verbally, we weren’t able to record respondents’ answers in their entirety; some kept it simple, but for the more complex answers we had to jot down as much as we could, trying to keep up. So the “written” version of the answers is necessarily filtered through the lenses (however neutral we tried to keep them) of the people administering the surveys.

I still think it’s pretty darn cool. I also wanted to acknowledge a not-uncommon initial response: “what is revitalization?” or some other form of “huh? what are you talking about?” We elaborated as little as possible; so the responses we got were also reflecting a wide range of understandings of the term itself and what the heck we might be referring to (which is after all something we’re interested in too).

What are your thoughts and feelings on revitalization? Leave them in the comments. Or email them to

(After)Words from the Hill District team

Christina Springer from the Hill District team wrote these words in the week leading up to their performance. We share them here as an afterword, and a preparation for more reflection to come. You can also see photographs from the Hill District performance (as well as the other two performances) by [clicking here].

reflection - christina 1there are stories in the dirt. everything which has ever drawn
breath whispers its echoing aches and ecstasy back to the dirt…
the more I break my fingernails. sift and dig,
my eyelashes spell the words,
“W h e r e a r e y o u?
in crimson coals applied like kohl
to the inside of my eyelids
W h y c a n ‘ t I s e e y o u?”
maybe nsibidi, adrinka, heiroglyphs,
the dirt only speaks the truth
to those who see the smell alkali with river silt scorched mouths. it has
been speaking… in tongues that were once in the mouths of others.
open wide. I will pack your orifices with mud and rue laced salt. and light golden

reflection - christina 2seal them shut. dry and harden, it will. the memory
keloid lovely. like me a hard imagined future memory
~ an amputated limb itching ~ now. remember. now.
now. feel me. now. remember. I carried you.

dirt grows stories. What we know is that nothing stays
the same. our ancestors tell our children their history
must be scraped from under their parent’s fingernails
lest they become infected by scratching off the present.

Christina Springer


Photos from East Liberty, night 1!


This gallery contains 15 photos.

Photographs from the Sept. 25 opening reception of Second Steel Performance #1 at Townhouse in East Liberty: an interactive sound installation created by Taylor Knight, Riva Strauss, and Anna Thompson. Continue reading

Geographical hide & seek, catalysts for change

Words from the Northside performers (you can see them in Here is nothing because here is nothing and nothing is me tonight and tomorrow at 7pm in Alco Parking Lot Blue 7H).

I am struck by this idea of geographical hide & seek. Pittsburgh provides a landscape that enables its inhabitants to remain unnoticed—hidden in vast expanses framed by mountains, rivers, highways, traintracks. It also hides its own attributes: whole areas and spaces are isolated by the landscape. Unlisted seems to be a kind of a flashlight that shines on those people+places, allowing them to be seen and explored.


–Julianne Avolio

Northside rehearsal (Photo: Matthew Conboy)

Northside rehearsal: Julianne and Dylan (Photo: Matthew Conboy)

As an artist, I rely on the idea that I am capable of inciting change, and working toward social good. Without this hope, I do not believe that the act of rehearsal or performance is worth it. To venture into different communities to produce something makes me feel like I not only have a responsibility to the audience, but to the community (which is new!). The possible impact that I saw myself as having as an actor—is to enable the audience to give themselves over to the ideas of the text. With this project I feel much closer to the point of impact, having a feeling of dialogue with the surrounding area.


The desire for change has evolved in me, that has made me think, “If I really want to change the community for the better, why am I performing?” I’ve thought about volunteer work and helping the homeless. I want to funnel that feeling into my work. I want to know that what I’m doing with Unlisted is a catalyst for change. Community awareness and presence hasn’t felt this important to me before this!


–Dylan Meyers

Seeds planted

Through thought provoking expression or performance, it is the seed, thought, inspiration, or memory planted in the observer’s mind that is the purest form of preservation or growth.

–Taylor Knight


Taylor, as part of a tableau, shares with the other Second Steel artists an image-idea seeding the East Liberty team’s performance.

Tonight, catch Taylor along with Anna Thompson and Riva Strauss at the reception for their sound installation: 7–10pm at Townhouse (a popup furniture store) in East Liberty, 6016 Penn Ave. [More details here].

Reacting to Memories

Dear North Shore,

You have proven to be a difficult site to understand. Your history is buried beneath concrete blocks. The vacancy of your lot leaves a void of activity. Above street level highway and railroad tracks create a concrete canyon and a chasm that stretches off towards the setting sun. You have isolated yourself from the surrounding neighborhoods. Your community is of a transient strand. Either tailgaters arriving from areas removed from Pittsburgh or a homeless population recently evicted from a concrete dwelling they once called home.
These bricks were placed last year, walling up cubbyholes where 16 of the North Shore's homeless used to live. Photo: Alexandra Oliver

Dear North Shore: The bricks seen in this photo were placed last year, walling up cubbyholes where 16 of your homeless used to live. Photo: Alexandra Oliver

As I stated yesterday, developing a short-term relationship with a city can be a challenge for out-of-town artists and this process has an effect on UNLISTED as a whole. In an effort to have an effective value, UNLISTED must not merely produce site-specific work, but understand the communities they are serving prior to international influence and artistic decision making. Otherwise, we are merely taking performance and randomly applying this creative practice to spaces hoping for something, anything, to stick. From my vantage point, this is doubly complicated with you, my beloved North Shore. How can an effect be had in a vacant lot? Who are we connecting with? What population are we serving?
To our great fortune, we learned about your recent history within the first week of our rehearsals when we met Larry Allen, a former resident in your parking lot 7H. Larry was one of the homeless individuals who was forced to leave the shelter provided to the homeless beneath your train tracks. Larry told us about how the city spent thousands of dollars to evict these individuals from your lot and then proceeded to fill these nooks with dirt and concrete.
Had this information been discovered months in advance, how would this have influenced a curatorial approach to the space? How would this have influenced the text written by a playwright across the Atlantic? How would this have influenced the purpose behind creating a performance piece in a vacant lot? To what end are we throwing focus onto this space buried in your neighborhood beneath concrete barriers?
Artists have a tendency to be self-serving, so perhaps nothing would have changed. Artists also have a tendency to surprise, so perhaps everything would be different. In the end, we are left to discover ways a script written across the Atlantic can now react to the space and histories we currently find ourselves immersed and collaborating within. Although the challenge has produced an interesting and unique final site-specific performance, I feel the effect might be lost due a lack of re-acting to what you had to offer.
North Shore, you have given us a space that echoes with the memories of a community that has since moved on. As UNLISTED moves forward and questions their effective value, curators and artists must adapt and re-act to the specificity of the community around them.
Forever yours,
Chris Bell

Reflections from the East Liberty team

The East Liberty team is kicking off the Second Steel performance series—in Townhouse, a pop-up furniture store on Penn Ave., tomorrow and Thursday. Here are words from some of the artists on the team, collected at the Second Steel artist meeting this weekend. For information about times and location for their Townhouse installation, [click here].

Fragments of sound tell stories of
Space—divides time through gestures.
Observing kinetically thoughts
Creeping among the dust unsettled.
I am here. With you. And your moment.
Connections of distilled threads
tie a web of unity.
Coasting on a rhythm of tomorrow.
Reflection paints the unspoken vibration.
Lingering pauses stop silenced images.
Enduring a cast away blunder.
I don’t know what these words are
But a poll lends it’s way.

–Riva Strauss

Anna’s, I also wanted to share in photograph form—I love the way it lives on the page.

reflection - anna

negotiating a wall
non-verbal communication as language
presence as language as an entryway
a doorway
to fluid/temporal experience
a memory that—in our trial to capture it
slowly slips between our fingers
maybe we will never have something to grasp
maybe the constant search for definition
perpetuates the gap.
the only thing we have to gain
is presence & experience
nothing lost
following the string
to the point we make
the choice to stop

–Anna Thompson
(a collection of ideas caught in my web)

Dear Pittsburgh…

“Chris, you fall in love easily. Specifically, with cities.”

This was a comment made by a colleague after the recent UNLISTED artist meeting. Over the course of my two and half weeks in Pittsburgh, I’ve come to the realization that this statement is true. I love becoming intimate with a city. The relationship I form with new neighborhoods. Running my proverbial fingers over each area and discovering the nuances. Examining and learning the psyches that make up the whole of a city. Learning how these individual psyches have been influenced by histories, socio-economic factors, the accessibility of cultural resources, the quality of transportation, the amount of green space, and on and on.


This list of what forms a cities identity could scroll down the length of Penn Ave. But how can an artist, arriving from thousands of miles away, create a productive relationship with a city in the span of slightly more than one week? How can an artist simultaneously learn the nuances of a city (the histories, socio-economic factors, the accessibility of cultural resources, and on and on…) while working collaboratively with a neighborhood to produce a site-reactive project?


When we speak of the sustainability of a project and the affective value of an ephemeral performative event, this productive relationship with a city carries with it challenge and promise for an endeavor such as UNLISTED. With an influx of non-Pittsburgh based artists bringing with them a wealth of perspectives and experiences, this thrusts a great deal of responsibility on the match-maker – the local curator. Being embedded in the city, the local curator is the lead producer of a site-specific archive of knowledge. This doubling of roles produces resources which might allow for the visiting team of artists to preemptively fall in love from long-distance. To preemptively have an investment in the community. To preemptively form a productive relationship.


As a local curator/neighborhood researcher (or perhaps archivist is a better word… I’m not entirely sure), there are three pillars for creating this preemptive investment in a community – creating an archive of knowledge, forming partnerships with local organizations, and identifying (alongside the newly developed neighborhood partnerships) how UNLISTED can support preexisting initiatives.


I will be citing three cases to address my points and to support the potential advantage of having a dual role local curator. The first are the challenges I have faced as a non-Pittsburgh based artist during my work in the Northshore neighborhood. The second will be an observation of Hill District curator Gavin White. Gavin will serve as an example for what this role could potentially become in future iterations. While not working specifically with Gavin, I have had the distinct pleasure of observing and gleaning some insight from his process. The third will be an example pulled from my community engagement experience in Cloneen, Ireland and the potential for an effect beyond the stay of the artists.


As to not produce a blog that continues on and on ad infinitum, I will be releasing these cases studies over the next two days.


With much love to the city of Pittsburgh,


Chris Bell

How can an organization provide non-Pittsburgh based artists with the resources to form productive relationships with a city?

How can an organization provide non-Pittsburgh based artists with the resources to form productive relationships with a city?