“Tell them everything you know.” Bessie Schönberg to Sam Miller (1952-2018)
May 3, 2018
“To care is to know and knowing well is borne on the transfer of knowledge that matters.”
“The impulse to construct creative conditions. . .”
It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to our dear, dear friend and Danspace Project Board member SAM MILLER who passed away on May 1, 2018.
The Danspace Project Board of Directors, Artists Advisory Board, and Staff would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to Sam’s beloved family: his wife Anne, his sons Alex and Owen, his mother Diane, and his brothers Adam and Josh.
Sam’s constellation was larger than any one of us can comprehend. Behind every one of his many initiatives and projects (too many acronyms to list here) there are even more individuals who inspired him and who were supported, mentored, sustained, and inspired by him.
The following is adapted from a short essay I wrote for a forthcoming anthology on curatorial practice about Wesleyan’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance and Danspace Platforms. I share it because it includes Sam in his own voice.
“It was in 2009, in one of my many conversations with Sam when I first brought up the idea of a curatorial studies program in the performing arts. In 2015, he and I were reflecting on how ICPP began, which then made him reflect on his influences more broadly. He wrote the following to me about a few of his early curatorial and artistic influences:
Well, for me, maybe it began at Wesleyan over 40 years ago when I was making my way as an undergraduate, moving through that intense, self-curated exposure to Rudolf Wittkower, Lucy Lippard, Ed Emschwiller, Nam June Paik, Twyla Tharp, Petrarch, Robert Ashley, Dougie Mitchell, Sam Rivers, Alvin Lucier, Sumarsam, and John Proletti, woven through that interaction with my peers, founding Second Stage with Jan Eliasberg. When Wesleyan’s theater department moved into the new Center for the Arts Jan and I were given their old house, the “92” theater and overnight we were a student-run, producing organization offering new shows — dance, theater, music — almost every week, a program which continues to the present day. Back then we were producers and directors, (curating was not yet upon us). In each case [I was] responding to the impulse to construct creative conditions for ourselves, for others, the desire for difficulty, the collaborative necessity, meeting the demands of dematerialization, inspired by Lucy Lippard’s image of Beuys walking through that gallery, hare** in hand, into our future.
Or maybe it was at Jacob’s Pillow where, sitting behind Hunter House with Bessie Schönberg and Jess Meeker, I asked Bessie what her secret was in being such an impactful teacher – “tell them everything you know”… and watching Ralph Lemon working toward “Persephone” and Pat Graney uncovering “Faith” – the rigor, the research, the responsibility.
All that leads to systems design, to gap analysis. . . a process confirming that to care is to know and that knowing well is borne on the transfer of knowledge that matters. A straightforward proposition connecting past to future, practice to theory, studio to lab – another system, an open, expanding network, a missing platform, an idea factory – so that artists can find and be found by the allies and audiences they demand and deserve (Sam Miller, Nov 12, 2015).
“To care is to know.” Maybe that’s something we can all carry forward, for Sam.
Executive Director & Chief Curator
**A reference to Joseph Beuys’ Action How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (Wie man dem toten Hasen die Bilder erklärt), Schelma Gallery, Dusseldorf, 26 November 1965.