LIFE AND WORK - A BIT ABOUT LUISA
My work is not about finding an answer, but about exploring a question: through the sonic and physical exploration of space. Surrendering to the very moment, trusting, and deep listening are the biggest part of each journey.
"I love your work, Luisa!" – Meredith Monk
"She's a word-genius!" – Arturo O'Farrill
"... incredible and indispensable!" – Shelley Hirsch
"Wonderful! Marvelous!" – Austin Pendleton
"She's got a reality going right there!" – Stephen McKinley Henderson
"Luisa can play it all!" – Daniel Davis
"... a literally mesmerizing, often haunting multimedia sonata of sorts, complete with variations on a series of recurrent tropes and gestures ... Her timing was striking to witness ... an understatedly steely display of athletic command ... profoundly expressive: like a young Liv Ullmann, she excels at channeling very subtle or conflicted emotions." – Alan Young of New York Music Daily and Lucid Culture
"... a phonetic exercise by artist Luisa Muhr showing the interconnectedness of language" – Alyssa Kayser-Hirsh of I CARE IF YOU LISTEN
Luisa Muhr is a multi-lingual, multi- and interdisciplinary performer, improvisor, director, installation artist, sound artist, and theater maker, originally from Vienna (Austria), lives and works in New York, and is at home in the experimental/avant-garde. As a performer she specializes in performance, vocal, movement, installation, sound, and theater arts. Luisa is also the creator and curator of New York's leading interdisciplinary womxn/non-binary artists series Women Between Arts at The New School (College of Performing Arts) and the co-founder/artistic director of the performing arts company FENGARI Works. Her primary focus is composing and improvising with voice, sound, and movement in space, often working with musicians in a theatrical, ritualesque setting, exploring the relationship between sonic and physical movement (what she refers to as "field work"). Luisa was an Artist in Residence at Pioneer Works (April 2019) and at the Pocantico Center of the Rockefeller Estate with Arturo O'Farrill (June 2019).
About the work, collaborations and more...
Luisa's performance background varies from experimental/avant-garde, movement-based, classical, Yiddish, puppet, devised, and music theater, to performance, vocal, sound, and installation art. She has worked with artists such as Iva Bittová, Claire Chase, Ashley Fure, Kenneth Goldsmith, Sarah Hennies, Shelley Hirsch, Frank London, Arturo O'Farrill, Jenny Romaine, Peter Schumann, Sxip Shirey, John Zorn, and many more.
Venues she performed at include: Lincoln Center, Pioneer Works, Rockefeller Center, The Kitchen, National Sawdust, Roulette Intermedium, The Jewish Museum, Queens Museum, Museum of the Moving Image, The Stone, Park Avenue Armory, Judson Memorial Church, The Austrian Cultural Forum, The New School, Queenslab, the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, and various other experimental venues in NYC and Brooklyn.
Some significant performances/installations include:
- Loup Lunaire by Marie Prescott at Roulette Intermedium
- 10 Blessings Nilusha Dassenaike with vocal ensemble at National Sawdust
- Duo Improv with Iva Bittová at The New School (Women Between Arts)
- Duo Improv Performance with Dave Sewelson and Aaron Namenwirth at Max Fish (Abasement)
- Trio Improv Performance with Daniel Carter, Dave Sewelson, Aaron Namenwirth at Pete's Free Jazz
- Duo Improv Performance based on Carl Jung's work with Wendy Eisenberg at Outpost Artists Resource
- Tableaux Vivants by Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow at Museum of the Moving Image (TDF)
- The Picnic: Harvest of the STEW by Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow at Queens Museum
- Rhythm Reclamation Exercises, Study #5 collaboration with Daniel Bear Davis at H0l0 (DanceH0l0)
- The Gauntlet by Sxip Shirey and Coco Karol at Rockefeller Center co-produced by National Sawdust
- your trash is my trash exploration installation on Governors Island as part of Banyi Huang and Lemon Guo's Inundation, Undulation, Modulation
- Fly, Fly Mom Fly by and with Shelley Hirsch at Queenslab
- Unsilencing by Sondra Sun-Odeon at Hudson Basilica (Drone Fest)
- Duo Performance with Wendy Eisenberg in Atelier Van Lieshout’s CryptoFuturism installation at the - False Harmonics series at Pioneer Works (during Luisa’s Music Residency)
- Sounds of Physical Listening installation at Pioneer Works (during Luisa’s Music Residency)
- Filament by Ashley Fure (with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center)
- Density 2036 by and with Claire Chase at The Kitchen (both as part of Marisa Michelson's Constellation Chor, performing Sarah Hennies' composition Reservoir 2: Intrusion)
- Anna (self-directed/-choreographed/-composed/performed one-woman performance collage at the Austrian Cultural Forum and The New School Glass Box Theater)
- Paris Capital of the 19th Century / New York Capital of the 20th Century Performance (The Jewish Museum, with Kenneth Goldsmith and John Zorn)
- WASSER WORKS (The Stone, solo project)
- Or Else Brecht/Eisler Opera and A Monument to Oscar Lopez Rivera (Bread & Puppet Theater/Theater for the New City)
- LES Elegy 1 (The Stone, as part of Frank London's residency)
- The Desire/Divinity Project (Judson Memorial Church, as part of Marisa Michelson's Constellation Chor)
- Between The Threads: The Jewish Women Project (HERE Arts Center)
- Albright (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo NY)
- Purim Ball (Park Avenue Armory)
- Excerpts of Three Penny Opera (in Yiddish, which she also directed, at Yiddish New York)
- COCKPIT (The Balcony Theater at West Park)
- Dolores (The Playroom Theater)
- Recapturing the Scenic Wilds Exhibition (Jessica Segall's In-progress installation, audio-collaboration with Ted Strauss at Wave Hill)
- Richard III (in Vienna, Austria)
Other noteworthy duo and trio collaborations include Daniel Carter, Dave Sewelson, Aron Namenwirth, Wendy Eisenberg, Brandon Lopez, C. Lavender, Dan Blacksberg and Adam Matlock (as Dem Leydik), Devin Gray, and Suzanne Levesque. Luisa is currently developing a new opera with six-time Grammy winner Arturo O'Farrill.
For the month of April 2019 she was a Music Resident at Pioneer Works.
In June 2019 she was an Artist in Residence at the Pocantico Center of the Rockefeller Estate with composer Arturo O'Farrill.
Luisa is a core member of Marisa Michelson's Constellation Chor vocal-movement ensemble.
In September 2018 she performed as part of Constellation Chor at Lincoln Center, David Geffen Hall, with the New York Philharmonic, premiering Ashley Fure's work Filament. Constellation Chor has ongoing residencies at Judson Memorial Church and Spectrum Brooklyn and in the past at Dragon's Egg in Upstate NY.
In June 2018 Luisa collaborated with Arturo O'Farrill on his piece Borderless where she helped him set the words to the music and created the made-up sounds that are used in the piece. The song had its premiere at the Merkin Hall Kaufman Music Center in NYC and was performed by the Young People's Chorus of New York. Another performance at Merkin Hall followed in November 2018. Luisa is also credited on O'Farrill's record Fandango at the Wall (2018).
In 2017 Luisa performed with Canadian Klezmer/Punk/Political-Satire singer-songwriter Geoff Berner their duo show Songs of People Other People Don't Like So Much which was part of the New York Klezmer Series created and curated by Aaron Alexander at Jalopy Theatre in Brooklyn, NY.
As a vocalist Luisa performs in English, Yiddish, German, made-up languages, and sounds. Instruments she has been exploring with are: harp, theremin, guitar, taishogoto, piano, drums, percussion, and objects.
In April 2018 Luisa was a guest speaker at PEN World Voices: International Play Festival at CUNY to talk about Elfriede Jelinek's work. In March 2020 Luisa will give a talk and workshop at University of Michigan, "The Arts and Alternative Healing: How Different Approaches to Field Work Can Be a Life Guide to Health (Focusing on the Performing Arts and Family & Systemic Constellations after Bert Hellinger)" in honor of her late artistic partner James Leaf.
Furthermore she is honored to have been offered by Meredith Monk to teach Monk's work in different schools and communities in NYC and abroad.
In the beginning...
Luisa is heavily influenced by visual arts and symbolism, having studied art history in parts of Europe as a teenager.
Growing up in Austria, aside from classical ballet training, Luisa first started informal music training (mostly piano and voice) and 'Ausdruckstanz' or 'expressionist dance' (an avant-garde/experimental/symbolist dance form derived from German Expressionism) all at the age of four, while also joining her parents on regular trips to museums, cabarets, dance theater shows, and other predominantly experimental shows in Vienna. This is also where she first encountered the experimental movement-theater troop Serapions Theater (Odeon) of Vienna which made a big impact on her. At nine she joined a youth musical theater troop where she was not only a performer but eventually also took on roles backstage, including directing, songwriting, composing, playwrighting, costume designing, and sewing. Training as a classical stage actor and singer followed shortly after. As a teenager she also worked at two radio stations in Vienna (Austria) and Cork (Ireland), as a host, newscaster, and also produced and recorded jingles and podcasts. All these early encounters have deeply influenced Luisa and eventually paved the way for a DYI approach in much of her work.
Luisa moved to Montreal (Canada) in 2009, and resided there until 2013, when she moved to New York City and Brooklyn, NY, her now permanent home.
Luisa received her B.F.A. in Theater Performance with Great Distinction (focus in movement-theater) from Concordia University (Montreal, Canada). In her first two years in New York Luisa was a full-time student, studying acting and theater arts intensively through Dance New Amsterdam under multiple theater artists such as Austin Pendleton, Boyd Gaines, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Andrew Wade, Daniel Davis, Chuck Cooper, and Tim Carroll. Some significant vocal/singing instructors throughout her life (classical, Yiddish traditional song, musical theater, extended technique) have been: Gordon Bovinet, Maya Hakvoort, Ethel Raim, Josh Waletzky, Sarah Gordon, Yolande Husaruk, Liam Ford, and Chuck Cooper.
Since 2013 Luisa has been excessively taking Gaga dance classes (developed by Ohad Naharin). Further advanced training includes workshops and classes with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Meredith Monk, Frantic Assembly, the Alchemical Theater Laboratory (with Carlo Altomare of The Living Theatre), Jennifer Lacey, Characters in Motion with Lanny Harrison, and Dalcroze/Eurythmics with Leslie Upchurch at Lucy Moses School of Music.
Luisa was selected to be a work-study at Mark Morris Dance Center from 2016-2017.
In early 2019 Luisa received a scholarship by Dalcroze USA to deepen her training and exploration in Dalcroze/Eurythmics work.
The birth of FENGARI Works and Women Between Arts...
In June 2015 Luisa founded the Theater and Performing Arts company FENGARI Works (formerly known as FENGARI Ensemble) together with her artistic partner James Leaf (1985-2017). Performances include: Dolores by Edward Allan Baker at the Playroom Theater, Steve Bellwood's COCKPIT (formerly known as The Specials) at the Balcony Theater, which she also co-directed together with James Leaf, and Steve Bellwood's most recent play Albright at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (produced by The Friends of the Buffalo Story) in Buffalo, NY. In 2016 Luisa and James also directed and put together the show The Wedding of the Waters in Buffalo, NY (produced by The Friends of the Buffalo Story), where Luisa was also the Musical Director, Choreographer, and Vocal Coach. James Leaf passed away in December 2017 and Luisa has been carrying on their work since. Through FENGARI Works Luisa also offers acting, vocal, and movement coaching in form of private or group sessions.
With the encouragement of John Zorn and the support of Executive Dean of The New School of Performing Arts, Richard Kessler, Luisa started curating her own series Women Between Arts at The New School, Glass Box Theatre in NYC in October 2017, to feature interdisciplinary womxn and non-binary artists and create a platform for further dialogue between different art disciplines. It has since been New York's leading interdisciplinary womxn and non-binary artists series.
Directing, Teaching, Healing...
Luisa has directed multiple plays around the world (Austria, South Africa, Canada, and the United States) and has worked as a performing arts teacher (acting, voice/singing, dancing/movement) at Bedford Stuyvesant Collegiate Charter School in Brooklyn, Stagecoach Theatre Art Schools in Montreal, the w@lz School in Vienna (Austria), and Masibambane College in Johannesburg (South Africa). She also teaches a program she created called German Through Music and Movement at United Nations International School (German School) and Pusteblume NYC, and has been a private acting, vocal, movement, and German instructor for several years.
In 2016 and 2017 Luisa was a part of the Theater Faculty at Yiddish New York, an annual culture festival to celebrate the Yiddish language and Jewish culture (music, theater, dance and visual arts) where she also directed and performed.
Luisa is a Family and Systematic Constellations facilitator and holds regular workshops in healing centers across New York (MINKA Brooklyn, OHM Center, Balance Arts Center, Maha Rose).
Last but not least...
As a lover of languages Luisa knows five: She is fluent in English and German and speaks French, Spanish, and Yiddish.
Luisa is left-handed.