When Meg Saligman and Brian Sanders speak of each other, they chat in hushed, respectful tones.
“I have been a groupie fan of Brian’s for 20 years,” says Saligman, the famed local mural artist of the dance-movement maven and his aerial troupe, JUNK. “ I love his professional work as he approaches performance like a painter.”
Of Saligman, Sanders claims “She arranges, composes shapes and figures in space and moves the eye around her venue, drawing us in. We share a lot of the same aesthetics. Bold but not smashing us over-the-head. Dynamic an intense yet savory and emotional. I feel like I am describing food.”
When the two of them get together, their collaborative work, FIGMAGO – a just-opened, interactive, live funhouse art-walk inside of Saligman’s Bainbridge Street art studio – the pair is audaciously loud and proud. The concept may have originated as a garish guided tour through the introspective mind of the creative process (theirs alone?), but, in reality, FIGMAGO Is an avant-garde carnival attraction merging the inner workings of painting, sculpture, acting, dance, and music, with stuff coming at you from every direction, and every moment you’re within its walls. As much of an art installation and it is a lively entertainment attraction, FIGAMAGO is equal parts a spinning, aerialist-heavy Pink concert, film director Orson Welles’ “The Lady from Shanghai,” a Basquiat painting, and the Universal Studio Tour in Hollywood. Added to all this is the fact that choreographer Sanders is also responsible for composing and playing the original music, and FIGMAGO is a highly personal walk of amazement from tow of Philly’s cleverest and most original artists.
“There is an element of the Universal tour to what we do, where something surprising always happens,” says Saligman. “But, we’re not going for something scary. We’re looking to delight and inspire in an unexpected way. We do enjoy lulling the audience into believing that their trek is just in a regular old studio, then, pow, there is that amusement park experience.”
That’s because when you first walk into FIGMAGO – and there are several levels of experience you can have at slightly different price points – it’s but a normal old painter’s studio (Saligman’s) with the usual stains and flotsam of the artistic experience. The audience is invited to draw their own fantasies while seated in Saligman’s studio. Then suddenly, actors and Sanders’ JUNK dancers and movement artists pounce into the scene and onto the tables. They appear to float, weave themselves into the existing hanging artworks, spin, and pop out from gauzy cocoon-like orbs, as if butterflies in space.
“The performers question you, they want to know what you’re observing as part of the interaction,” says Saligman. “They want exchange, your eye, and ultimately, your transformation.”
As for the butterfly effect, FIGMAGO is a word made up by Sanders that is meant to stand for the fully formed idea (figment) as well as the two meanings behind “imago” – one, the entomology definition of the final and fully developed adult stage of an insect, typically winged., and two, the psychoanalytical involving the unconscious. “That’s where we truly hope to go with FIGAMO…. seep inside your imagination,” says Saligman.
If you go:
Figmago Alive, Fri.-Sun., $38, and Figmago, Wed.-Sun., $24 for adults, $16 ages 12 and younger, 825 Bainbridge St., figmago.com