CRE­ATIVE FORCE

Jorn Weis­brodt on why this year’s fes­ti­val might be the best (and sex­i­est) yet — and how hus­band Ru­fus Wain­wright has helped out

Midtown Post - - Contents - by David Pater­son Lu­mi­nato runs June 6-15. Visit lu­mi­natofes­ti­val.com for list­ings.

Jorn Weis­brodt, the artis­tic di­rec­tor of Lu­mi­nato, on why this year’s fes­ti­val

could be the best ever

On June 6, the cur­tain will go up on the eighth Lu­mi­nato Fes­ti­val, un­leash­ing a 10-day frenzy of artis­tic en­deav­our. Each day, dozens of events will hap­pen at venues and pub­lic spa­ces across the city, with film screen­ings, dance and theatre per­for­mances, vis­ual art shows and talks capped off with bands like Hid­den Cam­eras and TV On The Ra­dio play­ing at the fes­ti­val’s main stage in David Pe­caut Square. It’s an ex­trav­a­gant fes­ti­val that is now one of North Amer­ica’s big­gest art events.

So you might imag­ine that the man who is one of the fes­ti­val’s pub­lic faces and a key fig­ure in or­ga­niz­ing the en­tire bash would have by now stocked up on the mid­night oil and be hun­ker­ing down for some sleep­less nights of fret­ting over the thou­sands of things that could con­ceiv­ably go wrong.

In­stead, Jorn Weis­brodt, the fes­ti­val’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, seems de­cid­edly re­laxed about the whole busi­ness.

“People al­ways think that four weeks be­fore the fes­ti­val you’re su­per, su­per busy, but if I was com­pletely around the clock 24 hours a day, I would have done some­thing wrong. If I still have to work now, it means some­thing is wrong with the pro­gram, some­thing isn’t done yet,” he says, speak­ing in mid-May.

At the of­fi­cial un­veil­ing of the fes­ti­val lineup, Weis­brodt said his idea was to “be a lit­tle naughty.” The theme of this year’s Lu­mi­nato, sex

and all re­lated topics, wasn’t set from the start, but rather de­vel­oped as the fes­ti­val came to­gether. The of­fer­ings in­clude All the Sex I’ve Ever Had:

The In­ter­na­tional Edi­tion, in which seven se­niors dis­cuss their love lives at Is­abel Bader Theatre, and Green

Porno: Live on Stage, an en­light­en­ing look at the many and var­ied ways an­i­mals have de­vised to get it on.

How­ever, Weis­brodt is not typ­i­cally a fan of pro­gram­ming around a par­tic­u­lar idea, which he be­lieves has a ten­dency to feel a bit forced any­way, and says that no­body in Lu­mi­nato HQ set out to bring in a bunch of shows about sex. It just sort of emerged or­gan­i­cally as they went along.

This is the sec­ond year that Ger­man-born Weis­brodt has been call­ing the artis­tic shots at Lu­mi­nato. The fes­ti­val lured him here in 2012, from his pre­vi­ous roles as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of R W Work Ltd. and di­rec­tor of the Wa­ter­mill Cen­ter in New York, and he and hus­band Ru­fus Wain­wright set up home in the An­nex.

Weis­brodt likens putting the fes­ti­val to­gether to gath­er­ing guests for a din­ner party — it’s all about get­ting the mix right. In that re­gard, his best friend is his phone’s ad­dress book. He is a self-con­fessed ob­ses­sive for col­lect­ing people’s con­tact info and has some 8,000 names tucked away in his smart­phone.

One of the artists he is most proud of bring­ing to this year’s fes­ti­val is Matthew Barney, known for a se­ries of avant-garde films called The Cre­mas­ter Cy­cle, named af­ter the mus­cle in the male body that con­tracts the tes­ti­cles (there’s that sex theme again). Barney, who in the late 1990s was dubbed “the most im­por­tant Amer­i­can artist of his gen­er­a­tion” by the New York Times, will be the sub­ject of a host of pro­gram­ming, in­clud­ing of all five fea­ture-length works in The Cre­mas­ter Cy­cle and his new film,

River of Fun­da­ment. In ad­di­tion, an ex­hi­bi­tion of Barney’s works will be at the AGO, where he will also be speak­ing.

“That’s how I like to pro­gram, so you can re­ally un­ravel the cre­ativ­ity of an artist in many dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions and give the au­di­ence many dif­fer­ent en­trance points into the artist’s world,” says Weis­brodt.

Last year, one of the most talked about mo­ments of his de­but fes­ti­val was an ap­pear­ance by leg­endary Cana­dian folksinger Joni Mitchell at Massey Hall, who sang four songs dur­ing a trib­ute con­cert to her im­pres­sive ca­reer. Mitchell last toured in 2000 and has rarely per­formed in pub­lic since, and it was far from cer­tain that she would do so at Lu­mi­nato. Weis­brodt be­lieves she got on­stage largely be­cause she wasn’t pres­sured to do so.

“I never, ever asked her to do any­thing,” says Weis­brodt. “It was just she felt more and more ex­cited by this, that she wanted to do it, and I be­lieve that’s re­ally the key with artists. It’s not about you try­ing to force them to do some­thing. You have to find the right tool and you have to cre­ate the en­vi­ron­ment where they want to do this.”

Hav­ing a well-con­nected hus­band like Wain­wright is a big help when it comes to woo­ing guests in the mu­sic in­dus­try, but it does cre­ate its own set of dif­fi­cul­ties. Wain­wright has been a reg­u­lar per­former at Lu­mi­nato in re­cent years, and this one is no ex­cep­tion. He’s the driv­ing force be­hind If I Loved You: Gen­tle­men Pre­fer Broad­way, a con­cert of love duets that will be sung only by men. It was one of the fastest sell­ing tick­ets in the fes­ti­val lineup.

“With Ru­fus there is al­ways the ques­tion of it be­ing too much in­sider trad­ing to have the spouse or sig­nif­i­cant other or fam­ily of the fes­ti­val di­rec­tor in the fes­ti­val, and I

“David Byrne, Boy Ge­orge — these would not be artists I could con­vince with­out Ru­fus.”

am to­tally aware of that,” says Weis­brodt, who takes an arm’slength ap­proach to de­ci­sions about his hus­band’s in­volve­ment, leav­ing them to the board.

“Of course very of­ten an artis­tic di­rec­tor makes their sec­ond-rate singer wife or con­duc­tor wife or ac­tor hus­band or what­ever part of a fes­ti­val, but I think he’s much more tal­ented than I am, so if any­one shouldn’t be in this fes­ti­val they should rather fire me than him in a way.”

“We are pay­ing him the low­est fees of any­one in this busi­ness, so we are ba­si­cally com­pletely un­der­pay­ing him and also get­ting all his con­tacts. You know, David Byrne, Josh Groban, Boy Ge­orge — these would not be artists I could con­vince to do a show like this with­out Ru­fus,” he adds, ref­er­enc­ing some of the big-name singers who will be part of If I Loved You.

Though Weis­brodt is not one to stress out, he says he’ll likely al­low him­self one in­dul­gence dur­ing the fes­ti­val: a few cig­a­rettes here and there. He has been cut­ting out smok­ing re­cently, partly for its health im­pli­ca­tions but also be­cause he says he gets ter­ri­ble smok­ing hang­overs. The adren­a­line rush of the fes­ti­val is one of the few times he seems to be able to avoid the morn­ing-af­ter grog­gi­ness, so he plans to in­dulge.

Though Weis­brodt could be for­given for col­laps­ing asleep af­ter the lights go out on Lu­mi­nato, he has to post­pone the va­ca­tion un­til Au­gust. June and July are high sea­son for fes­ti­vals in other cities, so he has to go check out the com­pe­ti­tion. He will, how­ever, take three weeks off dur­ing Au­gust and plans to en­joy some time in the Mon­tauk beach home he shares with Wain­wright.

Just don’t ex­pect to see the pair out around town tak­ing in a show af­ter Lu­mi­nato. For Weis­brodt, who spends his ca­reer check­ing out artists, that’s dan­ger­ously close to work. In­stead, he has a more homey plan for his post-Lu­mi­nato down­time. “I’ll prob­a­bly just stay in and read a book.”

Jorn Weis­brodt will have a busy 10 days when Lu­mi­nato be­gins on June 6

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