In engineering parlance, going "off grid" means not requiring power or water. It means taking yourself out of the system of transmission lines and power stations.
Artistically, going off the grid is a metaphor for unconventionality, self-sufficiency and freedom. It's about the public sphere, and making better use of what's available for free.
So it was with a bit of inspired symbolism that dancers and choreographers Tanya Blood Hinkel and Liliana Cattaneo formed the arts collective Off the Grid. The group will present its premiere performance, "The Transmission Project," next weekend at the Transmission Garage downtown.
Even the venue -- an industrial East Village property slated for redevelopment -- is literally off the grid. For this event, the artists are bringing in their own lights and generators.
The Transmission Project features choreography by Cattaneo, Hinkel, Elizabeth Buffy Swallow and Los Angeles-based Winifred R. Harris. Also performing will be the Nigerian Talking Drum Ensemble, which uses music, song and dance to educate audiences about Nigerian traditions and culture; Mexicali-based dance company Luna Luna; and The Rag Dolls, a local neo-burlesque troupe. San Diego painter Charlie Miller and Mario Peralta from Tijuana will present visual art. Friday night's dance performance will be preceded at 6 p.m. by a reception for Miller.
The collective has no permanent space; the point is to create art in unexpected places, to push off the edge and into the community. The group is interested in promoting a dialogue between creative artists of different backgrounds and artistic disciplines.
"Every show will be completely unique, in a different space, a different setting, with a different program," said Cattaneo, who is also founder and artistic director of Xdrop dance troupe. "It's off the grid, off the map. It's not where you would typically find dance. None of this is the normal, conventional way that dance or art is produced."
Site-specific work involves the locale and the community in a way that a theater doesn't. Location inherently informs a performance and adds another layer of meaning, said Off the Grid co-founder Hinkel. It exposes the process of art making to the general public and makes the work more accessible.
"Theaters can be isolating if you don't imagine yourself as a person who goes to see dance," Hinkel said. "The architecture and the existing settings themselves can be beautiful scenery. As you adapt work to a location, it teaches the artist things because you're making adjustments, and the work becomes something new."
Hinkel has been choreographing site-specific and multidisciplinary events since 1990 with her company, Project 423. Her work experiments in new forms of non-narrative, visual theater that blur the lines between theater, film and dance.
Hinkel brings this cross-genre approach to Off the Grid, offering artists a way to pool their resources, collaborate and learn from each other, she said.
"I've always found that as a choreographer, the most important feedback came from actors, directors, painters, musicians, filmmakers," said Hinkel. "I'd like to see (artists) open up to other disciplines. I think everybody learns from it, and my experience has been that everybody starts to work together -- light bulbs go off, and you end up with new genres and new innovations."
That is, you end up off the grid.
PROGRAM: "The Transmission Project"
Organization: Off the Grid
Dates: Nov. 4-5
Show times: Friday at 8 p.m., with artist's reception 6-8 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.
Location: Transmission Garage, 1460 Island Ave., downtown
More information: www.xdrop.org/offthegrid