Mind on Heaven – Ben Williams

This performance is a conjuring of the spirit of the late Dennis Palmer – a self- taught improvisational musician, performer, and painter in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and a close friend of the artists. Filmmaker Brian Cagle and sound designer Ben Williams perform their own special ritual: creating a series of live video and live audio mixes, and performing various texts and dances to conjure their old friend’s spirit.

We feel that this piece would be a good fit for the PQ because its reach is several fold: a serious meditation on death, a humorous exploration of an artist’s identity, a nostalgic and bittersweet exploration of stereotypes and cultural tropes of the American South from 1950-1990, and an attempt to channel a very personal feeling associated with a close friend – a spirit of creation, generosity, and originality.


In 1986, Dennis and his longtime friend Bob Stagner founded the legendary duo THE SHAKING RAY LEVIS, who collaborated with artists around the world such as Derek Bailey, John Zorn, Rev. Howard Finster, Col. Bruce Hampton, Ladonna Smith, and butoh dancer Min Tanaka. They also created THE SHAKING RAY LEVI SOCIETY, a 501c3 non profit organization dedicated to the promotion of free-improvisation throughout the region. The SRL Society is a volunteer-run organization dedicated to challenging audiences with extraordinary music, film, and performance art, and is responsible for bringing hundreds of diverse and celebrated artists to Tennessee and the Southeast.


BEN WILLIAMS is an Obie Award-winning sound designer and 10 year veteran performer of the acclaimed New York experimental theater ensemble Elevator Repair Service. He has toured to dozens of venues worldwide, including The Prague Quadrennial 2011, The Sydney Opera House, the American Repertory Theater, and the Nöel Coward in London’s West End. Acting credits include playing the lead role in Gatz at the Public Theater, and William F. Buckley in No Great Society. Also with ERS: Arguendo; The Select (The Sun Also Rises); The Sound and the Fury (April 7, 1928); Shuffle. Other recent work: Grimly Handsome by Julia Jarcho (2013 Obie Award, Best New American Play); When a Priest Marries a Witch by Suzanne Bocanegra; Ich, Kürbisgeist by Sibyl Kempson. He has done voice-over work for Mikhail Baryshnikov (Walse Fantasie) and Diller Scofidio + Renfro (Chain City), featured at the Venice Biennale. Other collaborators include The Wooster Group, The New York City Players, and Big Dance Theater. Awards: 2013 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, 2012 Obie Award, and 2012 Lucille Lortel Award, all for sound design. Ben is also the Editor of Performance Texts at B O D Y, an online literary journal: www.bodyliterature.com.

BRIAN CAGLE is a filmmaker – writer, director, executive producer – currently living in Chicago but originally hailing from the hills of East Tennessee. His films have been screened at a number of museums and film festivals around the US and particularly in the Southeast, such as Downstream International Film Festival, IndieGrits, and IndieMemphis. His 2003 documentary No Incident, No Service, based on the 1960 sit-in demonstrations led by Chattanooga high school students, is now part of the permanent collection of the Chattanooga Regional History Museum. In 2006, his short film Bikes + Bridges = Chicago won the top prize in Nokia’s “My Chicago, My Neighborhood” film competition. Commercially, he has shot on various projects including performances by Snoop Dogg and Animal Collective, and in 2012 created a music video for the band Volcano! which was featured on Pitchfork and Spin.com. Currently he is finishing his first feature film, Green Corn. He served as a board member for the non-profit Shaking Ray Levis Society, and has also worked in experimental theater in Tennessee and New York, including Richard Foreman’s Hotel Fuck. Cagle received his MFA in Film from Northwestern University. He then taught there, and at Northwestern’s satellite university in Doha, Qatar, for several years, and now works as part of the Film+Broadcast faculty at Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy in Chicago, Illinois.

DAVID NEUMANN has been a featured dancer in the works of Susan Marshall, Jane Comfort, Sally Silvers, Irene Hultman, Cathy Weiss, Big Dance Theater, and the late club legend Willi Ninja. He was a member of Doug Varone and Dancers, and an eight-year original member and collaborator with the Doug Elkins Dance Company, with whom he toured nationally and internationally. He continues to perform and choreograph for theater, opera and film working with such directors as: Hal Hartley, Laurie Anderson, Robert Woodruff, Lee Breuer, Peter Sellars, JoAnn Akalaitis, Chris Bayes, Mark Wing-Davey, Daniel Sullivan, Les Waters and Molly Smith. Recent and upcoming projects include: creature movement on I Am Legend with Will Smith, performing in Beckett Shorts with Mikhail Baryshnikov at New York Theater Workshop and choreographing The Bacchae at the Public Theater. As Artistic Director of advanced beginner group, Neumann’s work has been presented in New York at PS 122, Dance Theater Workshop, Central Park SummerStage (where he collaborated with John Giorno), Celebrate Brooklyn and Symphony Space (where he collaborated with Laurie Anderson) and The Whitney. His work has also been presented at the Walker Art Center and MASS MoCA.He’s currently a professor of Theater at Sarah Lawrence College and a guest lecturer at both Barnard College and The Graduate Acting Program at Yale University.

TEI BLOW was born in Japan and raised in the United States. His work incorporates photography, video and sound design via contemporary and antiquated processes. He has recently made designs for Big Dance Theater, The Laboratory of Dmitry Krymov, David Neumann and Advanced Beginner Group, and Mikhail Baryshnikov. He plays in the bands Frustrator and Perfect Shapes (enemieslist.net) and performs regularly as Dav_Lov in the Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble (royalosiris.com). Currently he is re- performing a series of psychedelic-induced interviews with NYC artists and intellectuals. sciencecompany.org.