Caden Manson is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Big Art Group, an experimental performance ensemble. Big Art Group uses language and media to create culturally transgressive and challenging new works that blend various modes of performance.
Manson has co-created, directed, and designed video for the Big Art Group productions CLEARCUT, catastrophe (1999), The Balladeer (2000), and Shelf Life (2001). Manson's 2001 Grants to Artists award supported the production of Flicker (2002), House of No More (2004), and Empty Island (2004). These pieces are a combination of film and theater that Manson developed and refers to as “Real-Time Film." His Big Art Group projects subjequent to his FCPA grant include Dead Set (2006 – Serial Project), The People (2007 – Serial Project), The Sleep (2007), The Imitation (2008), Cityrama (2010), and Broke House (2012).
Manson's works have been presented at Performance Space 122, New York International Fringe Festival, Soho Rep., Festival d'Automne in Paris, The Kraine Theatre, Walker Art Center, Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, and University of Texas at Austin, among others.
After receiving his 2001 Grants to Artists award, Manson was named a Pew Fellow (2002) and a MacDowell Fellow (2011). He has also been awarded two Rockefeller MAP Fund Grants (2003, 2009), an Etant donnés: The French-American Fund for Contemporary Art grant (2004), and New York State Council on the Arts Grants (2009, 2010, 2011), and a Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellowship (2009). Manson has participated in the National Performance Network Residency Program (2004) and the Headlands Center for the Arts Artist in Residence program (2011).
In 1994, Manson received a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He has lectured and taught at Bern University of the Arts, L'École des beaux-arts de Toulouse, California Institute of the Arts, Brooklyn College, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art and University of California, Berkeley. Manson is currently the graduate directing option coordinator of The John Wells Directing Program at Carnegie Mellon University. Manson's writing has been published in PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, Theater Magazine, and Theater der Zeit. He is the editor-in-chief and curates the online global performance network www.contemporaryperformance.com.
Over the last two years I have been developing a performance technique called “Real Time Film." It is a conceptual model conflating performance, television, and movies. Using live performance and video, it plays cinematic composition and controlled perspective against the “authenticity" of TV broadcast and the immediacy of live performance. It's a live movie that examines the use of the image in entertainment, how we experience the image versus its manufacture, the split between surface and interior, and the different layers of truth.
In “Real Time Film" the actors work in front of three stationary cameras, and what those cameras see is projected on a three-segment, shoulder-high screen running the length of the stage between the audience and the actors; the performers' heads, shoulders, feet and the projections of their actions are all that's visible. Watching the screen, the audience sees a movie.
Watching the performers, the audience sees the making of the movie. Bodies morph into one another and limbs attach and reattach to different characters. The form short-circuits the audience's ability to discern gender, race, and sexuality; dissecting the semantics of everyday visual communication; and becoming a new way of relating the fluidity and manufacture of identity.