Elise Cowin

Up To Their Elbows

Elise Cowin, 2013

Up to the Elbows


Two sources spur Elise Cowin’s performance Up to the Elbows: historical patents for inventions that attempted to bestow the body with extraordinary capabilities like flight, and Cervantes’ Don Quixote, which muses on how the fictional and the fantastic collide with and shape everyday reality.

How might we look back at eccentric, failed inventions or attempts without irony? If an idea fails in a utilitarian sense, how might it be redeemed or succeed aesthetically? The choreography of Up to the Elbows springs from patent-inspired sculptures, Cervantes’ writing, and past dramatizations of Don Quixote; diverse performers sally forth, striving for synchronized gesticulations; and a patchwork of intertextual writing trots alongside the action as fast as its donkey can carry it.

The first iteration of Up to the Elbows premiered as part of the IN>TIME16 Performance Art Festival. Sponsorship by High Concept Labs allows Cowin to develop and prepare for a Works-In-Progress showing of the piece, further solidify her choreography, and host gatherings for local dance and performance makers to provide a dialogue and critique her work.

Artist Bio

Elise Cowin by Kerry Cardoza, 2014Elise Cowin is a movement artist with a history in dancing and directing ensembles of movers. She holds her BA in Dance and English from Goucher College and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her approach to performance explores choreography as a visualization of tacit directives and the ways that personal history, site, socioeconomic pressures, and tradition might inscribe bodies to perform.

Most recently, Cowin has shown work at Mana Contemporary, Defibrillator Gallery, Sullivan Galleries, and The Bridge in Chicago; Load of Fun Gallery in Baltimore; Teatro dell’Accademia di Belle Arti in Naples; and Palazzo Albrizzi in Venice. She currently teaches for the Early College Program at SAIC and is Adjunct Faculty of Dance at College of Dupage in Glen Ellyn.



Elise Cowin’s website