Gifts of the Spirit is an “opera ritual” based on artist Ron Athey’s automatic writing autobiography project. It was presented by the Broad Museum with support from the Mike Kelley Foundation.
“Like Maenads lost in festival revelry, these performers extended beyond themselves—earnestly transmitting the spiritualism at the heart of Athey and Griffin’s operatic spectacle. At its greatest pitch, this multitonal sound took over the bodies, minds, and emotions of performers and viewers alike. There was no room left to think about anything else, as these artists brought an audience into presence. A woman in front of me began to weep, and it took a full minute for her companion to put a gentle, comforting hand on her back. This was a tempest, whipping healing torrents of sound around the interior of a former house of God.
And then, like a Southern summer storm, it was over.”
"Sean Griffin is a visionary yet flexible director who understands music at the deepest technical and emotional levels conducting, reading scores and earning the trust of singers and ensembles but who can also zoom out to put together the larger picture of staging, movement, lighting, sound, and moving and still image from which great opera emerges. Simply put, my opera Afterword would not exist without Sean Griffin; as a line from the opera’s libretto puts it, he can take anything and make anything out of it.”
"The opera eschews a conception in which fixed, authorial characters pose as what Michel Foucault calls historical figure[s] at the crossroads of a certain number of events in favor of having music, text, and movement deploy a tricksterish displacement of character onto metaphysical collectivities. Sung and spoken voices, instrumental music, and movement become heteroglossic avatars, in a process described by Toni Morrison and others as the expression of a community voice."
- George Lewis, composer
With Pauline Oliveros:
An early supporter of Opera Povera, Pauline Oliveros was also our first donor. About our production, she wrote, "Such a gift to receive! 1970 was an awakening that shifted my consciousness as a composer. Valerie Solanas' Scum Manifesto contained the structure for To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation. All the players had equal parts with an algorithm that offered individuation yet cohesive musical expression.
Sean Griffin picked up on the deep structure and political meaning of the piece in his collaborative integration of operatic elements. It was thrilling to have this expressive understanding in conjunction with the music so that an opera emerged."
- Pauline Oliveros, 2012
With Charles Gaines
The Manifestos Series
Often involving intricate choreographies mixed with improvisation, dense text collages and stagecraft, Griffin created an internationally celebrated body of small-scale devised percussion theater works with the Taiwanese-Canadian percussionist, Aiyun Huang. Their collaboration has resulted in a series of percussion and technology experiments including early use of video scores employing international media and pop culture sources. Huang and Mexican percussionist Ivan Manzanilla premiered Griffin’s well-know composition, Pattycake in 2001.
Tacoma Narrows Monochord
Intermedia Opera at EMPAC
"Cold Spring was a mind-bending, jaw-dropping show. It was conceptualized by Sean Griffin who is not just a dramatist,composer or director. He is a multi-disciplianry artist – and technician – whose universe goes far beyond the traditional, and so what he puts on stage is only part of the picture. His works are far more than theatre, embracing choreography,music and projections into more of an experience...One could not help but hark back to other groundbreaking works such as Tony Kushner's Angels in America. In Cold Spring as in Angels, we see unlikely juxtapositions. For Griffin it is Carl Sagan and the Tribes of Ishmael; for Kushner it is Roy Cohen and Ethel Rosenberg. Both have flying actors who descend into the action on stage: for Kushner it is the Angel who announces the Millennium, for Griffin, an actor with horns who could well be the stand in for the Devil."
Berkshire on Stage
Cold Spring 3
Triangle of Need with Catherine Sullivan
"Simple and direct ideas are spun into a byzantine structure, evoking the labyrinthine path trod by our crudest urges on their way to sublimation in civilization's alienating systems of social control. The chirps, whoops, grunts, gutturals and high-pitched squeals emanating from the characters' mouths over Griffin's unforgettably beautiful score, coupled with their spastic jerks and tremors under the starched linens of the working class and the silken finery of the overlords (think of Lars von Trier's The Idiots in period dress), are reminders that the line between brutishness and enlightenment is extraordinarily thin." - Brooklyn Rail
Snake River with Charles Gaines and Edgar Arceneaux
"Musically, we're in radically different territory too, with Sean Griffin's "Snake River Suite," a vibrant and jarring contemporary composition incorporating traditional orchestral instruments as well as synthesizer and a diverse percussion section. The rehearsal was filmed locally in the dark, moody Orpheum Theater.
During the two-hour span of the video, a nonverbal narrative unfurls, a loose progression from the intimate to the more detached, from sensual toward mechanical, organic to constructed, and in terms of aesthetic sensibility, from romantic to modern. Those contrasts suggest themselves through what Gaines and Arceneaux show us, not through anything they tell us." - The Los Angeles Times
The Chittendens with Catherine Sullivan
"…a mesmerizing, comical, and thrillingly bizarre meditation on the tics and tropes that make up what we call "character" and "relationship." - The New Yorker
"…a strong but completely abstract psychological drama, The Chittendens swivels through film noir, sea-faring adventures, and other genres, all while alternating themes of internal and external discovery." - ArtForum
Griffin is an award-winning and prolific visual artists creating among other things 4 complete remakes of Goya’s 80 Los Caprichos and a collection of experimental notation designs that were recently exhibited at FOCA in Los Angeles and the Beall Center in Irvine. Griffin frequently activates photography archives and historic collections of objects in his assemblage-based set designs and installations.