David Louis Zuckerman

Return to Artist List




Artist Statement

Integral to my work is my training as a composer and film/video artist, which has forged the foundation for my recent projects in the field of experimental opera and theater installation. By definition this field is collaborative, and the working relationships I have nurtured within my community of colleagues across the performing and visual arts are essential to my philosophy and practice. My operas strive to weave universal and historical questions (The anthropocene in The Augur ‘13, feminism and freedom of speech in The Harmers ‘14/15, morality and redemption in Milarepa ‘14/15) through the voices of a few complicated and courageous protagonists. The Augur, a parable about fate in the age of the anthropocene, originated with the true story of an ice fisherman who drowned in the freezing waters of Lake Michigan. The Harmers, a project developed in collaboration with filmmaker Marianna Ellenberg, juxtaposes a triangle of conflicting contemporary gender positions appropriated from such figures as Andrea Dworkin and Howard Stern. My opera-in-development, Milarepa, re-imagines the Buddhist monk within a contemporary backdrop of global terrorism.

What connects these disparate subjects is my belief that truth is not an abstract or impossible idea, but rather a matter of context and socio-historical event. As a theater maker, I strive to stage contexts and situations in which truth can emerge. One of opera’s formal traits is the oscillation between the solo voice and the choral voice, which establishes an ideal space for presenting the rite of passage of an individual within a community or power structure. Justice, belonging, agency and autonomy are some of the motifs I am constantly returning to. What attract me are events that present a rupture within a set of pre-existing objective condition and the way an individual has the power to disrupt the state of a situation, highlighting the limits of a language, law or social contract.

It is impossible for me to imagine my artistic identity without this thematic and philosophical compass and yet I acknowledge the fact that I am primarily a composer and musician. Much like an abstract painter, there is a lyrical and intuitive plane on which I dwell. What makes music infinitely interesting to me is its ability to be both metaphor and non-metaphor simultaneously. Music has the rare power to be about everything we hope for and desire and share and think about, while retaining its inner integrity as nothing other than itself. Take a microscope to my scores and there unfolds an inner world built on symmetry, counterpoint, polyphony, color and the power of the voice to resonate presence. There is a biographical element as well, which relates to being the son of a mathematician and having my childhood infused with a certain Platonism and reverence for geometrical space and interconnected form.

The collaborative process is an essential component to my work both artistically and politically. I identify with the histories of New York avant-garde performance (Cage/Cunningham, Glass/Wilson), implying strong alliances across mediums. When composing Jiro, Digital Painting, an hour long musical written in collaboration with Ei Arakawa and Dan Poston, I realized that as new formations of difference are assembled between three disparate and distinct voices, a fourth topography is created, charged by friction and respect and capable of re-orienting an audience’s equilibrium. This can only happen if such a process has occurred (a priori) between the artists through constant thought, rehearsal and improvisation. I have experienced this in my longest collaborations with Charles Mayton, Marianna Ellenberg, and Richard Maxwell. Pitched between a multiplicity of languages and forms and electrified communally, a synthesis occurs that is both borderless and radical.




MFA in Film/Video, Milton Avery School of the Arts, Bard College, 2008

Skowhegan School of Painting and Drawing 2004

BFA in Film, School of the Visual Arts, New York, NY 2003



Composition and Music Direction with Ei Arakawa and Dan Poston Dallas Museum of Art, May 2015

Theatrical Performance/Project in collaboration with Marianna Ellenberg Cast: India Menuez, Katiana Rangel. Tavish Miller and Raul De Nieves Musical Ensemble: James Moore, Amanda Lo, Jeffrey Reinhardt, Nanci Belmont, Premiere, David Lewis, NYC

MILAREPA Benefit performance
Composition/Opera in collaboration with Marielle Segal, Curated by Bruce Sherman and Rob Teeters, Front Desk Apparatus, NYC

THE AND GROUP (with Howard Huang), Rumori III (Luncheonette Space), Greenpoint Brooklyn

THE EVENING, directed by Richard Maxwell, Orchestration and Percussion, The Kitchen, NYC, Walker Art Center, Minnesota, On the Boards, Portland 2014, NYCP BENEFIT PERFORMANCE, Reena Spaulings Fine Art, Pianist and Music Orchestration


THE AUGER (opera and libretto), With baritone Christophé Abiel and soprano Jessica Ferri, Performance and Installation at David Lewis Gallery, As part of O’tapsé by Charles Mayton

END OF THE NIGHT CAFÉ, Group Show Curated by Charles Mayton and Lucas Knipscher, Thomas Duncan Gallery, Los Angeles, CA


WOLFE WITH AN E, Starring Gaby Hoffman and Henry Gummer, Greenpoint Film Festival, Spectacle Theatre


PHOEBE ZEITGEIST (2008) 50min 16mm, Starring K8 Hardy and Liz Wendelbo, Union Docs, Brooklyn, NY, d.u.m.b.o. Film/Video Festival

A COOL BREEZE ON THE BACK OF THE NECK (2005) 86min HDV, Starring Emile Abossolo M’bo, Eric Da Costa, Julie Jeune, Kunstverein, Cologne, Germany, Miguel Abreu Gallery, NYC, Les Aubervilliers, Paris, FR.



“The Harmers” Theatrical Performance, David Lewis Gallery, NYC with India Menuez, Katiana Rangel. Tavish Miller and Raul De Nieves, Musical Ensemble: James Moore, Amanda Lo, Jeffrey Reinhardt, Nanci Belmont


The Deflowering of Ariella Von, Directed by Ellenberg/Zuckerman, With Ariel Kavoussi, Nicholas Elliott, Tavish Miller and Linda Mancini, Script by Marianna Ellenberg, Music/Direction by David Zuckerman, Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, Portland Oregon, Anthology Film Archives, New York NY


Dirt Tastes Good, La Di Da Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, NYC


The Pinch and the Ouch, Screening at Louis B James Gallery, NYC


The Augur, Opera Performance, David Lewis Gallery, NYC



Labyrinth Intensive Ensemble 2013, Labyrinth Theater Company, NYC w/ Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Stephan Adly Guirgis


Residency with Director Peter Sellars, Art and Politics Seminar UCLA, World Arts and Cultures Dept. 2010


Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Video Alumni 2004


LMCC, Finalist, Artist Residency


National Talent Award, Composition, Berklee College Music



The Harmers reviewed in Purple Magazine, ed. Elise Gallant

Jiro Digital Painting, reviewed in Purple Magazine, ed. Paige Silveria


Ariella Von Preview and Review, No Budge Film Magazine, Nobudge.com, Craig Keller reviews The Deflowering of Ariella Von

Ariella Von review in “New York Girls” ed. Valentine Carrette, Cahiers Du Cinema, September 2014 issue


ICARUS (starring Jim Fletcher, Greg Zucolo, Rosie Goldensohn), directed by Nicholas Elliott

LEAR (starring Alice Weiner, Michele Auder and Douglas Gordon) directed by Veronica Gonzalez

ON BECOMING (Starring Penelope Pardo and Chris Kraus) Directed by Veronica Gonzalez

NON-SOLO, NON-GROUP directed by Nikolas Gambaroff & Kerstin Bratsch, Kunsthalle, Zurich

CONTRE-HISTOIRE DE LA SEPARATION directed by Etienne Chambaud Pompidou Arts Center, 2011