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HEEL blends solo performance with multimedia elements to probe emotional, political wounds of 9-11

March 25, 2002

TEMPE, Ariz.--In August 2001, performance artist Jeff McMahon left New York City tobecome a resident artist at the Institute for Studies in the Arts in ASU’s Herberger College of Fine Arts. Just weeks later, on Sept. 11, the city he had called home for 22 years was struck by a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. To cope with his own feelings of loss, disbelief and estrangement about the attacks on the World Trade Center, as well as the attack on the Pentagon and the ensuing war in Afghanistan, McMahon turned to his art.

The result is HEEL, a solo, multimedia performance piece, which he will perform at the ISA’s Intelligent Stage on the ASU Tempe campus from April 11-14 at 7:30 p.m. The stage is located on the second floor of Matthews Center. The performance is free. Reservations are suggested and may be made by calling 480-965-9438.

With unmistakable New York style and a fast-paced shifting of emotions, characters and images, McMahon probes the emotional and political wounds left by the attacks with a mix of wry humor, skepticism and painful honesty.

“Using text, movement and imagery, HEEL marches through the collateral damage, letting out the leash on powerful emotions through metaphor,” he explains. “It’s a counterattack on the culture of closure and forgetting.”

As in much of McMahon’s work, HEEL focuses on the nature of experimental narrative in a multimedia theatrical environment. The uniqueness of the Intelligent Stage deepens the experience, with digital audio and video tracks bringing multiple references to the artist’s solo performance. Excerpts from newspaper reports of the attacks, films, and novels, including George Orwell’s 1984, are incorporated in the piece.

“This environment allows me to reveal and expose contradictory thoughts and impulses in a way that one cannot in a solo performance on a traditional stage,” notes McMahon.

McMahon previewed HEEL in December at Reflect, React Remember: Artists Respond to 9-11, a free performance event for the community sponsored by the Herberger College of Fine Arts. The upcoming performance of HEEL is the most current in a series of arts events, 911: Calling the Creative Community coordinated by McMahon and sponsored by the ISA. The events deal with the attacks and the continuing worldwide repercussions. (For an overview of those events, visit

The Institute for Studies in the Arts (ISA) is an interdisciplinary research center in The Katherine K. Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University. The ISA provides an environment that supports research and collaboration among artists, scholars, and technologists. The goal is to invent and share new forms of art experience and processes for creating and teaching the arts. For more information on the ISA, visit

Media Contact:
Tracey Benson