The Sorrows of Werther by Goethe inspired the opera Werther by Massenet. A scrim embedded onto the stage intensifies the grief felt during the overture. The scale of the Metropolitan Opera House stage was resolved with the desire for intimacy under production designer Wendall Harrington. The opera was directed by Richard Eyre and the tenor Jonas Kaufman with the mezzo-soprano Sophie Koch made the event spectacular. The sets were by Rob Howell.

Werther: directed by Richard Eyre

Production Design: Wendall Harrington

Tenor: Jonas Kaufman

Mezzo-soprano: Sophie Koch

Post-production: Manuel Barenboim

29 Cross Examinations

Joan of Arc’s decision to dress like a man violated a law against cross-dressing so infuriating her judges that they formulated 70 charges of heresy against her. Their interrogation included bizarre reasons to explain why she assumed male authority and took on manly traits. When she was taken by the French court to be blessed by God her voices were considered to be authentic and with that she came to lead the French army to reclaim the throne for France. When she was betrayed the voices were amended to be those of a witch and heretic.


The play takes place in the present where Michael represents the jury of orthodox theologians and powerful judges. His interrogation of Joan during the trial was recorded exactly. He speaks for the English and the Burgundians and finally the clergy who are determined to accuse her of heresy. Two performers, representing Joan, address her accuser. Using time-based digital projections, live performance, 2D animation and physical movement the play looks into the past to show the meaning and relevance of the trial today.

Writing and Direction: Maureen Selwood

Performance: K. Bradford, Nathan Nonhof and Sarah McCarron
Monologue: K. Bradford
Digital Projects and Documentation: Jeremy Glaholt
Assistant Director: Tempe Hale
Movement Director: Sarah McCarron
Lighting Design: R.S. Buck
Animations: Maureen Selwood and Sunny Liang
Sculptures courtesy of Megan Cotts

29 Cross Examinations was performed at Automata Nov. 20-22, 2015

Rules of the Universe

An animation loop for installation inspired by third century drawings of Roman marionettes. Play turns into violence, magic is performed and layers of graphics inspired by Max Ernst along with an image borrowed from Ernst Haeckel emerge with a piece that gives historical significance to what we laugh at, what we enjoy and how repetition becomes hypnotic. The ritual of violence is embedded in a universal sphere where collateral damage becomes normal.

As You Desire Me

As You Desire Me was designed as an installation where the viewer could move and contemplate the screens separately. Three locations in the city of Rome were filmed as backgrounds for drawn animation. The animation is a kind of graffiti over the city, a form of social protest. The piece becomes an elegy mimicking the feeling when one is part of a religious procession or protest march. Empire Of Dreams by the poet Charles Simic underscores the feeling of alienation and loss.

This film was inspired by the emotional qualities of the city of Rome when the Iraq War was declared. The city responded to this in powerful ways. Surrealistic characters in real settings navigate the city where trains and cars bound but it is on foot where travel is realiable. One of the components is based on a poem  “Empire of Dreams” Charles Simic which inspires the lost person becoming a mask of the self . The three screen structure  demonstrates the complexity of the city as a web of passing through and those living there.

View video piece

A text about the piece by Steve Anker:

Maureen Selwood weaves three internal images to portray historic streets and the countryside outside of Rome as locations visited by spectral figures that move with trance-like repetition and reappear unpredictably between the different frames. The artist’s responses to her environment while living in this ancient city were influenced by tragic events, most immediately the Iraq war, and landscapes echo with the presence of refugees and a fear of disaster and sense of lamentation. A ragged dog wanders through desolate streets, a stream of black-cloaked women stream through the hillside, faces cluster together and are superimposed over the different settings.  There is a dream-like quality to these moving figures that is inevitable and filled with mortality and loss. Yet, as with all of the films on this program, it is also a world in which the ominous merges unexpectedly with that of fragile beauty and wonder. 

Direction: Maureen Selwood
Animation: Maureen Selwood and Maria Vasilkovsky
Composer: Anna Oxygen

Ombre Dal Lupercale

Ombre dal Lupercale (Shadows from the Realm of Wolves) was a nightlong series of site-specific works lasting from dusk until dawn. On June 21, 2006, Midsummer’s Eve, a fusion of river, sound, and light drew the public to the Tiber River. A frieze of 12 majestic She-Wolves etched from the patina of time stood guard on the high embankment walls, marking the site. Seven artist-composer collaborations transformed the space with ambient sound-image installations.

The summer solstice of 2006 was celebrated by a number of artists and composers for this site specific installation that ran from dusk til dawn between the Ponte and Ponte Mazzini. Each artist took turns at interpreting the myth of Romulous and Remus.

Design and Direction: Maureen Selwood

Animation: Maria Vasilkovsky

Music: Alvin Curran


Project Director: Kirstin Jones

Artists: Kiki Smith, Kristin Jones, Francesca Fini, Roberto Catani, Maureen Selwood, Andrea Biagioni and Gabriele Manecchi, Daniel K. Brown and Erika Kruger

Composers: Walter Branchi, Alvin Curran, David Monacchi, Nico Muhly, Roberto Laneri, and Eugenio Giordani


“Stone is employed worldwide to keep memory captive.”
– Joseph Brodsky

Resistance is a performance with film scenes from Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria. The movement of the live performance contrasts with the slowness of the gestures of Giulietta Masini being in thrall to the spectacle of religious procession.


Video Projection with Performance

Live Performer: K.C. Wiley

Cinematography: Danita MacDonald

Costume Design: Pat Olesko

Performance at the American Academy in Rome 2003

As The Veil Lifts

A woman experiences the suffering of her parents due to some unnamed event perhaps a war. The animation is based on an instinctive line about how a woman’s body carries a narrative. The veils suggests the many veils a woman puts on in her lifetime. In addition the transparent veils reflect the many levels an animator works with while studying movement.

The song accompanying the film is from Songs from the Quechua (a collection of folk poetry from Peru and Bolivia)

Il Messaggio

Ho ciesto ad una farfalle,
(la farfalle, quelle farfalle)
di trovare mio madre,
di cercare mio padre.

E tornata la farfalle,
(la farfalle; quella farfalle)
dicendo sta piagendo tua madre,
sta soffrendo tuo padre.

Sono andata e ho,
Quardato in me stessa,
Edera vero il messagio.
(della farfalle, quella farfalle)

La mio madre stave piagendo,
Il mio padre stave soffrendo.

The Butterfly Messenger
Translated by Mark Strand

I asked a butterfly,
I sent a dragonfly,
To go out to see my mother,
To go out to see my father.

The butterfly came back,
The dragonfly came back,
Saying, your mother is crying,
Saying, your father is suffering.

I went myself,
I took myself there,
And it was true my mother was crying,
And it was true my father was suffering.

Translation: Mark Strand

Performance: Michaela Gentili


American Academy in Rome June 2003
Villa Massimo July 2003
300 Exposition du Frac Picardie, France

All the Places I Have Ever Lived

A noir tour with film clips

Using the language of film noir. All The Places I Have Ever Lived traces the westward migration of upward mobility in Los Angeles through the post-war years and explore the social and political climate that informed it. The chartered tour departs from the Schindler House and includes on-site discussions and film excerpts. Selwood explores an understanding of L.A. as a subjective landscape whose geography is expressed by shifting sets of motives and values.

Sites include:

The Hollywood Athletic Club, Bullocks Wilshire, the Bradbury Building, and Bunker Hill

July 21, 2001

MAK Center for Art and Architecture