Written by Alex Fleming
Emerging from New York’s power electronics scene, Cammisa Buerhaus first established a name as an artist in free music outfit Daikyo Furoshiki, alongside legendary saxophonist Tamio Shiraishi and No Neck Blues Band’s Keith Connelly. The act toured widely, including an extended tour in Japan, creating live music, site-specific happenings, and improvisational performances.
During this period Buerhaus created her first works of conceptual writing, using Yelp to publish her tour diaries. These hybrid texts merged memoir with consumer feedback, including reflections on her childhood relationships and sex life.
Shraishi’s involvement at seminal music venue Club Minor, a melting pot of avante-garde jazz, electronic, Butoh, and drag, provided a template for Buerhaus’ time organizing a music program at downtown art space and prisoner solidarity project, CAGE.
Buerhaus grew up working renaissance fairs with her family as a child actor, in her twenties she continued to perform, including television roles. While filming for the short lived Sex in The City spinoff The Carrie Diaries, Buerhaus began to write her own scripts. During long hours on set, Buerhaus became inspired by the show’s flat, one dimensional tone.
For several years Buerhaus lived and studied with collage artist and instrument builder Skip Laplante, in his studio workshop and Bowery loft 269 Bowery. Fusing her interest in monumental sculpture with her interest in sound, Buerhaus began building her own large scale instruments and synthesizers, including her “Chroma Color Organ,” a full size wooden pipe organ.
Continuing her interest in context as a formal element in her work, Buerhaus’ first theatre works took place at comedy clubs throughout the city. Site specificity in her work has manifested through performances in public stairwells, inside of nuclear bomb shelters, Yelp, and Times Square.
Around this time, Buerhaus was cast in theatre director Richard Maxwell’s The Evening alongside Obie winners Jim Fletcher (of Bernadette Corporation) and actor Brian Mendes. Buerhaus trained rigorously for this role, rehearsing for 18 months and touring the piece internationally for 3 years.
Her years performing in The New York City Players greatly influenced her artistic approach. She departed The Evening with interest in expanding her scripts into full scale plays.
Buerhaus has continued to act, including lead roles in films by Melanie Gilligan, Ken Okishi, Jordan Strafer, and Martine Syms. Still dedicated to New York’s music underground, Buerhaus also runs music label WILD FLESH, and has released material by artists like Amanda Harris Wiliams, Whitney Claflin, and Park McArthur.
Buerhaus writings are often modular in form, breaking apart and recombining in unexpected ways. She has created 3 plays; Isis Virus (2016), The Maze (2018), and Optimistic Voices (2020). Each of these works explore discrete periods in Buerhaus life, seen through a distorted, psychedelic lens. Buerhaus’ approach to theatre has increasingly merged her work as a composer and musician with her writings.
Prior to the global pandemic, Buerhaus was at work on a run of Optimistic Voices, staged for the private home of Jim Fletcher. This production was conceived with and co-directed by Alex Fleming. Optimistic Voices starred acclaimed soprano Beth Griffith with Ciaran Finlayson, Serena He, and Tavish Miller. The piece would be documented in video and still photography by Melanie Gilligan and Leigh Ledare, respectively.