Present Tense’s 13 of 2013

As we greet 2014, The Present Tense shares its reflections on 2013.  2013 was a fruitful year, offering countless moments for experiential art.  Here are 13 of these moments that The Present Tense found inspirational.



13. In April, Boston Center for the Art’s Cyclorama was activated by Vela Phelan’s Near Death Performance Art Experience (NDPAE).  In a simple stroke of irony, NDPAE had its own experience with death. Originally scheduled to unfold over 2 days at Fourth Wall Project in Boston and after months of planning, Fourth Wall was temporarily shut down due to permitting issues, a historic plague among Boston alternative art spaces.  NDPAE was postponed until further notice.  The event fortunately found shelter at the Boston Center for the Art’s Cyclorama, a stunning space with a history of being used as a war memorial.  NDPAE was rescheduled for April 21, 2013, less than 1 week after the Boston Marathon Bombings.  In this 7 hour performance art event,  artists created live works around the theme of life and death.  Both the context and content of the work at NDPAE made for an intense experience for all to remember.

Jamie McMurry "Flawed" 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

Jamie McMurry “Flawed” at NDPAE 2013 photo by Phil Fryer


12. This year saw the beginning of new and important series of curated performances in the Museum of Fine Arts. Odd Spaces, curated by Liz Munsell, was the first of the series and  included artists from Boston and New York. Musell is no stranger to performance, and “Odd Spaces” has frequently been referenced as a very successful collaboration between local community and institution. Liz’s choice to have the event on the MFAs weekly free night, as well as a panel discussion immediately after, encouraged a discourse between artist, audience, and curator within the walls of the respected institution.


11. A stand out piece this year was created at Odd Spaces at the MFA.  Marilyn Arsem’s 6 1/2 hour piece, “With the Others” challenged what it means to experience a live event.  Hidden beneath a bench in the Egyptian Galleries of the MFA, Arsem’s body was anointed with Jasmine and covered in black cloth.  The aroma filled the halls leading to the space where only the curious would discover Arsem’s living body amongst the mummies and other artifacts in the room.


Marilyn Arsem "With the Others" at Odd Spaces 2013

Marilyn Arsem “With the Others” at Odd Spaces 2013


10. During the summer of 2013, a marathon of performance art festivals occurred throughout the United States!  Chicago’s annual international performance art festival, Rapid Pulse activated the Wicker Park neighborhood for 2 weeks.  Rosslyn Arts Project, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, and The Pink Line Project debuted the Supernova Festival throughout Rosslyn, Virginia, in raw spaces, office lobbies, rooftops, parks, the Metro station, and other public places.  Edge Zones presented the second annual Miami Performance International Festival that provided 4 weeks of programming throughout the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens and the Miami Design District.   The Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival (BIPAF) used 11 spaces in Brooklyn and involved over 150 artists from all over the world with the aim of creating constructive institutional critique as an attempt to relationally construct new economic and social contexts for performance art.  Alejandra Herrera and Jamie McMurry curated the 4th installment of Perform Chinatown in Los Angeles.  Presented works ranged from street interventions to body- driven works.  Durational performance installations unfolded throughout the event in large boxes that lined Chung King Road.


09. Also in the summer of 2013,  Anthony Greaney closed its doors, but hosted many memorable shows that supported performance and other experimental time-based media. Greaney’s presence on Harrison Ave in Boston was a testament to Boston’s need for space to show experimental work, and to challenge the status quo of what Boston’s art scene really looks like. It’s no secret that many lament the loss of this space.  Some noteworthy exhibitions this year included the Tactic Series, Pan Act, Epoch and RE:Present Me.


o+ “Vast Mystic Mecca Void” at Tactic 2, Anthony Greaney 2013

08. Grace Exhibition Space  in Brooklyn has made it their mission to glorify performance art since 2006.  In 2013, Directors Jill McDermid-Hokanson and Erik Hokanson acquired a second space in Kingston, NY.  GRAY ZONE for Performance Art adds an exciting new context to support their programming!


07. Temporary Land Bridge, run by Kirk Snow and Andrea Evans, launched over the Fall of this year. Land Bridge further contributes to Boston’ s network of of support within the creative community, doing so by giving artists interviews, reviews, and “statements” where the artists themselves curate the content of their posts. Temporary Land Bridge offers an exciting new resource for artists working across media.


06. In 2013, we saw artists, curators, and organizations continuing to explore the interstices between art and social practice.  Suzanne Lacy’s “Between the Door and the Street”  supported by Creative Time, was a notable moment of performance art serving as activism and was not without its own controversy.  This piece has sprouted dialogues around the complex relationship between art and activism, bringing opinions around issues of conduct, authorship, privilege, and agency to the surface.


05. The First Biennial Festival of Performance Art and Sound Art came to The Quarry, an arts campus under the auspices of Contemporary Arts International  (CAI) in Acton, MA.  A stand out moment was JV’s (Jeff Huckleberry and Vela Phelan) 24 hour collaborative piece, “Poach” in the woods. 


JV “Poach” 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca




04. The spectacle of Marina Abramovic´ continues! In 2013, we followed the Kickstarter campaign used to raise funds to make the Marina Abramovic´Institute a reality, watched a video of Lady Gaga practicing the Abromovic´method and Jay Z’s attempt at performance art go viral.  It is safe to say that performance art is no longer hidden in the shadows of society. Whether one thinks this direction is desirable or detrimental, this has certainly inspired interesting conversations throughout the year.


03. The DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum’s Paint Things show was a strong exhibition throughout.  A stand out moment of the exhibition was Claire Ashley’s inflatable sculptures that were created on sight. The Chicago-based artist brought these sculptures to life with her playful delegated performance piece, “Double Disco” this past Spring. Jim Dine’s hearts will never be the same.

double disco: i’m goin’ nowhere from Claire Ashley on Vimeo.



02. Mobius’ Fall programming was exceptional, featuring exciting works by local artists and artists from across the globe.  Some stand outs include Ieke Trinks,“Dynamorphic” by Nedregard and and Hillary, Ampala Prada, and Antoni Karwowski/ Daniel S. DeLuca/ Vela Phelan.


Nedregard and and Hillary “Dynamorphic” 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca


1.  After years of living in boxes, storage units, basements, and  other inaccessible places, Mobius’s massive 37 year old archive has been inducted into the Tufts Library. Over the next few years, the archive will become more and more accessible, revealing an important part of  the history of experimental and experiential art.


William Pope L.’s boots from a 2003 performance, among other relics.

Bicycle Series- “Learning to Ride a Bike” 2007 Sandrine Schaefer

The Present Tense loves bikes.  What’s not to love?  Bikes are an environmental way to get from Point A to Point B, they are interesting objects, and most of all they are FUN!  The Present Tense Co-Founder, Sandrine Schaefer hasn’t always had the joyful relationship with bikes that she does now.  Severe Asthma and allergies prevented Sandrine from having the signature childhood experience of learning how to ride a bike.  At the age of 26, with strong lungs, Sandrine decided to gift herself this experience.  The other Present Tense Co-Founder, Philip Fryer gathered bike parts with their friend, Ryan Stantis and Ryan built her the bicycle of her dreams!  She invited her friends to join her in an interactive performance where they could teach her how to ride her bike.  She also invited the crowd to name her bike and asked them to gift her a trophy when they collectively decided that she had demonstrated the basic skills needed for bike riding.  This is footage from the performance.


4 years later, Sandrine and her beloved “Jersey Devil” have went on countless adventures and are looking forward to a beautiful life together.

Bike Series – Lorna Stewart – Knife Grinder

Lorna Stewart

“Knife Grinder is a performance that has developed out of a visit to Buenos Aires.  Lorna attaches a drive-belt to a bicycle  that connects a grindstone to the cogs used by the chain.  With the back wheel off the ground she activates this device which lifts her off the ground, thus supplying her with the armature for a performance and rendering her cycling stationary. ”

“She takes a knife and starts sharpening it on the grinder, which she works by continuing to cycle. The action of her body coordinates with that of the pedals and the grinder; the whole suggesting some fantastic machine such as one might read about in a novel by Raymond Roussel: deviser of cruel, if fictitious, machines, often designed to destroy the body.  However there is also a reference to leading and following – Stewart is motivating the movements of the bicycle.”

– Anthony Howell, April, 2005

Lorna Stewart is an English artist who graduated from the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff with a first class degree in 2000.  She won the Helen Gregory Memorial Scholarship in 2000 and received the Arts Admin Bursary in 2003.  Lorna Stewart works both as a solo artist and in collaboration with other artists.  She has regularly performed both nationally and internationally including at the Birmingham Ikon Galley as part of Fierce Festival 2004 and also performed in Nipaf, Japan, in the Recontre Festival, Quebec, the 11th Performance Art Conference, Essen, at The Ocean Club, London, and in The April Festival, Belgrade.  She also performed in a film by Jayne Parker and Anthony Howell called ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ for BBC2’s Dance on Camera season.  Lorna Stewart also dances tango, teaches and has performed for the Tango Volcano band and is a member of Tango Art.

Bicycle Series: Joe Bigley: Traversing a Foreign Border Domestically

“Within the context of the project, Traversing a Foreign Border Domestically, the bike seems like the most appropriate mode of transportation. The bike is seen as a symbol of personal freedoms reflecting its self reliance nature reflecting on establishing a sovereign nation in Afghanistan. Bicycling around the country as a performance work, has proven effective in engaging in the public’s natural sense of curiosity augmenting the initiation of a dialogue regarding their thoughts on the war. “

Traversing a Foreign Boarder Domestically was a long-term endurance public performance project. Starting and returning to Ground Zero in Manhattan, New York, Joe Bigley bicycled the length and shape of the border of Afghanistan within the United States.

Averaging 75 miles per day, the project took 69 days to complete. This specific route intended to highlight the arbitrary nature of political boundaries and sets up opportunities to engage in a dialogue with a wider public to archive perceptions on the war.

Joe maintained a neutral stance on the topic of the war within the context of TFBD. This multi-faceted project has an experiential narrative aspect as well as the interactions with the public and their constant and humbling generosity. A wide range of opinions on the war have been collected, in addition to a number of bike related experience.

Project participant

Performance participant

The content my work influences the methodologies and materials chosen for any given project.  My studio practice incorporates a wide range and expanding use of materials including cast metals, kinetic installation, digital video and performance work. I am constantly exploring the role that art plays in society by challenging the location of arts existence both in thought and physicality. Lately my work has been placing itself in a public setting to gauge a reaction to scenarios that challenge people’s expectations of navigating through the everyday.

For lots more information, videos, and photos, please visit this project’s website.

Joseph Ravens has got Talent!

Summer in New England is slowly disappearing and The Present Tense wants to soak up the sun while we can!  We will be taking a vacation from posting until September 1st. In honor of our recent Call for work for our Bicycle series, we are leaving you Joseph Ravens’ “Is my Liver Showing?” created for ROUGH TRADE in 2007/2008.  The Present Tense collaborated with Joseph on organizing ROUGH TRADE, an exchange between Boston and Chicago based artists.

It was a pleasure to witness this quirky piece back then, and exciting to recently see Joseph recreate it in another platform!  Enjoy!

Joseph Ravens on America’s Got Talent!

Joseph Ravens aims to project energy and images with abundant focus.  Through various hybrids of art, dance, and theatre, he devises highly stylized situations in which images and actions coalesce to produce decidedly poetic, often conceptual, narratives.  Ravens has traveled the globe to show his work in a variety of festivals and art venues.  He has collaborated many other artists and has been the recipient of several awards ad residencies.  As if this wasn’t enough, Joseph is the Founder and Art Director of DEFIBRILLATOR Performance Art Gallery in Chicago.  The Present Tense is proud to have had the opportunity to work with such a valiant and dynamic artist!

Call to Artists working with Bicycles! DEADLINE EXTENDED to AUGUST 1, 2011

Are you creating ephemeral works utilizing a Bicycle or multiple Bikes?  If so, The Present Tense wants to see what you are doing and consider your work for an upcoming blog post on Bikes as a performative object.

Please send the following information to by August 1 2011.
Artist statement (100 words)
Artist Bio (100 words)
Examples of past work using Bike(s): Images and/or video
Maximum of 10 images (72 dpi no larger than 8×10 inches)
Still images must be accompanied by an image list containing the following information:
Title of piece
Year it was created
Brief description of piece
1-2 Links to Video not to exceed 10 minutes each (hosted on Vimeo, Youtube, or similar site).
Please provide the following information for each video submitted
Title of piece
Year it was created
Brief description of piece if needed

Answer the following question:

Why do you use Bicycles in your work?

Email all information to

Rope Series: Manuela de los angeles

“Dress to fly” reflects on bodies in space, in relation to the external environment.  The intent it to expose the reality in which the individual depends on both the materials and themselves.

2007, Galeria de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Medellin, duration: 90 minutes

This site-sensitive installation is composed of a cube of wood, needles, thread, and a cotton dress.  Large quantities of weight are held up by lightweight materials (the body weighs 47 kilos (103 lbs) and is held up by 57 threads of cotton yarn).  The garment is sewn while the body is held up by a wooden cabinet.  Once the garment is complete, the body is cradled by the threads, suspended in a white box.  The body remains in this cocoon anywhere from 1-33 hours.

2009, Second Bienniel Comfenalco Antioquia, Belen Library Park, duration: 190 minutes

2009, Second Bienniel Comfenalco Antioquia, Belen Library Park, duration: 190 minutes

2009, Second Bienniel Comfenalco Antioquia, Belen Library Park, duration: 190 minutes

Manuela de los Angeles (b. 1982 in Mexico City)  She is currently studying to earn her Masters degree in Visual Arts at the UNAM.  She has worked as a Curatorial Assistant in addition to showing her work in Mexico, Colombia, Italy and Spain.