2015 marks ten years since our first event, Activate: an evening of occurrence. Back then, we had a simple goal to support a movement of experiential art that we felt was underrepresented and had few options for exhibition. The event was modest but well attended, and confirmed our belief that it was our responsibility to support this movement that we were a part of. From 2005 through 2009 we continued to organize a series of events ranging in size from intimate happenings to large scale international performance art festivals. Our goal was always to show the work of artists at varied stages in their career from all over the world, to create thriving bridges between Boston and other places connected by experiential art practices. The outcome of these efforts was intense discourse, countless moving performances, many new friends, and of course shoeboxes full of documentation.
In 2009 we both lost our space and launched The Present Tense Archive online, which was an effort to take the traces of the works hiding in shoeboxes and make them available to anyone. It was a daunting task, but with the help of many friends including the Berwick Research Institute, Vela Phelan, and Coco Segaller, we were able to create an archive in the form of a blog. Since then, the archive has accumulated more content than we ever imagined. Interviews, guest posts, and curated thematic posts populated the archive alongside the images and video we had captured ourselves. It became more than an archive, it became a community platform for the art and movement we had set out to support.
A lot has changed since 2009, especially ways for individuals to navigate the internet and strategies for archiving experiential-based works. It is time for TPT to change, too. This will be the last post on this platform, and the rest of 2015 will be spent reconfiguring the way TPT exists. The form will change, but the function will not. Priority will be given to finding a way to make this accumulated content easier to navigate and more accessible. We are also contemplating other, more experimental forms of archiving.
This does not mean that The Present Tense will not be active! We will still be maintaining our Tumblr, Facebook page, Twitter, and of course our Vimeo page which hosts a large number of works by many artists including our own work. We will still send out seasonal email updates about our activities. The Present Tense was born out of our collaboration and has always been an extension of our own artistic practices. You can also keep up with what we are working on through our personal websites. The blog, however, will remain untouched, enshrined as a relic much like the work it hosts.
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” 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
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 Greaneyclosed 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.
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 wasClaire 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.
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.
As we begin 2013, The Present Tense shares its reflections on 2012. 2012 offered countless moments for performance art that The Present Tense found inspirational. Here are 12 of them:
Mari Novotny-Jones at "100 Years" photo by Sandrine Schaefer
12. We probably don’t have to explain why its awesome that “100 Years of Performance Art” came to Boston University in 2012. This traveling exhibition consists of documents that capture a comprehensive history of performance art. In this installment, the 4th version of the exhibition, many important Boston-based artists and groups were included and made live works throughout the duration of the exhibit.
Dirk Adam's lecture on "Green" at the ICA photo by Philip Fryer
11. 2012 saw a number of performances and exhibitions tackling the theme “color”. The Present Tense was lucky enough to catch Dirk Adams “lecture” on “Green” created in conjunction with the Figuring Color exhibition at the ICA. Adams stood in front of the audience and used a reel to reel player to play for us a recording of himself giving a lecture on green as it relates to the green movement. The lecture suggests that the green movement may not be so green. Perhaps it is a different color. Perhaps it is Brown. Adams awkwardly watches the audience watching him. It was a hilariously poignant performance!
10. The Occupy Movement in conjunction with 2012 being an election year, inspired dialogues around the synergetic relationship between art and activism. Activists and the creatively-minded gathered in NYC during the Fall to attend the 2012 Creative Time Summit that focused on the theme of Confronting Inequality. The first day of the Summit was comprised of nearly 30 presentations on this theme. Artists, Activists, writers, and even a passionate Doctor shared the stage to talk about strategies to navigate the interstices between art and social practice. Highlights included Leónidas Martín’s talk on his Barcelona-based artist collective, “Enmedio” and how they have used actions that induce humor and compassion to create interventions with successful results. Michael Rakowitz shared insights into his process creating conceptual art pieces that investigate the relationship between the US and the Middle East.
The second day of the Summit consisted of workshops that included an opportunity to learn how to map out Utopian Ideas with Steve Lambert, and to engage in a discussion led by the group Tidal Journal around Occupy Wall Street’s history, present and future. The day ended with a Debt March throughout the streets of Manhattan. Throughout the multitude of perspectives offered at the Summit, the theme of art action as a powerful tool to communicate and inspire change was consistent.
9. For those in Massachusetts who couldn’t make it to the Creative Time Summit to get a healthy dose of activist adrenalin, Montserrat College of Art hosted an Academic Symposium, Agents of Change: Art and Activism around the Guerrilla Girls exhibition, Not Ready to Make Nice. If you were brave enough to take a Salem bound Commuter Rail to Beverly during Halloween weekend, you would be rewarded with presentations from a myriad of artists, curators, art historians, and a keynote from the Guerilla Girls. Highlights include presentations by Eve Biddle and Joshua Frankel, Joshua Seidner, and Randi Hopkins’ panel, Participation is Personal:
Artists Indulge in the Messy Task of Understanding the World. The following day included a series of workshops on various artistic strategies between art and activism used across media.
8. With all of the discourse on Activism and Art, “Feminism” and what it means today, also seemed to be a topic of interest in 2012. Of course it was a hot topic around the Guerrilla Girls exhibition and at the Creative Time Summit, but it also came up in the form of New Maternalisms, a performance art happening curated by Natalie Loveless. Loveless eloquently writes about how the work in New Maternalisms offers perspectives from the daughters who are now mothers from the era of feminist art’s intervention. New Maternalisms offered opportunites for artist-mothers to make pieces and participate in round table discussions about the experience of motherhood today and investigate how this informs their artistic practices.
Chicago about to drive home from Boston!
7. The Present Tense returned to its roots in 2012, organizing our first live event since 2009’s Thus Far. The second edition of the Rough Trade artist exchange took place in September at Defibrillator Gallery in Chicago and at MassArts Pozen Center in Boston. There are too many amazing moments and aspects of this experience to name here and you can see the work for yourself on the last round of Present Tense interviews and videos. The strength of our communities were apparent in the work shown and put into making the exchange happen, including a grueling overnight 16 hour drive made by the Chicago artists to Boston!
6. A new friend The Present Tense made this year is Brazilian artist and organizer Fernando Ribeiro. Ribeiro traveled to Boston and showed work at Mobius in April. Ribeiro performed a beautiful, quiet piece titled “I Promise”. Ribeiro was the first artist to travel the US circuit between Chicago, Boston and New York. We feel lucky to live in a time that has multiple cities, organizers and venues that support this medium. We hope that 2013 will bring strength to these ties and that more artists will travel this circuit!
Rob Andrews "Vampire Dance" at TBSO 2 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca
5. Boston’s thirst for marathon performance art pieces and shows showed no signs of slowing down in 2012, especially with the second installment ofTime Body Space Objects. 12 artists, 12 hours, 12 performances. Highlights included Martine Viale’s house made out of sugar cubes, Daniel DeLuca’s subversive presentation, and Jeff Huckleberry’s refrain “This is stupid, this is not stupid.”
installation view of INSIDER/OUTSIDER photo by Sandrine Schaefer
4. Documentation of performance is one of the most common ongoing conversations that occurs within our community. We already mentioned “100 Years” as an example of how performance art can be experienced within a traditional art context. But when it comes down to it, it’s up to us, the artists, to document our history as it goes. Sandrine’s INSIDER/OUTSIDER is an example of the connections that are being drawn between a wide-range of artists work, worldwide, that are current and poignant. The focus of INSIDER/OUTSIDER was on live works that took place outside of an art setting, an advantage that performance has over many other mediums. Simple, understated pieces like Jeffery Byrd’s “Public Art”, which has been witnessed by almost no one else beside the artist himself, had the chance to be seen by many viewers within a context highlighting current performative approaches.
3. Another interpretation of documentation was present at Alice Vogler‘s solo exhibition“Time On View” at the Proof Gallery. At a first glance, this exhibition read as a sculpture show, and can initially be approached in that way. However, each object you are seeing is an actual relic from Vogler’s past performances, which is explained in the literature next to each piece. The artists own interpretation of documentation is present in the show. Alice also re-performed several of her past pieces, some of which were chosen at random.
Jeff and Sandy Huckleberry "Green"
2. As stated previously, “color” was a theme that came out in 2012. Mobius artists, Jeff and Sandy Huckleberry used color as a starting point for a series of improvisational performances they created over the duration of several months. Each week, the husband and wife team painted Mobius’ space a different color, going through the spectrum of the rainbow!
1. The performance art community suffered a tremendous loss when Mobius artist and Photographer, Bob Raymond passed away this past Spring. This was devastating to all who knew and loved Bob and his physical absence continues to be felt within the Boston Performance Art Community. The Huckleberry’s Rainbow Series concluded with the color blue on March 1st, which also coincided with Bob’s passing. In honor of Bob, the Huckleberry’s ended their series by painting the Mobius space black. This loss inspired many other artists to create tributes to Bob’s life, generosity, and inspirational spirit. We leave you with traces from pieces made in 2012, in Bob Raymond’s honor.
The Present Tense is gearing up for ROUGH TRADE II that begins in just 1 week. ROUGH TRADE II is an exchange between live artists working in Boston and Chicago. The Present Tense has selected 6 artists to represent Boston in a public event to be held at Defibrillator Gallery on September 7th and 8th,2012. Defibrillator Gallery’s Artistic and Executive Director, Joseph Ravens, has selected a group of artists to share their work in Boston at MassArt’s The Pozen Center on September 21st and 22nd, 2012.
This exchange is designed to highlight and build bridges between the powerful communities of action-based artists that currently reside in Chicago and Boston. In addition to the live events, The Present Tense will produce a series of interviews with each participating artist that will be featured here! This will bring ROUGH TRADE II to an international audience. To view details about the live events and learn more about participating artists, check out the press release.
In 2007, The Present Tense collaborated with Joseph Ravens to organize their first artist exchange. This was such a successful collaboration that we decided to revisit it. The Present Tense dug through the archives to share some of the pieces that were made during ROUGH TRADE I. Enjoy!
Noelle Mason was suspended from the ceiling and attached to a keg. As people drank throughout the evening, she was lowered to the ground. Mason created this piece both in Boston and Chicago. Due to restrictions of the space, Noelle had to use Root Beer in Boston. Needless to say, the root beer was not as popular as the beer she used in Chicago, but the Boston audience was happy to engage in other ways. This is footage from this piece.
Sandrine Schaefer unrolled 75 feet of red carpet over the duration of 4 hours, creating a red line across the space. Inside, she had speakers attached to her face that played a chaotic sound piece composed of American wrestlers challenging one another. The sound could only be heard by the curious who came close to her body.
In this durational piece made in Boston, artist, Mouseman was installed with his head inside of a column for several hours. He recited information about mice organizing to overthrow human-created structures. The audience was invited to listen through headphones.
Play all three videos together to get a sense of the soundscape of ROUGH TRADE I‘s Boston event.
Currently, ROUGH TRADE II is made possible by the generosity of our immediate art communities (we are paying for everything out of pocket). Please visit the project’s Kickstarter to help us raise funds for this exchange!
On Monday, Feb. 27th 2012, the performance art community lost one of it’s most important members, Bob Raymond. Bob was a staple in the Boston Performance Art community for over 30 years. He was a long time member of the Mobius Artist Group. In addition to being an intermedia artist, Bob was committed to documenting and archiving the work of countless artists from Mobius and beyond. His expertise and sensitivity to time-based media was always apparent in his photographs and in the way he would document performance pieces. Often times, cameras can distract and feel obtrusive during a performance piece. Bob was always mindful of this. He approached documenting performance art with the utmost respect. (he even bought a camera with the quietest shutter speed, so as not to interrupt pieces!) It was considered an honor to have Bob Raymond document your work.
In addition, Bob was a phenomenal person. He was kind, generous, funny, and a good friend. Being one of our biggest supporters from the very beginning, he had an enormous impact on The Present Tense. He always attended our events, photographed for us, and shared his wisdom. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to know and learn from him. His presence and contribution to the movement will be missed enormously.
Are you creating ephemeral works with the concept of Stillness? If so, The Present Tense wants to see what you are doing and consider your work for an upcoming blog post on Stillness as a performative concept. Please send the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 4th, 2012.
Artist statement (100 words)
Artist Bio (100 words)
Examples of past work using Rope/ String: Images and/or video
Maximum of 10 images (150 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
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 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!