The Present Tense Top 12 of 2012

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 of Time 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.

 

Catherine Tutter’s “Wrapped Intention”

 

 

Philip Fryer "For Bob" 2012

 

 

Sandrine Schaefer "Resting Place" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

 

 

Alice Vogler and Vela Phelan photo by Philip Fryer

Stillness Series- Philip Fryer

Wall Melody from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

In September 2011, I was invited to be part of an exhibition titled Time Body Space Objects, curated by Alice Vogler. For this exhibition, each artist was allotted an hour of performance time, on the theme of ‘commitment’. I wanted to create something that challenged me to commit to an action for the full hour allotted to me. I had been thinking a lot about John Cage at the time, and about his experience in the anechoic chamber at Harvard. Expecting to experience the ultimate silence, Cage was confronted by the sound of his own blood flowing in his body, and thus the impossibility of silence. I wanted to make a commitment to the omnipresence of sound, by way of introducing a single tone, generated by a keyboard. For one full hour, I stood in a corner and held one note. The chosen note mimics the drone of our blood flow, and gives us the opportunity to meditate on our own audio output. The commitment of this performance is its stillness.  Like Cage’s anechoic chamber, this stillness provides an access point for the nuances of the sound, which present themselves over the course of the hour.

Philip Fryer is a performance, sound and video artist living and working in Boston, Massachusetts. His work is a meditation on mortality, chaos/order, and the body as a circuit. His recent exploration has been focused on using lo-fi technologies such as circuit bending and cassette tape loops, both as individual pieces and as elements of performances and videos.

photos by Sandrine Schaefer


Rope Series: Alice Vogler

The Present Tense has decided to end our 2011 Rope Series by highlighting a recent work by Alice Vogler.   As many of you know, MEME, the gallery that The Present Tense co-founded in 2009 came to an end in late May.  Vogler was also a co-founder.   She continued to run MEME with Vela Phelan and Dirk Adams after Bradley Benedetti, Philip and I resigned from MEME in June 2010.  Her farewell to the space came in the form of a 24 hour piece.
Vogler began at 7pm on May13th surrounded by a stack of toilet paper, three spools of white mason string and seven white bottles of water.  She wrapped the string around the toilet paper to create a rope.

Norfolk Street visited her throughout the night, peering through the windows and offering her gifts.  This ritual began with the first exhibition held at MEME.  The neighborhood was always eager to participate in what was happening in the space.

Vogler describes the rope that accumulated on the floor as an umbilical cord, connecting her to the space.

She finished constructing the rope around 5:30pm on May 14th.  The rope became a nest that Vogler rested in.  When she woke up, Dirk Adams and Vela Phelan wrapped the rope around MEME while Alison Adams helped Vogler wrap the rest of the rope around her body.  People were invited into the space to witness this action.

After Vogler was encased by the rope, she engaged in a litany of sorts, reciting all of the exhibitions that had taken place at MEME.  MEME showed over 200 artists in its 2 year history, making this an overwhelming task for anyone, especially the sleep deprived.  As Vogler recited the names of the artists and shows, she slowly untangled herself from the rope.  As the rope fell to the floor, it was revealed that the end was tied around Vogler’s waist.  She ends the piece by cutting the rope, releasing MEME.*

Alice Vogler’s work center’s around the physical and mental healing processes that exist in individual’s lives and her own day-to-day life.  She is interested in investigating what heals: the process, that object, or the ritual.  Most recently she has been working with the element of anticipation.  She has been investigating to what extent anticipation changes how time is experienced.  The viewer is always an essential element in her work.

Alice received her Bachelors of Fine Arts form Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland Oregon, and her Masters of Fine Arts form the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tuffs University in Boston Massachusetts.  She co-owned and curated MEME Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 2009-2011. She has shown her work in many performance events over the last 10 years including:  Rough Trade in Chicago, Illinois, LUMEN Festival in Stanton Island, New York, Tremor Festival in Bogotá, Columbia, OPEN in Beijing, China, and Transmuted in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

* The MEME space (55 Norfolk St. in Central Square Cambridge, MA) began as 55 Gallery in 2008 and was passed on to us.  MEME has been passed on to Mobius Artist Group.  The Present Tense looks forward to seeing how the next cycle of this space will manifest.

MEME and Mobius, March 2010

Every once in a while the Boston art world aligns and produces a performance art marathon. March saw one of these weekends with Control Y Control Z at MEME, curated by the MEME Team, and Yard Sale at Mobius Curated by Jeff Huckleberry.


Control Y Control Z

Leigh Waldron-Taylor (performed by Daniel DeLuca)


Sylbille Neeve



Sandrine Schaefer


Yard Sale
Patrick Wallace


Vela Phelan

Philip Fryer


Jeff Byrd

Paul Waddell