Revisiting ROUGH TRADE


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.

Noelle Mason from The Present Tense on Vimeo.



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.

SandrineSchaefer “Survival of the Fittest Part 1” from The Present Tense on Vimeo.


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.

Mouseman @ Rough Trade I (Boston) from The Present Tense on Vimeo.


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!


Kid Epicene @ Contaminate II

In 2002, I saw “Juggling Gender,” a documentary on Jennifer Miller, a modern day bearded lady. Jennifer’s confidence, sultry voice, and overall spirit sent me spiraling into the depths of infatuation. From this moment on, I became intoxicated by the idea of growing my very own beard. Several chin hairs have emerged with age, but not enough to qualify as dream beard material. Enter Kid Epicene, a then Boston-based artist and the possessor of a beautiful female beard.
In the piece, she created for Contaminate II, Kid Epicene begins by accentuating the beard I always wanted. After a haircut given by a member of the audience, she proceeded to cover herself in tomatoes, wrap herself in plastic, while drinking beer and cooking a steak. My description sounds as though this piece could be filed into the vault of present day regurgitations of “feminist performance art” from the 70’s. However, it was Kid’s acknowledgement of the monotony and inherent potential of gender that actually made this piece less about gender and more about hope. Hope…what a fundamental and profound place for art to be derived from. Despite my fine blond chin hairs, experiencing this piece left me confident that I could have a beard of epic proportions if I truly wanted it. It left me inspired by the idea of truly living through and ultimately beyond social restrictions of any kind.