Accumulation and the precious object

I feel lucky and grateful to have participated in Accumulation a second time. During the first phase, which happened in 2009 at the MEME space, my participation was less than frequent. As I began rummaging through my studio for possible object participants in phase two, I reflected on my actions from Phase 1.  I quickly realized that I relied heavily (almost entirely) on interacting and performing with objects brought to the space by the other artists. As someone who uses mostly objects that have some sort of sentimental value or emotional connection, Accumulation had given me an ultimatum: risk having your important objects destroyed or use objects that have little or no emotional connection to your work. During Phase 1, I did not have the courage to accept that kind of challenge.

ACCUMULATION (Phase 2) Philip Fryer 02.07.14 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

What I didn’t realize was happening, was a parallel between my hesitance to bring meaningful objects to the table and the very reason many galleries had declined to show Accumulation over the years. The uncertainty of the performances, the preciousness of the physical materials caused hesitation. I simultaneously felt frustration and understanding about these things. Five years after the first phase, Accumulation found a home for Phase 2 in the 808 gallery at BU, thanks to Lynne Cooney. Lynne’s willingness to bring unpredictability into her space allowed me to push myself out of my comfort zone and choose to bring objects to Phase 2 that I wouldn’t have brought to the first.

IMG_3201

This is a single I came across in my dad’s record collection. It has the name “Hughes” written in messy black letters and has smudges of white paint on both sides. To anyone else, it might just look like a ruined Mary Hopkin single, but to me it holds the hallmark of my uncle Richard (Hughes). I grew up with Richard being around almost all the time, he was a house painter through the 80’s and 90’s and frequently came home covered with white primer paint which subsequently, covered many things within my home. This is the only thing I have left with that signature, a bittersweet momento of my favorite uncle who was more fun than anyone in the world, who is now legally blind and resides in a Quincy homeless shelter. I have few things in my possession that hold this much emotional value.

Shannon Cochrane during Phase 2

Needless to say, I felt neurotic about what would happen to it after my performance. My heart jumped when Shannon picked it up during her and Marcios second performance. A green apple, similar to the one pictured on the record, is cut in half and taped to it. I felt instant relief, but more than anything, instant gratude. Gratitude to Shannon and Marcio, who acknowledged and honored this object and brought it into a new light for me. And gratitude for a community that pushes its members into new territory. I can only hope that other artists included in Phase 2 shared similar experiences, and that Phase 3 won’t take another 5 years to come to light.

This Generation’s Population of Ghosts: Near Death Performance Art Experience

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Generation’s Population of Ghosts*

Near Death Performance Art Experience BOSTON 2013

Sandrine Schaefer

As performance art moves into a phase where it faces the same commodification, professionalization, and institutionalism that other art mediums have endured, artists and organizers are challenged with how to maintain the authenticity of the medium and it’s history.  Within this medium, where artists call upon their physical, mental, emotional, and intellectual endurance to challenge the parameters of real time, it is impossible to remove mortality from performance-based work.  As artists connected by this medium watch one another’s practices evolve and mature, they are simultaneously watching each other age.  They witness their bodies change, ideas develop, and they can see their impact on each-other and the future generations of performance artists with whom they are connected.

Working with the concept of Life and Death, Vela Phelan conceived of Near Death Performance Art Experience(NDPAE), a performance art event that offered an opportunity for multiple generations of artists to create live works around this theme. 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, coincidentally the birthday of the late Bob Raymond, and less than 1 week after the Boston Marathon Bombings.

For 7 hours, audiences were given time and space to contemplate how we make sense of the cycle of life and death through the lens of action-based art.

Marilyn Arsem "Edge" 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

MARILYN ARSEM “Edge”
The work began at 4 pm (3:55 to be exact) when Marilyn Arsem sat down at a square wooden table in the center of the Cyclorama. 2 glasses of water, filled almost to the brim, were placed side by side at one end of the table.  The natural light that streamed in through the Cyclorama’s dome silhouetted her form.  A spectator excitedly whispered that she was holding the room in the glasses.  Taking a closer look, I saw that she was, indeed the keeper of the room, as passersby’s reflections danced across the water.  Upon closer inspection, I noticed small bubbles lining the insides of the glasses. A reminder that the water itself had already stood still for a period of time, or a foreshadowing of Marilyn’s prolonged presence within Near Death.

The beginning moments of Marilyn’s piece, titled “Edge,” were perfect. The Cyclorama was almost silent except for the sound of a clock ticking, emanating from Marilyn.  I was grateful for these beginning moments with her.  The materials present in the other artists’ installations set around the room suggested that chaos would soon ensue.  I meditated on the methodical opening and closing of her eyes.  She looked spent, but her presence filled the entire space with a level of intensity that I had never before experienced in a performance art piece.

 

Faith Johnson "We Are What We Dream" 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

FAITH JOHNSON “We Are What We Dream”

Tucked away in a corner of the Cyclorama, The question, “If we could dream a new world, what would it be like?” was subtly scrawled across the threshold of Faith Johnson’s interactive installation, “We Are What We Dream”.   A woman approached with a map of the installation.

On one side of the space, people sat on pillows wrapped in silver heat blankets, reminiscent of images of the marathon runners after reaching the finish line.  The map invited me to choose a crystal from a carefully arranged circle on the ground.  After selecting my crystal, I was instructed to travel to the “Silver Mountains” to choose a place to sit and meditate on the question: “If we could dream a new world what would it be like?”

As I wrapped the heat blanket around me, I noticed the color of my skin reflected in the material.  It transformed into a second skin and made me think about all of the people who had worn it before and would wear it after I left. I was able to forget that there are people watching, focusing on the warmth of my “mountain” and the sounds it produced.  The crinkling of the Mylar reminded me of the sound of animals rummaging through piles of trash I experienced during my recent travels in India.

Faith Johnson "We Are What We Dream" 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

When I climbed out of my “mountain”, a wall displaying a growing “waking dream map” confronted me.  Sitters were invited to write their thoughts directly on the wall.  Faith nailed their crystal next to what they had written.  With delicate silver thread, she integrated each crystal, each thought, into the map. I felt thankful for Faith’s choice to directly engage her audience in a way that was instantly gratifying.  It was fulfilling to see my direct influence on the piece.  Exercising this control offered a much-needed respite from the intensity of Marilyn’s individual focus.

After I made my contribution to the piece, I stood back and watched the sunlight from nearby windows dance across the crystals and the “silver mountains.”  Before leaving India, I spent several days in Varanasi, where I observed the Ghats where bodies of the wealthy are cremated in open air.  I watched bodies covered in golden blankets (much like the heat blankets used in Faith’s piece) burn a steady stream of smoke as roaming cattle and goats ate fallen marigolds from the garlands that decorated the corpses.  Watching participants interact with “We Are What We Dream” was a similar experience.  As people emerged from their “silver mountains,” there was an air that they had been transformed, perhaps even transcended their understanding of time and space.

 

 

Travis McCoy Fuller 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

TRAVIS MCCOY FULLER:

Back in the main space, the glasses on Marilyn’s table appeared to have moved, making clear that she was pushing the glasses across the table with a tedious pace.  Using the ticking of Marilyn’s clock as a sonic foundation for his piece, Travis McCoy Fuller was first to activate the outer edge of the circle of the Cyclorama.

Travis employed subtle variations to ask for participation in his piece.  He asked out loud, gestured, and spoke softly to offer a more intimate experience of the performance.  One of the beginning actions in the piece included two volunteers transporting a pile of rocks on the table to small piles on the floor around the space.  Simultaneously, Travis pulled a bag of sand with a hole in it around and through the audience, an arbitrary line of sand marking his path.  This was the first in a series of actions that broke the traditional performance space, clarifying that this piece required the audience to witness actively.

Travis asked the audience if there was anyone who would like to sit at the table.  A man sat on top of the table.  Travis adjusted his semantics and asked if anyone else would like to sit at the chair that was next to the table.  A woman sat in the chair.  Travis joined them and the three engaged in the act of eating basil plants in silence.  The man and the woman negotiated sharing the plant, the woman taking delight in nibbling the stems.  Sometimes when I witness delegated tasks in performance, it feels like an attempt to control the audience’s experience or nothing more than a practical choice.  As I watched the woman (who chose to stay at the table for the majority of the piece) it became apparent that Travis’ choice to solicit help was an invitation for participants to explore their own performativity.  He cultivated a community within the piece, giving the audience the choice to directly contribute to its creation, if they wished.

The performance space was broken again when Travis sat with the audience, took a swig of vodka and passed the bottle around the room.  This offering was a gesture that leveled the playing field between the performer and audience.  He proceeded to cut his arms and rubbed curry into the fresh wounds.  The bloodletting directly referenced the corporeal self, while establishing empathy between the audience and the artist.  This empathy was ignited again when Travis “challenged” several people in the audience to hold ice cubes until they “turned to water”.  This immediately induced the same visceral response that I felt watching Travis cut himself.  Although I was not holding an ice cube, I could feel my own fingertips growing numb as I watched and waited with the people in the audience who were given ice.

Travis McCoy Fuller 2013 photo by Philip Fryer

 

Travis seemed to be moving between meditative and aggressive states.  I interpret this as another technique for breaking the performance space.  There was time for quiet contemplation (eating plants, balancing stones, watching sand fall) but there were also moments that demanded the audience to be alert (pushing stones, hammering, using a staple gun).  While these aggressive actions could be misinterpreted as angst, the destruction served a function to the cycle of the piece.  After smashing holes in the center of 2 square tables, Travis balanced one table on top of the other.  He stapled the neck of a pair of coveralls around the hole in the bottom table.  With the help of the audience, he lifted another pair of coveralls filled with sand onto the table on the top. The sand from one body poured into another, a symbol of reincarnation that took on the form of an hourglass.

Travis McCoy Fuller 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

The piece evoked infinite notions of how humans structure, understand, and attempt to control and change time.  Melting ice, the image of the reincarnation hourglass, a loop of John Cage’s saying, “But when we don’t measure time…” fusing with the ticking of Marilyn’s clock all culminated into an experience that questioned perceptions of time.

The piece ended with the action of Travis nailing himself to a wall holding nails in his mouth.  He ripped himself from the wall as if he were shedding his skin.  He spit out the nails, a letting go of sorts, another suggestion of a transformative process.  After Travis nailed himself to the wall and tore himself free a second time, he stopped, releasing the entirety of the space back to Marilyn.

 

Jamie McMurry "Flawed" 2013 photo by Philip Fryer

 

JAMIE MCMURRY “FLAWED”

The wall and floor of Jamie McMurry’s space was covered in faux-wood paneling.  A white suit and various tools hung on the wall, while a dusty colored recliner awaited action in the middle of the space.  The installation placed the audience somewhere reminiscent of a basement, a trailer, or a houseboat.  A microphone on a stand was presented, making the space feel a bit like a makeshift nightclub.   Wherever Jamie had taken us, it was steeped in nostalgia and felt a bit creepy.  To add to this aesthetic, he used an over-head projector to share an article written on the 1953 murder of Mable Monahan.  The article claimed that the only clues in the murder were 2 shoe prints and a bloody handprint smudged on the wall of the victim’s Burbank home (Jamie explicitly referenced this by leaving his own imprints on the wall of his installation). He lunged in front of the article, one hand extended towards the projection, the other, jiggling a ring of keys attached to his belt loop.  This action, like so many in the piece, oscillated between feeling antagonistic, ritualistic, and humorous.

He moved throughout the space, shifting between aggressive movements, ceremonial-like gestures, and childlike explorations of the body. He engaged in actions like gargling, gagging, and attempting to piss in a bucket.  Many of his actions forced the audience to make quick decisions about proximity.  He threw things around, created aggressive sounds, jumped rope with a long chain, and created slingshots that catapulted glass jars full of paint-covered wooden beads against the wall. Some may consider this irresponsible behavior, but I appreciated this tension as a strategy for breaking the traditional performance space.

Within the piece, Jamie engaged in a cycle of activating, referencing, and reframing images.  We saw this first with an image of a palm tree.  He wore the image on a T-shirt, projected it and proceeded to paint it on the wall in white.  Jamie then spit the same white paint out of his mouth, referencing the tree through symbolic action.

Jamie McMurry "Flawed" 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

The most dynamic icon he used was an image of two hands in a gesture that is commonly read as “OK”.  Between the hands was an oversized image of an open mouth.  Jamie created this image with his own body in real time, referenced it on a t-shirt, and later recreated it on the wall.  In one of the final actions of the piece, Jamie used a makeshift slingshot to throw one of his glass jars into a large vinyl print of the mouth.  This action and the remnant of this action offered space to contemplate the notion of consuming experience.

Jamie McMurry "Flawed" 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

Much of “Flawed” made use of actions that explored the complexities of consumption/excretion paired with the dichotomy of power/vulnerability.  He addressed colonization, referencing the ghosts of the displaced.  He wore an army blanket over his head and turned it into a poncho as he pushed his head through.  When he emerged, a pair of pantyhose he wore over face had erased his identity.  He ritualistically shook the glass jars he later fed to the mouth on the wall.  He explored colonization again when he changed into a white suit that was embroidered with the words “GOOD PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS SURE THEY’RE RIGHT”.  He literally buried himself in the recliner, covering his body in soil and mud.  After raising himself from the dead, he attempted to destroy a wooden birdhouse with his bare hands.  Watching Jamie expend so much effort, trying to destroy a home belonging to someone else, transformed him into the devil incarnate.  Yet, the struggle of battling with his physical limitations illuminated his vulnerability, made him human, and somehow relatable.  I couldn’t help but internalize this, becoming aware of my own arbitrary attachments.  At what point does the struggle outweigh the perceived gain of a situation?  Much of the piece existed in this area of grey.

 

Jamie McMurry "Flawed" 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

In addition to creating actions that demanded an upheaval of the audience, “Flawed” required multiple shifts in how the audience listened.  Sometimes the audience was strained to decipher soft or muffled sounds.  At other points in the piece, Jamie produced more abrasive sounds that resulted in the audience covering their ears.  This varied sonic experience was a subtle call to action that foreshadowed the final action of “Flawed”.

After playing Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” Jamie picked up a woman from the audience, offered a private sonic experience by giving her a pair of headphones, and carried her outside.  When he walked through the Cyclorama’s doors, he was handed a bouquet of black balloons.  As he walked down the sidewalk, the audience giggled and hustled to catch up. The lyrics “I’d trade my soul for a wish, Pennies and dimes for a kiss, I wasn’t looking for this, But now you’re in my way…Where you think you’re going, baby?…Hey, I just met you, And this is crazy, But here’s my number, So call me, maybe?” still fresh in our minds.

A few blocks from the Cyclorama, Jamie stopped and released the balloons.  Together, we all watched them drift through the night sky until they were out of sight.

 

VestAndPage "Thou Twin of Slumber" 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

VestAndPage “Thou Twin of Slumber”

The installation of VestAndPage (Verena Stenke and Andrea Pagnes) included a pile of broken glass with wine glasses hanging above, suspended in a moment of free fall.  Two large bricks of ice melted throughout the day, requiring an occasional mopping around the space where they rested on the floor.  The melting of the ice and the glasses frozen in time set the pacing of the performance before it even began.

When the time came for the installation to be activated by the artists’ bodies, the piece began in darkness.  A flame methodically illuminated a pair of legs hidden inside of a square shaped hole in the wall.  I don’t remember the moment or how the lighting situation changed, but I remember Verena repeating the action of falling onto a mattress as Andrea built a road from golden bricks to walk across the space. The inability to fully register the actions through memory or documents due to the constant variances of low light situations was something I wrestled with throughout the piece.  After learning that VestAndPage source content for their performances from their own dreams, I realized that these were intentional choices made in an effort to induce dream-like states in the audience.

The collaborative duo spent much of the performance on opposite sides of their space, traveling towards one another.  This resulted in the audience having to manage a tension between where to look.  When giving attention to one artist’s actions, the viewer was forced to experience the other through their periphery.  We had to use our other senses and call upon our intuition to gain an understanding of the totality of the performance.  I had to make peace with the fact that I was going to miss much of the piece and that the action of forgetting and late remembering, much like a dream, was built into the nature of the occurrence.

Andrea stood on a brick and carefully cut his face and chest in a mirror that was suspended in a similar fashion as the wine glasses.  He followed this action by walking across the pile of glass.  After seeing the blood from his body trickle from his carefully placed incisions, I prepared myself for the worst.  The inner dialogue began and I anxiously tried to decide at what point I would intervene.  At what point would it be negligent to watch another being put themselves in this kind of danger.  As I looked closer, Andrea did not appear to be getting cut as he walked across the glass.  This seemed impossible and I felt as though I had been tricked.  Once I surrendered to the illusion, I was able to enjoy the beauty of the image and the sounds it produced.

VestAndPage "Thou Twin of Slumber" 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

Meanwhile, Verena held a large glass jar containing a light, a piece of molding bread and larvae on her bare stomach.  She sat close to the audience so that we could see the larvae’s movements.  This was hypnotic.  Andrea wore a contact microphone that amplified his breathing.  Certain actions produced heavy and erratic breathing that broke my focus on Verena. I turned and saw his face in a container of sand, his breath captured in a dust cloud as he exhaled.  When the two artists finally, physically met, Andrea was standing on one of the ice blocks.  He invited Verena to stand on top of the ice with him using an arm gesture.  Placing the jar aside, she curled up into his arms and into what appeared to be raw wool that was wrapped around his form.  The two tried to balance and hold one another as they slipped off of the ice.

VestAndPage "Thou Twin of Slumber" 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

In the action that followed, Andrea laid on the ice as Verena, randomly placed her foot into the hands of people in the audience.  Similar to Travis’ use of ice, this action induced an empathetic response to the action that Andrea was enduring.

Andrea sat up and Verena randomly chose people in the audience, leading them one by one to Andrea.  She placed their hand on Andrea’s back.  She continued this act of choosing and transferring until Andrea’s back was covered in hands.  She illuminated this image with a small and cool-colored light.

Our bodies are our vehicles for experiencing waking life, but like the decomposing bread consumed by the larvae, it does break down.  It bleeds when cut.  It is subject to extreme environmental conditions.  It is vulnerable. Through the use of highly visceral actions, some that even appeared to defy physical reality (walking on glass without harm), VestAndPage challenged ideas about what it means to be in a body and conjured romantic notions of what can be experienced beyond the physical realm.

When the lights lifted, Marilyn was still sitting, gently pushing her glasses across the table. I watched tears travel down her cheeks, as she maintained her uncompromising focus.  Watching her travel through the subtleties of the grieving process imparted her strength as an individual and the honesty behind her artistic practice.  It reminded me of the first time I saw Bas Jan Ader’s “I’m Too Sad to Tell You” but without the buffer of an interface.  I felt a deep gratitude for being witness to such candor unfolding in real time and space.

 

Jeff Huckleberry 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

Jeff Huckleberry

Near the end of the evening, Jeff Huckleberry engaged in a series of struggles.   His installation was perhaps the most tactile, consisting of raw wood; some premade boxes that still had the bar codes stapled on them, balloons, buckets and various other tools.  Jeff paced around the space, before engaging in a series of cleansing actions.  First, he poured a bucket of water and oblong balloons over his head.  He followed this by drenching himself in rubbing alcohol, disguised in 2 Super Super Super Big Gulp travel mugs.  In this quantity, the fumes were dizzying.  Two clown noses dangled around his neck.  He played the harmonica through a microphone and placed a hand held electric sander into a pile of coffee inside one of the premade boxes.  It danced in circles as it droned, producing an intoxicating aroma of burning coffee and sawdust.  He wrapped a long black cord, soaked with the rubbing alcohol, around his neck.  He looked like he was wearing a contemporary ruff.  He then wrestled with a pile of wood in an effort to transfer it from a pile on the floor, into one of the wooden boxes.  We watched him make one bad decision after another.  I thought about the consequence of action.  As he stood, hugging the pile of wood while being asphyxiated by the rope around his neck, I felt conflicted between the desire to unwrap him and the desire to laugh at the absurdity of what he was doing.  I’d like to believe that my desire to intervene had been outweighed by my appreciation of the creative process, but in hindsight, I am not so sure.  I ask myself if I chose to passively observe these actions because this was a “performance” or because I have the advantage of knowing Jeff’s work well enough to believe that he was “in control”.  I also wonder if this choice was at all informed by Jeff’s physique.  Maybe his strong-man-esque stature was fooling me into believing that he was somehow invincible.  The fumes from the alcohol couldn’t hurt him.  He couldn’t possibly slip and fall on the spilled liquids on the floor.  This shifted my thinking to contemplate the shared human experience of struggling with the confines/potential of one’s own physicality and the inherent identities it takes on.

Jeff Huckleberry 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

Many of the actions Jeff engaged in either illuminated or exaggerated how cumbersome the body can be.  His physical transformation through the rainbow, however, was something his body was well suited for.  He stood, nude, inside the box fitting his legs in between the fallen wood he had previously wrestled with.  He dumped white paint over his on his head.  He repeats this action: red, blue, orange, purple…He turns for a moment.  The purple paint has trickled down his back in such a way that splits him in two.  He is half orange, half purple. He continues with green paint, then blue.  The watery paint moved over his form gracefully, pausing only as it gathered in his body hair.  This action referenced art history, both the disciplines of painting and sculpture.  The clown noses referenced ‘entertainment’.  Although Jeff wore the signature of a clown, the ultimate entertainer, used colors that were exciting to the eye, and cultivated an air of absurdity, the performance was far from entertainment.  After he finished this action with yellow, he turned on a pump inside of the box.   We watched as the brightly colored run-off paint turned into painter’s mud as it glided over the chaotic wooden structure.

He moved onto his next action that entailed filling a coffin shaped box with bottles of Miller High Life.  He filled another coffin shaped box (slightly shorter) with the oblong balloons.   He changed into a white shirt and pants that the residual paint left on his body seeped through.  This involuntary remnant left me to ponder our inability to fully control the imprints we make throughout our lives.  He raised the boxes, mildly reminiscent of the twin towers (an image difficult not to conjure in our post 911 society).   He broke the beer-filled box on the ground to release the beer.  He performed a cycle of libation, pouring 1 beer on the box and 1 beer over his own head.

Jeff Huckleberry 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

Nude once again, Jeff traveled the space hitting sticks, a ritual believed by the Ancient Filipinos to guide the departed to heaven.  He left his installation to hit sticks in front of the photo of Bob Raymond displayed on a wall across the room.  At this point, I had also left Jeff’s designated space, noticing that Marilyn was nearing the end of her action.  I did my best to situate myself between them, an attempt to fully experience both pieces simultaneously.  This action of mourning paid homage to Bob, and also established a physical space for Marilyn within Jeff’s piece.

Jeff proceeded to turn off his sound, Marilyn’s clock echoing throughout the room.   He transformed into a ghost while sitting inside of another box that faced the fountain he had previously made.  Black liquid seeped through the white fabric that covered his form and poured down from a point on his head.  He pulled the fabric off, revealing a tube inside of a bucket that continued to pump black water over his body. As the paint accumulated in the box beneath him he wore a black clown nose.  This image evoked decay, leading me to contemplate embalming rituals and notions around preservation of the body.  His clown nose suggested that this had all been a joke.  The performance ended with 2 fountains made from matter, Jeff’s body no different than the pile of wood positioned in front of him.

Like much of the work that unfolded earlier in the evening, Jeff’s actions created a dynamic tension around spectatorship and the importance of surrendering to process and allowing it to run its full course.

 

GJYD

Marilyn ends.  One glass fell.  The other glass followed several short minutes after the first.  The crashing of the glasses on the floor was quick, less sonically jarring than expected, and seemingly anticlimactic.  It was the moment when Marilyn left the table and disappeared into the shadows that my eyes started to burn, preparing to release tears.  Several moments later, Phelan made an announcement and Bathaus began to sound.  My experience of processing what had just happened felt rushed.  I wanted for more time, more silence.

Marilyn Arsem "Edge" 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

Before the water that spilled from Marilyn’s glasses even had time to begin the process of evaporation, 3 figures wearing Gene Simmons masks swarmed Marilyn’s remnants.  They played Ring-Around-the-Rosie around her table.  When they stopped, they each revealed a roll of small black plastic bags that had been concealed in their hoodies.  They pulled the bags one by one, littering the ground.  I was put off (to say the least) by what appeared to be a lack of regard for the space created by the previous artist.  It felt like I was watching someone dance on a grave.  The action felt incomplete since they didn’t finish pulling through the entire rolls of bags.  To inhabit a space where someone else had committed to a task with their full intention and presence just moments before, only to short-change their own action, was frustrating to witness.  This oversight is a reminder of the importance of a site-sensitive practice and the power that can come from mindful considerations of the totality of a context and duration, as demonstrated by Marilyn’s piece.

GJYD 2013

In its best light, GJYD’s action pointed towards the varying understandings of death. The impact of death is selective and there are great variances between grieving processes.   I faulted these performers for their insensitivity to Marilyn’s space, for their inability to acknowledge it as still being occupied, but perhaps they believed enough time had passed for the space to be activated by someone else.  I, like so many, had been with Marilyn from the beginning of the day, thoroughly invested in “Edge”.  GJYD’s action forced me to confront my own personal connections to Marilyn’s piece and the knowledge that NDPAE was dedicated to her late husband.  GJYD reminded me of the importance of practicing non-attachment even in the light of personal adversity.

 

In Hindsite…

Performance artists have been organizing their own opportunities to share work for years. In the late 90’s and early part of the 2000’s, performance art was a medium that seemed to require gentle introduction to audiences across the U.S.  It’s not theatre, not dance, not music, and though it is related to visual art, what is called “art” is a process, rather than the product of a creative process.  It is conceptual and often strange for new audiences.  What is the etiquette for witness engagement?  How do you know when a performance is over?  Should you applaud?  Answers to these questions vary greatly depending on individual pieces and different artists’ philosophies.  Historically, the responsibility of inventing structures for presenting this work has fallen on artists and performance art organizers.  Many of the early events and festivals that The Present Tense has organized employed strategies that were used at NDPAE.  Music was played between performances, other time-based media such as ephemeral installation and video were programmed alongside action-based pieces, and announcements were made to alert the audience when these action-based pieces had ended.

Within the context of NDPAE these strategies felt unnecessary, and at times, inappropriate.  The music often felt overwhelming and distracting.  The video program and announcements were in competition with the physical conditions of the space (announcements were difficult to hear and the videos were washed out by the natural light).  These details were initially frustrating, but have made me acknowledge how many changes the performance art scene in Boston has cycled through.  There has always been a practice of patience among Boston audiences, but I believe that there has been an even deeper shift in how we collectively experience performance art in this city. Tools and strategies once used to calm the audience, to “loosen them up” are not needed in the way they once were.  NDPAE illuminated the fact that audiences are more willing, equipped and wanting to engage in the dialogues that artists are putting forth without mediation.  Audiences are prepared to invest in works that take on longer durations.  This opens up potential to develop new experimental collaborations between creative minds connected through experiential practice.  Instead of educating audiences on what performance art “is” and how it can be viewed, artists and organizers can instead focus our energies on developing multifaceted content that inspires deeper thought through the work we present.

 

Marilyn Arsem @ NDPAE 2013 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Faith Johnson @ NDPAE 2013 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Travis McCoy Fuller @ NDPAE 2013 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Jamie McMurry @ NDPAE 2013 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

VestAndPage @ NDPAE 2013 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Jeff Huckleberry @ NDPAE 2013 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

* a reference to Travis McCoy Fuller’s piece created for Contaminate I in 2006. 

Technology Doomed for Obsolescence- Gabin Cortez Chance @ PT3

To begin our next series of Thematic Posts, “Technology Doomed for Obsolescence,” we are sharing a durational piece The Present Tense curated into our event, PT3 at Midway Studios in Boston in 2007. Gabin Cortez Chance installed himself at a desk in a small room in the performance space. He was surrounded by money strewn across the floor. On the desk, he had a pile of bank and loan statements, a computer, and amplified his cell phone so that the conversation he would have was heard throughout the space. He proceeded to call his bank and engage in a conversation that demystified the reality of what actually goes on with our money. Appropriately titled, “Gabin Takes on Banks,” this piece used humor to educate the audience and has gained a new relevance in the wake of the US Financial Crisis. “Gabin Takes on Banks” illuminates the absurdity involved in his bank’s lending structure, simultaneously addressing the obsolescence of human to human exchange via telephone.

Gabin Cortez Chance @ Present Tense 3 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

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

Rough Trade II Interviews: Joseph Ravens | Sandrine Schaefer

JOSEPH RAVENS

 

 

 

TPT:  How has being an artists influenced your curatorial work and being a curator influenced your artwork?

 

JR: As an artists who has participated in many festivals and exhibitions, I’ve seen a lot of work. I’ve seen it from the inside.  So I’m familiar with many styles and aesthetics and have a sense of what is commonplace or unique in the industry.  I understand an artists needs and when putting together a project I am able to interpret and more accurately fulfill an artists vision.  Basically, I want to make it as easy and painless as possible for the artist to present their work – free of unnecessary burdens or limitations (as much as possible).  Also, again in a practical sense, I have met a lot of amazing artists over the years and I have been able to call upon these resources and connections.  Defibrillator aims not only to support local artists, but to invigorate the local art community by bringing international and out of town artists to Chicago. My history as an artists has helped make this possible. 

In terms of how curating has influenced my work, I think of two things, First, I’m being exposed to much more work that ever before. I see a large number of performances and learn great deal from each and every one of them. This has refined my sensibility. I am able to envision and more accurately predict how a project might be perceived by a viewer. I notice trends and tendencies and human behavior and this awareness had filtered into my work. Secondly, my time is less fluid now that I’m administrating. So whereas in the past I may have spent a lot of time preparing and building a performance, now my work is more conceptual and DIY. I’ve embraced an aesthetic that is a little less perfect or labor intensive. I relish working outside my comfort zone and have enjoyed the fear and risk that are present as a result of working in this way. 

 

TPT: Do you have an ideal context that you like to make work in?

 

JR: No. Does this answer surprise you? I really enjoy contextualizing and recontextualizeing work to discover who it changes based on environment and modes of experience. What happens when I take a performance that was designed for the street and reinvent it for the gallery setting? What happens when I take a duration installation-baed work and show it in a theatrical venue? I’m curious about these questions and find pleasure in re-presenting work in various situations. 

Joseph Ravens "Mastication" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT:  Can you talk about the role of the personae in your work?

 

JR: I am myself in all of my work. Perhaps hyper versions, alter egos, or latent aspects of my self, but still me just the same. So even if I am embodying a giant lizard, I am still Joseph – just a primordial version of myself – myself in another diminution, perhaps. Certainly, my theatrical training has left its residue in my work, but I don’t think of my personas as entities other than myself with other motivations and other objective. Optimally, these characters are not only reflections of my self but the also embody aspects of humanity that the viewers can relate to and, possibly, recognize in themselves. 

 

TPT: In Mastication, you “regurgitate” a line of kale leaves. Can you talk about the intention behind this action? Did that intention change once you were in the piece?

 

JR: It’s funny how things evolve. I was asked to create a performance for an exhibition called “Flip/Flop”. The idea was to have work that started as one thing and then became another: transformation. As is often the case, my body is the primary site for research and experimentation so I started thinking about how my body can change something, like food to shit or water to urine.  I didn’t want to go there for this work, but began thinking oaf the mouth (and digestion) as a means to transform something. I actually made the tail for another project – one about evolution that embraced ideas I was having about vestigially. But I didn’t like that project and the costume was sitting unused in my studio. so I made ver fast, practical choices. In my work I often limit myself in some way – I cant move or I can’t see, or I can’t breathe. I knew I wanted to keep this element, but the costume wasn’t really restrictive. So I started thinking about the little arms that a Tyrannosaurus Rex have – that they are basically unusable. I decided not to use my hands for the performance. The intention didn’t change, necessarily, when I was in the piece, but because the kale leaves were closer to the floor, I had to use my hands to support my body when I bent down to chew them. I think my intention remained the same, though, it was just modified or adapted to fit the situation. Often I am inspired by nature or natural things. When I begin putting this work together I remember thinking about going to the zoo and watching animals eat – relating to them on this basic level and considering how it was similar or different from my own eating experience. This was the simple intuition behind the work and it was consistent throughout the performance. 

Joseph Ravens "Mastication" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT: What were some of your expectations/hopes (if any) of your audience?

 

JR:  Gosh, I don’t know that I had any.  I guess I always hope that I engage the audience.  I worry that they will get bored when I show very minimalist work that isn’t very dynamic.  This work was very linear.  There were very few (if any) peaks and valleys.  I’m a generous performer, but as I get older ad more seasoned, I just trust that this will happen.  Or, perhaps, I don’t care as much if it does.  

 

TPT: Were there any moments that surprised you?

 

JR: Yes, I’m always surprised about how difficult it is to chew for that long.  Kale is quiet fibrous, so it was a little more work than I intended.  I was sweating like a pig!

 

TPT:  How was performing in Boston Different than making work in Chicago?

 

JR:  I don’t think there were many differences in terms of geographical region.  However, the large venue (The Pozen Center) was a challenge and it was interesting to see performance situated in such a massive space.  The audience had to determine their physical relationship to the work- how close or far to be from the artists.  This was interesting to me on a behavioral level.  

 

TPT:  What imprints did Boston leave on you?

 

JR:  I have a perception of Boston as an intellectual city, and certainly, I feel that the students ad artists I interacted with were very smart  they think about their work.  I appreciate that.  I don’t know if I can accurately make this assumption, but I feel like Chicago artists might be more visceral- producing something that comes from impulse or instinct.  I felt like the Boston artists and the students were really contemplating their work- they were thoughtful.  I felt like they were eager to learn and experience something.  I felt a sense of community surrounding performance and found it exciting.  

 

TPT:  What is the role of repetition in this work?

 

JR:  I was thinking more about minimalism, but now that you mention it, repetition is often present in my work.  I think it represents life and labor.  Every day we brush our teeth and go to work and do the same thing every day.  Repetition is life.  

Joseph Ravens "Mastication" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT:  Did you fabricate the lizard costume?  What is the role of sculpture in your work?

 

JR:  Yes, I made the costume.  I’m always interested in modifying my body, misshaping it and playing with proportion.  Objects and sculptural costumes often limit my mobility or senses in some way- they often serve as restrictions.  This, too, is a comment on life.  I’m curious about how we can prosper or thrive in situations where we are limited.  I’m also interested in impact and seductions.  Sculptural elements are integrated in an effort to lure in the viewer.  These elements give them an access point that has a visual appeal so that they might stay a little while in my little world and reflect on what I might be trying to communicate.  

 

TPT:  Can you talk about the role of the grotesque in this piece?  What about humor?

 

JR:  I’m interested in that place between the grotesque and humorous.  I think the line is very thin.  Early in my career, I noticed that people saw humor in my work.  I didn’t try to insert it, it just happened.  So now, I embrace it.  I think my fondness for the grotesque or strange imagery comes from my appreciation of Butoh.  I’m interested in moments and things that are strange in a sort of anthropological or psychological way – how we react when we are confronted with this sort of imagery.  For me, humor is a coping mechanism.  I’m inspired by my own experiences when I see something weird and I laugh because I don’t know what else to think or do in that moment of discomfort.  I enjoy mystery and relish an opportunity to make the viewer wonder.

 

TPT:  What is inspiring you at the moment?

 

JR:  Fitness…America’s obsession with being lean, strong, and attractive.  Vanity and sacrifice.  Devotion and Dedication. Work and transcendence in regard to physical exercise and how this relates to performance art.  

 

TPT:  Who/What is influencing your work presently?

 

JR:  I am really interested in young/ emerging artists.  I’m looking at the choices they are making and wondering why they are making those decisions.  Young artists are in tune with popular culture or possibly, a particular subculture.  I’m looking at these young artists’ work and thinking about where it is coming from- what impulse are they responding to- what aspects of our culture they are influenced by and are thus representing.  I’m looking at a lot of proposals and a lot of artists’ websites so I am influences a lot by other artists and more so, how they are representing their work.  

 

TPT:  Any words of wisdom?

 

JR:  I noticed a transformation in my work when I began to make things that I wanted to see rather than work that I felt others wanted to see.  I make performances now for myself, to satisfy my impulses to make images or actions come to life.  I still consider the viewer, of course, but this takes a back seat.  I don’t know if the work is stronger now, but it comes from a more interesting place.  This quality is tangible and lends the work a texture that wasn’t there when I was creating perfromeacnes that I wanted others  to “like”.  I have found that if I like it and feel a connection to it, the work will resonate and be well received.

 

SANDRINE SCHAEFER

 

Philip Fryer: Can you expand of some of the objects and actions used in your piece?

 

SS: I work site-sensitively and have been creating most of my recent work outside of designated art contexts. Travel is essential to my practice. Second Skin was an exercise in merging multiple contexts through body memory. Every time the body inhabits a space, it collects traces. The objects, materials, and actions were some of my conscious collections from places I have traveled in the past year.

Small fans were ubiquitous in buses in the cities I traveled in Mexico, as well as dried arbol chillis. I wanted to ignite my audience’s sense of smell, so I tied the arbol chilis to small flesh colored fans to spread the faint aroma that I remember from the food markets in Oaxaca City. This piece was intended to be viewed from the street and/or inside one of the storefront windows.  I wanted to break the barrier of the “Performance space” and let the viewers know that they could enter, despite the way the space looked. I summoned the audience into one of the windows and invited the audience one by one to hold eye contact with me through the fan. As we connected with this intimate action, they were able to smell the chilis and given the sensation of feeling air on their face.
The other action I engaged in occurred in the 2nd window. I had arbol chilis in my shirt that fell to the ground as I peeled my shirt up. I repeated the action of peeling my shirt off of my body, reaching above my head and exposing my back. The back has become an important to my recent work. It is one of the strongest and vulnerable parts of the body. It is also a gender neutral. With each reach, I balanced on my tip-toes. As my heels lifted, soft sound could be heard. I recently went on a family vacation to Disney world. While I was there, I recorded t-shirts that I saw people wearing. I was intrigued by
1. What people chose to put on their bodies (their second skin)
and
2. The absurdity of these phrases taken out of context.
The sound piece is a recording of me reading the t shirt phrases as montone as possible, trying to neutralize each word.

Sandrine Schaefer "Second Skin" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

PF. How is the body a place?

 

SS: It contains the soul, the memory, it is home to billions of organisms, the kind of creatures that live on your eyelashes. It is an ecosystem.

 

PF: What memory/impression did Chicago leave on your body?

 

SS: I have done this action of reaching up on my toes countless times, both in pieces and in my daily life. It was particularly difficult in Chicago. Trying to maintain eye contact through the fan before this action threw off my balance. I had to learn how to negotiate how unstable my body felt in a way that I wasn’t expecting or used to.

 

PF: Would you say that your work has the “Boston flavor”? If so, how?

 

SS: Like I said earlier…places leave traces. I’ve been working in Boston for almost 15 years. It definitely has influenced my process and esthetic.

 

PF: One of your actions was interrupted, how did you deal with that? Is this a common occurrence during your work?

 

SS: This is where the word “performance art” can cause some trouble. If people think they are watching a “performance,” as defined by traditional performing arts disciplines, there can be the expectation that the audience’s role is to sit stagnant, waiting to be entertained. My work is just as much about my audience’s experience as my own, so I want them to experience my work in ways that feel authentic. When an audience member unplugged my fan during my performance, it was an indication that I was successful in this intent. This doesn’t happen to me very often, but when it has, I don’t judge it. It’s just another form of witnessing. I used it as an indicator to move on to the next action of my piece.

Object from Sandrine Schaefer's "Second Skin" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

PF:  How has being an artist influenced your curatorial work and being a curator influenced your artwork?

 

SS:  Both my artistic and curatorial practice work in symbiosis.  I believe that artists have the responsibility to champion the work that inspires them.  I find it helpful to my own practice to experience the work that other artists are making and hear what artists in other places are inspired by.  It keeps me motivated and my work current.  Joseph sums up the Artist/Curator relationship really well!   

 

PF: How has teaching impacted your practice?

 

SS: Teaching is like any collaboration in that it has forced me to identify, distill, and communicate processes and strategies to others. It has made me more patient, and it’s helped me look at experiential art differently.  One of the most challenging parts of being an artist is the balancing act between creating a consistency in your work while still being able to work outside of your comfort zone to ensure growth.   Having the opportunity to watch someone else work through their process has inspired me to push myself in my own practice.    

 

PF: Shorter, timed performances were absent in your work for a while, can you talk about returning to this format?

 

SS: I would disagree with that. Through Adventures in Being, I have done many shorter, pieces. My rule for that project is to stay in a space for as long as my body or the space will allow. Sometimes this means 45 minutes, sometimes this means 45 seconds. Regardless of how long my pieces actually end up being, I consistently approach my work with the intention that it will be a durational work. I always prepare to be invested in an action for the long haul.

 

PF: So, you consider your piece in Chicago durational?

SS: Yes. It challenged the parameters of real time.

 

PF: Do you consider your Adventures In Being project to be an active part of the piece you did in Chicago, or is it non-canon?

 

SS: Adventures influences all of my work. It was that project that took me to Mexico, and the other places I was channeling in the piece.

 

PF: Sound has always been a key element of your work, how has it evolved into the form its currently in?

 

SS: I collect sound in the same way that I use my sketchbook. It is a way that I process and remember a context. In my pieces, I want to reward the curious witness. Soft sound has been a material that I use for this. It’s like when child is having a tantrum or crying… they say that whispering to them will force them to quiet down so they can hear you. This interrupts the act of crying, shifts their paradigm. Soft sound is my way of creating an experience that shifts the audience’s paradigm.

 

Sandrine Schaefer "Second Skin" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

PF: Can you talk about the choice to use nudity in the context of Defibrillator?

 

SS: I wanted to expose my back. One of Joseph Ravens’ inspirations for opening Defibrillator came from an experience where he was censored for using nudity in a storefront art space.  I respect that his response to being censored was to take action and create the kind of art space that he would want to work in and is sharing it with other artists. It’s a great example of someone “being the change”.  Choosing to use nudity in the windows was a nod to Defibrillator’s story.  Seeing a body (especially a nude one) behind glass also conjures ideas around voyeurism, creating dialogues around the role of the viewer and the action of witnessing.  

 

PF: What are you studying?  What’s inspiring you?

 

SS: I just finished curating an exhibition called INSIDER/OUTSIDER that featured artifacts from live art pieces made in non art contexts. I have been looking at a lot of current work that is being made outside of spaces designated for art viewing.  I am interested in the interstices between art and everyday life.  I have been reading anthropological and philosophical texts on how people experience space, contemporary theories on the new/ modern body and the collective body, and following fitness tribes that advocate for group movement practices that navigate the natural environment.  I am also studying  Sadhu Ascetic practices and how this informs cross cultural understandings of the body, place and time.   Another way teaching has influenced my practice…it has inspired me to read more!

 

PF: What’s next for you?

 

SS: In February, I will be traveling to India with Daniel S. DeLuca to research and make work around the context of the Kumbh Mela!

Sandrine Schaefer "Second Skin" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

Rough Trade II Interviews: Daniel S. DeLuca | Claire Ashley

CLAIRE ASHLEY

Claire Ashley 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

TPT:  Did your piece for Rough Trade II have a title?

CA: The sculpture is called “Ruddy Udder” for the performance piece “Ruddy Udder Dance.”

TPT:  How did you decide on the form of the inflatable?  What about color?

CA: I made it originally for ACRE in Steuben, WI, which is a very rural area with a lot of farms, dairy cows, and old farm machinery. So when I was making the piece I was thinking of the form as having a relationship to both a cow shape and the old rusted combine harvesters that dot the landscape there. The twelve performers inside the piece during the performance become the legs of the cow, or the wheels of the combine harvester, moving the piece through the field.

And the color was chosen straight from my palette of spray paint. I wasn’t terribly deliberate about my color choice but I had to paint this piece when it was deflated because of its scale compared to my studio so I like that the change in process made marks that are suggestive of aerial landscape imagery or topographical maps. It was a great discovery.

Claire Ashley "Ruddy Udder Dance" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT:  What was the process like for choosing the song and the dance?  Is country line dancing one of your secret skills?’

CA: I decided on country music and line dancing again because of the relationship to rural farmland and performing in the landscape and I choose the specific song “good time” because it wasn’t about god or love but resonated more with my philosophy on life. And in a more general way it related more to my interest in high-energy, ecstatic dancing experience.

TPT: In your piece, you had 12 people country line dance inside of a large inflatable that you had made.  You chose to be outside of the inflatable.  How did this choice to actively witness instead of directly participating inform your piece?

CA: Good question! I think I’m always seeking visual pleasure. I am a formalist at heart, so I like to be able to see the complete visual and how it’s working as an experience when being danced in – I think it also helps me make the next piece when I know how it gets used. I like the more directorial role too.

TPT:  Can you talk about the intention behind your piece?  Did that intention change?

CA: My original intention was to create an absurdly playful visual in the landscape using extreme scale, abstraction, and energetic movement. And yes moving it to Boston and into an interior space changed things a lot and I’m not totally persuaded by my response to this different context (see below.)

TPT:  You created this piece previously in another location.  Why did you choose to create this piece in Boston?

CA: I was excited by the idea of travelling this moveable object with legs to the east coast. The history and context of Boston is something I wish I had had more time respond to for sure, but I do feel like I responded to my sense of heading back to the old country – which happens every time I come east – so in that respect I liked the idea of travelling across time and space and thinking of the origins of line dancing and America as a direct link to my country (Scotland) and ancestry as well. Travelling and moving people and luggage has been a recurring theme in my work over the years where I am thinking about forms that metaphorically contain and protect my kids as we move between Scotland and Chicago. I have made a number of pieces (most notably ‘Mobile Home’ from 2008 and ‘Hoose Haul’ from 2010) that grapple with this image/form. I think this piece “Ruddy Udder” exemplified my relationship to Scotland – a big clunky, colorful, plastic form energetically filling an old historically weighted, subtly colored context. 

TPT: How did the context of the Pozen Center/Boston inform this version of the piece?

CA: I was excited about this space because of its immense scale and the idea of performing in, leaping about in, and filling a historically interesting interior space normally used for more theatrical events (as opposed to an exterior landscape as it was originally designed for.) I liked that there were lights and a sound system to play with.

TPT: Were there any moments that surprised you?

CA: It was a lovely surprise to be able to black light the piece and get an entirely different visual. I wish I had changed the music and the dance to get more of a dark internal club feel to achieve more of the high-energy ecstatic dancing experience I’ve been playing with lately – I’ll just have to come back and try another version.

Claire Ashley "Ruddy Udder Dance" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

TPT: What were some of your expectations/ hopes (if any) of your audience?

CA: I hoped that they were surprised by the performance after watching the lengthy period of inflation. I hope they were amused and able to pay appreciate both the absurdity of the activity and the beauty of the surface of the object. I was really happy when the audience got into the piece after the event to see what it looked like from inside.

TPT: You collaborate frequently.  Can you share your thoughts on collaborative practices?

CA: Yes collaboration has become, over the last 5 years or so, an incredibly important aspect of my practice – in fact without collaboration I would not be making the more performance-based sculptural prop work I am today. I find that the problem solving implicit in collaboration transports me from my own internal headspace, extending my material knowledge and critical thinking in ways that I can never anticipate, only to be folded back into my individual practice at a later date. For example Mark Jeffery and Judd Morrissey assigned me the task of making large-scale sculptural props for a performance piece they were working on. The props had to be replicas of the “Winged Figures of the Republic” sculptures at the Hoover Dam and the wings had to attach to the performers body somehow. So this external problem forced me to consider inflatables as a lightweight sculptural prop that was attached to the body through a backpack. I love Rebecca Horns’ work but until that project I had not seriously considered making my own sculptural props for performance. Working with Mark has really changed that.

TPT:  Can you talk about the role of absurdity in your work?

CA: Well it’s way more entertaining than abstraction! Life is short and art can often take itself way too seriously. I have always been interested in play and humor and have found it to be a great leveler – making the work available to a wider audience. However the specificity of absurdity is wonderful in that it is grounded in the odd and weird end of humor which I like – a little bit of a dark twist.

TPT:   Your work explores the interstices of painting, sculpture, and performance art.  Do you feel that this has made your work more or less accessible to certain audiences?

CA: More accessible in many ways I think. I find that the ‘high art’ abstraction I love to create is digested more easily when framed in playful or absurd ways. I also feel that there is a similar revealing to particular audiences of the possibilities for performance art and sculpture when framed in this layered way – again humor opens many doors.

However it also limits how I ‘fit’ in the art world. It means that certain ‘art’ doors are closed to me. I’m not necessarily seen as a painter, a sculptor, or a performer. And I sometimes think my interest in play and humor and the inflatable form is not seen as intellectually rigorous in certain circles. My work is thought of as too flamboyant or out there which is unfortunate.

TPT:  Do you have an ideal context that you like to make work in?

CA: I guess I am most interested in spaces/places where the context really allows me to create a form that is responsive.  But I like the gallery context as much as the exterior object in the landscape, or architecturally site-specific context – each one is it’s own challenge and I love a challenge!

TPT: How was performing in Boston different from making work in Chicago?

CA: Well it was hard to get a sense of that since we were there for such a short time, however, I did love meeting such an extraordinarily generous and welcoming performance community.

TPT: What imprints did Boston leave on you?

CA: Riding the ancient T. Watching the yachts and rowing teams on the Charles. Getting to know a small but very lively performance art scene

TPT: What is inspiring you at the moment?

CA: Wigs, hairpieces, bangs, moustaches, among other things!!

TPT: What are you studying?

CA: The architectural spaces of deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum and the Chicago Cultural Center galleries in order to build site specific architectural intervention pieces for both spaces.

TPT:  Who/What is influencing your work presently?

CA: Katharina Grosse, Jessica Stockholder, Eva Hesse, Elizabeth Murray, Richard Tuttle, Gerhard Richter, Robert Rauschenberg is always an influence – not to mention wigs, hunks of meat, bodies, bugs, moustaches, houses, airbags, bounce houses, etc.

TPT: What’s next?

CA:  I have a small show in Milwaukee at “Bahamas Biennial” in December and I’m preparing for a Salon Series show and lecture event in the spring here in Chicago (this is a dinner, exhibit, and lecture event with members of the public from all walks of life).

TPT: Any words of wisdom?

CA: Spend time experimenting. Spend time playing. Take the unknown path that may demand failure as much as success. It’s a longer road but one that gets your work to a place full of integrity and unexpected results.

Inside shot of Claire Ashley's "Ruddy Udder" sculpture 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

 

 

DANIEL S. DeLUCA

 RKSR+CNL

 

Daniel S. DeLuca RKSR CNL from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

TPT: You have an interesting process for making work. Can you describe it and specifically the process you went through for realizing this work?

DD: The work I did in Chicago was part of an ongoing project called the Roaming Kiosk for Semiotics Research and the Creation of New Language  (RKSR+CNL). My first decision was to use the context of Chicago and Rough Trade II as an opportunity for developing this project.  I also knew that I wanted to create the work in public then give a presentation about the process in the gallery.  That was the basic structure that I followed.  

One of the benefits of the project form is that it allows for multiple iterations and approaches to a subject.  The RKSR+CNL has two distinct parts. The first invites the public to share experiences they feel are unique to contemporary life and creates a pictorial reference for them using tablet technology.  The second part investigates tautology, interactivity and reflexivity, and the nature of signs through live actions and visual presentations. As a result, I felt like I had room to experiment in Chicago and I worked with both parts of the project. 

 

TPT: Instead of using Defibrillator as the context for your work, you chose to take your piece all over Chicago. Can you talk about this choice?

DD: I have spent a fair amount of time implementing actions outside of the gallery context.  It is what I enjoy and prefer to do, though I don’t disregard the gallery either, I see it as another context to consider.  Typically, I use with the gallery as a place for presenting images and documents from actions, and as a venue for discussing ideas around the work.  I enjoy seeing other artists make work in galleries, especially ones that have really developed their practice around it. However, I often wonder what most artists would do and how their work would be affected if they made it outside of a gallery context.  I like to consider my options for working with spaces. I shop for context. The spaces within the city of Chicago as a whole create more opportunities for me than thinking within the frame of a single ‘gallery’. The world is a gallery!  

Audience/viewers are also a consideration for me. I like audiences that are unsolicited.  There is a different dynamic at play when you have an audience versus when you have viewers or witnesses. An audience comes with an expectation. A viewer in public has little to no expectation of what they happen upon. The former creates a pressure to ‘make art,’ while the latter positions the work as a question: what am I seeing? Is this art? It rests on the threshold between life and art. Currently, I prefer the latter.   I’m also interested in having larger numbers of people see what I am doing.  I like being in urban environments surrounded by people.

 

TPT: What was your favorite interaction from Chicago?

DD: The book stacks at the U.C Regenstein Library were particularly interesting. It was like searching through an analogue internet! 

 

TPT: Do most of the experiences people share with you include experiences with technology? Any other common threads that you’ve noticed?

DD: Yes, many people gravitate towards contemporary technologies when they think of aspects of life that are unique today.  I haven’t asked enough people to feel like there are trends I could identify. In fact, only two people shared their experiences with me while I was Chicago. Talk about terrible data collecting!!! The project has shifted from being focused on an aspect of ‘data collecting’ to illustrating a contrast in the relationship between questions, methods, and the practice of research. I like the idea of setting up methods for conducting research that nullify the perceived potential of the work.  

 

TPT:  Has RKSR+CNL illuminated specific ways in which language is being changed by technology?

DD: No, not directly. It is a great question to think about and I’m glad that the project at least points in that direction. I think it’s important to get people thinking about these kinds of things. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who are doing interesting research on the topic.  

 

TPT: How do you feel wearing a piece of technology?

DD: It’s definitely an attention getter and it can be tiring to constantly have peoples’ attention.  It would be nice if it was more seamlessly integrated into fashion and easier to control. I think it would take a little of the edge off of the social interaction.  On the other hand it’s fun to see people react and to think about wearable technology. I’m interested in the potential of people communicating with others in their immediate environment, people that they don’t know but share a common interest with.  Technology has the potential to be a great social mediator in that regard. It also shows us how much we fear social interaction in a public setting.  I think it would be fun to see people interacting in their own bodies and voices in addition to the ones that they project through the internet. 

 

from Daniel S. DeLuca's presentation on "RKSR+CNL" at Defibrillator Gallery 2012

Daniel S. DeLuca "RKSR+CNL" 2012

TPT: Can you talk about how you felt when someone scanned you? Did you feel objectified? Does that bother you?

DD: No, I wanted to be scanned. It was a social litmus test. I have a fascination with wanting to know about people who I see on the street, wondering what they do, their interests and experiences.  It stems from wanting to ask people questions I have about one subject or another.  The Internet is a great source for information but human expression and facial recognition is also important for communication. Getting scanned was a highlight! For me it was a sign that people are open to communicating and interacting in new ways! 

 

TPT: Can you talk about the intention behind your actions? Did that intention change once your were implementing the piece?

DD: The action at Millennium Park was simple: standing, photographing, and scrolling with my pinkie for 2 hours (one hour in two spots). The other part of my process was roaming through the city, photographing, and going inside public institutions or retail businesses. I didn’t want to solicit people into the work. I think it would have been off-putting for some people if I had tried to stop them and engage them in something they may or may not have wanted to be a part of. Personally, I think there are more creative ways to approach people and conversations. 

No, my intention didn’t changed.  I didn’t have a strict approach to it. I gave myself room and flexibility.  I wanted to suggest things about technology, communication, and language. I’m pointing at them, trying to understand them through a common use of them. 

 

TPT: During your presentation at Defibrillator, you included some digital collages of images that you have collected. This was new? Do you anticipate continuing in this direction?

DD: I’m starting to think more about how to utilize the images I capture in the process of making the work as a way to compliment the ideas that I’d like to express. Yes, it’s relatively new, and yes, I’ll continue to think about it. 

 

Daniel S. DeLuca "RKSR+CNL" 2012

TPT: What are some of your expectations/ hopes of your audience?

DD: It was important to me that viewers in Chicago saw me wearing a tablet computer and using it in a way that was completely different than what they were used to seeing. The people who read through the question on the tablet got something else from the experience. I would hope that they gave some thought to what they felt was an experience they have had that they think is unique to contemporary life.  The audience at Defibrillator experienced  my work through the presentation.  In that situation the audience has an opportunity to better understand my process as well as some of the theory behind the subject.  

 

TPT: Were there any moments that surprised you?

DD: I was surprised when I found Cloud Gate as the site for another action. It was too appropriate to pass up. 

 

Daniel S. DeLuca "RKSR+CNL" 2012

 

Daniel S. DeLuca "RKSR+CNL" 2012

 

Daniel S. DeLuca "RKSR+CNL" 2012

 

TPT: Why did you choose to create this work over the duration of 6 days? What is the role of repetition in this work?

DD: It was a way of gaining access to different situations and approaches. I feel like this project has been comprised of many sketches. I’ve given myself permission to experiment with how the content, and subject take form. The duration also gives more people access to the work. 

TPT:  What’s next?

DD: India and the Kumbh Mela! 

 

 

 

 

 

Rough Trade II Interviews: Marilyn Arsem | Meredith and Anna

MARILYN ARSEM

Marilyn Arsem “still.missing” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

TPT: How did you find performance art?  How did performance art find you?

MA: I think it found me…  I remember being completely taken by written accounts of Happenings when I was in high school, and as a result we created our own, a group of us collaborating and combining different media. I remember even then being interested in real time rather than in narratives, in actions with materials rather than in plots, in visual images rather than in characters, in engaging with the audience rather than building a fourth wall.  So it made sense to align myself with the visual and performance art and new media communities.

TPT: You have an interesting process for making work.  Can you describe it and specifically the process you went through for realizing this work? 

MA: I try to follow certain instructions to myself:…  to do something that I have never done before, to work with the specifics of the space, to consider the context of the event, to make use of what is easily available, to not make unreasonable demands on the institution hosting the work, to tread lightly and leave no marks, to operate from my current state of mind, to pay attention to what I am paying attention to, to not be afraid to fail.  I remind myself that I am not obligated to entertain the viewers, that I can ask questions rather than provide answers, and that all I can really do is respond to what I am encountering at that time, from where I am in that moment.  It is a conversation, an inquiry, a process of discovery, rather than a statement or position.

 

Marilyn Arsem "still.waiting" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

TPT: How did you arrive at the decision to work in Defibrillator’s windows?  How did this context inform your piece?

MA: I hadn’t expected that the windows would be available, since I understood from the website that they were curated separately.  So it was only when I arrived on Thursday night that I heard that it was possible to work in them.   I was especially interested in the fact that the audience moved in and out between the two windows; that there were actually two separate windows to use.

 

Marilyn Aresm "still.waiting" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

TPT: Can you talk about the flour?

MA: It was a practical choice – I wanted the floor to be as white as the walls – I suppose I was influenced as well by the floor of the gallery being so newly painted white.  But really I just wanted the visual of white.  Later I thought that it suggested snow or clouds.  And I knew that flour would be easy to get in quantity, as I was told that there was a grocery store nearby…  and finally, I knew that it would be relatively benign to lie in it.

TPT: Can you talk about the blue chair?

MA: The choice of a chair descending occurred in stages.  First I thought of something rising, but then decided that something descending would be a better choice.  I am not sure why I decided that, though I could say that I have done a number of works where some object has risen into the air, and so I thought doing the reverse might be interesting.    And it felt right…

Then the question was what should descend.   Fruit?  Shoes?  Nothing seemed right.  Sabri, an artist who used to live in Boston, but is currently studying in Chicago,  suggested ‘furniture,’ and then I thought – of course, a chair.  Choosing the color took longer, but then light blue seemed right.  Later I thought of it being a reverse sky…

A chair might be considered a body, or something waiting to hold another body…  Or the descending chair might be read as ‘Deus Ex Machina.’   However, when the chair arrives it is empty.  Still waiting.  Something is missing.

But these choices – white, flour, chair, blue, are really just intuitive choices.  My understanding of them, or explanation of them, comes hours or days later, and most often in reflection on the work, after the performance happens.

 

Marilyn Aresm "still.waiting" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

TPT:  Is there a relationship between these objects and the broader scope of your work?

MA: I am not sure how I might answer this question…  I have had chairs in performances before  – a small red chair high in a tree; a chair made of ice in which the audience sat; a red chair placed daily in the landscape to witness sunrise…   I consider an empty chair as a very interesting site – an offer, a place waiting to be occupied, or evidence of something or someone who is missing…

TPT: Can you talk about the intention behind the actions?  Did that intention change once your were in the piece?

MA: I don’t think that I have a way to talk about intention.  I had an image of myself lying face down, in white.  And so I created that.  I wanted to be lying down, not engaging with people.  But I did want something to change, to arrive, to offer some other possibility, even though it was unfulfilled.

TPT: What were you thinking about during your piece?

MA: Haha, well actually I was trying not to think about how painful it was, how I wished that I had made a test for myself about what might be a more comfortable position to occupy.  But, I also had wanted to simply land in the window, on the flour, as if I had fallen from the sky.  And so that is how I ended in that position – I more or less fell into it.

TPT: Where were you during your piece?

MA: Breathing.  Listening.  Lowering the chair.

 

Marilyn Aresm "still.waiting" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

TPT: What were some of your expectations/ hopes (if any) of your audience?

MA: In this context I had many fewer expectations of the audience than usual.  In my mind, I was simply an image that slowly transformed over time.  I wanted them to see me, to forget about me as they watched other performances, and then look again to see the chair slowly descending.

TPT: How was performing in Chicago different from making work in Boston?

MA: I rarely make work in Boston.  Being in Chicago was a pleasure, not the least being that I spoke the same language as the residents.  I could anticipate how they might view the image.   Oh, and I could find my materials more easily, negotiate paying for them with ease…

TPT: Can you talk about the process of titling your pieces?  Why/ how did you choose the title “Still, waiting”?

MA: still. waiting

My computer resists that title, trying to make the S and W capital, or change the period to a comma.  It resists, trying to follow rules…

But choosing a title happens for me after the work.  It is a way to give a clue to a way of thinking about or looking at the work.  More information.  And so in this case I am trying to accurately identify what was happening to me at the time, and attempting to name that experience, or at least suggest other information in order to have a more in depth reading of the work.

 

Marilyn Aresm "still.waiting" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

MEREDITH AND ANNA

Meredith And Anna 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

TPT: Did your piece have a title?

A: Part of our performance method is about reacting un-rehearsed to the situations that our actions create, so though our projects always have working titles that we use to discuss the piece previous to the performance – we don’t title the work until we show documentation of it.

M: The title of the piece is “Red Flag”.

TPT: How did you find performance art? How did performance art find you?

M: I signed up for Performance Art I thinking I was taking an acting class, I had been involved in a local improv group. My performance art professor Mat Wilson (Industry of the Ordinary) was quite dissatisfied with this historical perspective. Performance art found me when, once educated by Wilson) I started inserting my work into the public sphere and was uncharacteristically embraced by the public for the medium.

A: I’m pretty sure I have always made performance art. I just didn’t know what I was doing until I started working with Industry of the Ordinary. In high school I would do things like hook up a Karaoke machines in the car and drive around picking up people to sing with my friends Kyle and I. I went to art school as a painter until I found I could approach activities I already love, like singing Karaoke in the car, aesthetically and construct artistic experiences.

TPT: How did you meet? How long have you been making work together?

A: We met eating take-out from Sultans Market on the floor of the Happy Collaborationist Exhibition Space. Meredith was a part of Before Cake, After Dinner – a performance art group that we exhibiting showing at Happy C.

M: I feel like it’s important to note that I hate everyone upon first meeting them but in the same breath I am capable of falling in love. I fell in love with Anna and Hadley of the Happy Collaborationists … they also let me smoke inside.

A: Meredith joined the Happy Collaborationists curatorial collective three years ago and we have been collaborating on our artistic practice together for about a year.

TPT: Can you describe your process for collaborating?

A: Currently we are in a bar; this is admittedly an important element of our work.

M: I wouldn’t consider myself a possessive girlfriend, however, I “collaborate with”/contact Anna… how many times a day?

A: …Twenty or thirty, depending on what we have going on, considerably more often then my boyfriend. I think where you really see this in our work is with the lack of formality in relating to one another when performing, we laugh when things are funny, we openly discuss how to cope with situations that arise; constant communications is part of our relationships and our art practice.

TPT: Do you have individual practices? Can you talk about them?

M: We are currently concentrating on our collaborative practice; neither of us has made solo work in 3-5 years.

TPT: How did the context of the Pozen Center inform your work?

 

Meredith And Anna "Red Flag" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

M: We hated the Pozen Center. We were absolutely thrilled to be presenting work at Mass Arts and we were excited to be working in a space of such importance but found the space physically overwhelming.

A: I was terrified of the Pozen Center, as soon as we walked in. I was terrified of the stage and the grandeur. We usually work with actions that can insert themselves into a pre-existing context and the Pozen Center demanded that we make ourselves the center of attention.

M: If we had not been in the Pozen Center we would not have executed this piece this way, the scale of the room forced us to work with height, the insurance restrictions of the College forced us to change the structural formation of the piece and the theatrical lighting forced us to interact with set and audience in a way that we usually avoid. We now love the Pozen Center.

TPT: How did you communicate with one another in this piece?

M: When we are performing we do not take on any characters of personas. When we laugh its real, when we swear it’s real, when we fall its real.

A: When were perform we have fluid conversations, we work thought problems and make jokes, we pretty much discus things exactly the same way we would if we weren’t doing something ridiculous.  Anything else would be acting.

TPT: How did you decide on the actions and imagery in this piece?

M: I was on an OK Cupid date, and it was going great. The guy had been a curator or something in St. Louis, which gave me a false sense of security of what I could or could not talk about. Due to nerves I had skipped dinner and we were meeting for drinks … after a few cocktails things were going so well that we moved on to a restaurant. At some point I said “reality television is really important to me”, to which Jude said “You just said ‘reality television is really important to me’ RED FLAG.”  I assumed he was making a joke and continued to discus my love of all things high and low culture. I never heard from Jude again, but since then I have had many conversations of how I define Red Flags, as well discussions about all of the attributes that make me a red flag.

A: Meredith is one of the funniest people I have ever met and she tells this story really well, more importantly I have made her tell this story to so many people who are much more important than us, so for me the image of the red flag has shifted from a portrait of Meredith to a portrait of our ridiculous relationship. When we arrived at the Pozen center we found these poles that were used to hang lights, they were reminiscent of flag poles and I immediately climbed to the top of them. They were wonderful objects and it became pretty obvious that we needed to raise ourselves as red flags on them. We wanted to present a third pole in the piece, a place holder for the audience to physically or intellectually position themselves in and consider how they could stand beside us. The joined triangular structure was the result of us worrying the College, they wouldn’t let us do the piece without the brace which turned out to be a win/lose situation, we lost the direct reference to a flag pole but it the end it strengthened the sculptural footprint of the piece when we were not performing.

M: I also got that one guy to take off this shirt while he was building it.

TPT: Do you often use endurance actions in your work?

A: Often, it’s hard to end performance art and if a work doesn’t have a built in ending it’s the only decision that makes since, beyond that it connects directly to our life styles – we both work multiple jobs, run Happy Collaborationists and still try to make art. Our existence is a practice of endurance and we don’t quit anything until our bodies or minds give out.

M: Our practice is also based on a concept or idea of generosity. What can we give the audience? What can we give each other? It only makes sense to do any of these things for as long as humanly possible.

TPT:. Can you talk about the color red?

M: Red is a big color; it’s bold and demands attentions.

A: I don’t think we started working with red for the sake of aesthetics, rather we were interested in several objects in our culture that others had decided to make red: the red carpet, the red flag and the red solo cup. We selected aspects of everyday existence that we were interested in and they all happened to red, because of that I think we have started to really consider this color aesthetically. It took us about five hour of shopping to find the “right” red shirts for this piece

TPT: Can you talk about the intention behind the actions? Did that intention change once your were in the piece?

 M: Our intent with this piece was to fail. It was important to insert ourselves symbolically as a flag, but it was equally important to carry out an action that would ultimately become physically impossible.  Our intention did not change because we successfully failed.

 A: I believe that the in-time transformation of the piece happened in its second occurrence. When Meredith and I started, we were both already physically exhausted. After I helped her to the top of the pole, I could not quite reach the top myself. After we had both fallen, it because obvious that we could not continue to simultaneous execute this sculpture – so we decided to reformat the action and she began to lift me the top over and over again, until I was no longer physically able to grip the bar that was holding me up. She was still standing by me, but we had to combine our strengths to keep the sculpture alive.

 

Meredith And Anna "Red Flag" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT: What is Happy Collaborationists?

M: Happy Collaborationists is our collaborative curatorial practice, we use it to support other artists working in performance, installation and media arts.

TPT: What are the blue wigs all about?

A: Everyone always asks about Happy C’s wigs, and that’s the point. They are goofy and approachable, we work with conceptual art, sculptural performance and a lot of other forms of artwork that make people uncomfortable about asking questions and engaging with us. The blue wigs started as a wacky stunt that had a lot to do with the fact the we all looked good in blue wigs, but they remained because over and over again someone who wants to ask a question about the artwork can’t do so until they are already having a conversation with us, and no one has ever been awkward about walking up and asking about the wigs, or asking to get their picture taken with us. It’s not a performance it’s more of a scheme.

TPT: What were some of your expectations/ hopes (if any) of your audience?

M: That they don’t feel trapped. I want our audience to make their own incredibly conscious decisions as to what the piece means to them, and how they chose or choose not to interact with a work. Ultimately I am a looking for acceptance.

A: I hope that an audience engages and interprets our actions from their own perspective, once you make a work it become autonomous and I believe that any individuals perspective on a piece that I do is equally valued to my own.

TPT: Were there any moments that surprised you?

A: Yes and no, we never know how our interaction will unfold in a work, so we never know exactly what to expect. When you don’t have precise expectations, it’s hard to be surprised.

 

Meredith And Anna "Red Flag" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT: How was performing in Boston different from making work in Chicago?

M: We couldn’t find a liquor store anywhere.

TPT: What imprints did Boston leave on you?

M: This was our first time engaging in an artist exchange and we are grateful for the friendships we have made and are inspired by the work of these Boston based artists.  We are blown away by the generosity of the individuals we have met.

TPT: Can you talk about the duration of this work?

M: We waited until a crowd gathered and then reacted to our physical limitations.

A: We performed the work once and were exhausted. After a recovery period we felt as though we could continue the action, so we re-executed the piece. We performed until I could no longer grip the pole and we had to stop.

TPT: What is inspiring you at the moment?

M: The ability to laugh at ourselves and knowing when to laugh at each other. We make work about things we can confidently answer about one another lives and actions.

TPT: What’s next?

THE CALENDAR!

TPT: Any words of wisdom?

M: A Snickers in not a meal…

A: except when it is.