Present Tense’s 13 of 2013

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

 

 

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

Jamie McMurry "Flawed" 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

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

 

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

 

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

 

Marilyn Arsem "With the Others" at Odd Spaces 2013

Marilyn Arsem “With the Others” at Odd Spaces 2013

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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JV “Poach” 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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! 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston infiltrates Chicago

Last weekend, 6 artists from Boston traveled to Chicago to make work at Defibrillator Gallery as part of ROUGH TRADE II; a Boston Chicago artist exchange.  Here is video documentation of the pieces that they created.  In the coming months, The Present Tense will be posting extended interviews with each artist, giving them the opportunity to talk about the intention behind their work, their experience with the exchange, how the context informed their pieces, etc.  Stay tuned!

 

 

Philip Fryer “TREE/POOL/SKY” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Sandy Huckleberry “Fishing” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

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

Sandrine Schaefer “SecondSkin” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

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

Jeff Huckleberry “Fourth Rainbow” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Stillness Series- Daniel S. DeLuca

Sitting With Cloud Gate


October 21st, 2009, 7am- 5pm

Chicago, Millennium Park

On October 21st, 2009, Boston-based artist, Daniel S. DeLuca sat in front of Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor in Millennium Park in Chicago from the hours of 7 am-5pm.    This was part of a series of actions in response to public art that DeLuca was working on at the time.  Concentrating on the action of deep breathing, with eyes half closed, the artist observed his thoughts and bodily sensations.  DeLuca considers this a process of stillness.  This is a process that involves only the essential movements.  He states “Physically, we will never be still, although we may perceive moments of slow and subtle movement, the world underneath us is moving, and the world is in yet another movement orbiting the sun, and so on and so forth. Striving for the physical concept of stillness is a way to access acuity of sensation, observation, and experience.  This acuity is important for most of my work; it focuses me on my actions and environment.”

“Most people who visited the sculpture would behave in similar fashions; they would be seduced by the brilliant reflective quality of the sculpture and proceed to take pictures of themselves in it. Most interactions only lasted a few minutes before viewers left. I interpreted the sculpture quite literally. For me it indicated both inward and outward reflection: reflection on the individual, and reflection on the whole (city).  I wanted to encourage the idea of spending more time with Cloud Gate and to do what I felt like it was asking its audience to do. I spent a full working day, sitting with my eyes half open, reflecting on and observing, my mind, sensorial systems, and the context of cities like Chicago.” – Daniel S. DeLuca

 

Daniel S. DeLuca is a Boston based artist, and current Mobius member, who uses formal techniques from performance/conceptual art to realize his work. His projects explore structures and concepts related to politics and globalization, art, and psycho-geography. His work has been shown nationally and internationally in the context of private and public spaces, galleries, and performance art festivals. Daniel is currently developing artistic research projects that investigate semiotics and the creation of new language, and large-scale reoccurring events around the world.

all photos by Celia Marks

 

Interview with Daniel S. DeLuca

In early March, Art Fair season hit New York City, causing a frenzy of artists and galleries getting their work ready for prospective buyers.  Grace Exhibition Space, a gallery devoted to showing performance art in New York decided to wrangle their resources and participate at Fountain Art Fair.  In Grace’s “Go Big or Go Home” fashion, all bases were covered.  They teamed up with Boston’s Mobius Artist Group to organize performances to happen throughout the day and then Grace Space invited other performance artists to make performances in the evening.  I had the pleasure of participating and witnessing performance art taking over a space traditionally reserved for product-based artwork.  This event was appropriately named, “Infiltrate”.

A piece that stood out throughout the 4 days of “Infiltrate,” was Daniel S. DeLuca’s “demur”.  DeLuca, a Boston-area and Mobius artist, installed himself in front of the space where galleries had created temporary spaces on Pier 66 in Manhattan.  DeLuca seemed unassuming, blending into a pile of scrap metal and a forgotten caboose.  He held a sledgehammer in one hand, standing in front of a steel plate he foraged from the immediate environment.  A second sledgehammer was attached to the plate.  A few feet away, he installed a “Contract for Sale” for this performance piece.  For 8 hours for 3 consecutive days, DeLuca repeatedly hit the sledgehammers together, building a steadfast and cacophonous addition to the sonic landscape.

The Present Tense recently interviewed DeLuca about this piece, his process and practice.  Enjoy!

photo by Sandrine Schaefer

TPT:  Who are you?

DD:  Great question.

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

DD:  It kicked me in the face one day during a class I was taking with Denise Marika at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Denise was in the middle of making the distinction between performance art and theater and she suddenly  stood up from her chair, raised it over her shoulder, then forcefully threw it into the floor.  It was at that moment that the concept of performance art became clear to me. Her action had real force and impact. She wasn’t pretending.  Looking back it was a powerful moment.  The whole platform of performance art practice really opened up in my mind.  I saw the potential of the medium and it felt honest to how I wanted to make work.  That was six years ago.

TPT:  Do you have an ideal context for your work to be experienced in?

DD:  I make a real effort to be sensitive to the context my work is shown in. Sometimes I will think of an action or material I want to work with and a suitable context is sought in relation to those elements. Other times I’m invited to a particular context or one is  discovered and the work becomes more of a response to or collaboration with the site.  A starting point seems necessary. It is hard to work outside of time and space.

TPT:  How did you choose the space in which you performed in?  Why did you choose to stay in one location?

DD:  I went through the authorized locations for performances and selected a spot that was open enough for me to swing a sledge hammer without worrying about impeding foot traffic.  Honestly, there weren’t many options.  Staying in the same place established a constancy and focus on the action. It was practical too.

photo by Sandrine Schaefer

TPT:  How did the context of being on a barge inform your experience?

DD:  It led me to consider my balance on a gently swaying surface.  While I was performing I was able to work with the sway.  When I wasn’t performing it made me feel clumsy and a little uneasy.

TPT:  How did the context of an art fair inform your performance?

DD:  It led me to consider the commercial market for art and in particular, performance art.

PTP:  You created a Contract of Sale for this piece.  What was the role of this Contract?

DD:  The contract was created to position the work more closely to the context of the art fair. I couldn’t ignore the fact that people would be selling artwork, not just at Fountain, but throughout New York as well.  I was thinking about the position of performance art among all of those commercial art fairs. I wonder how many performance art pieces sold?  It was an honest attempt to draft a contract that would act as a catalyst for the sale of the performance and was an interesting conceptual platform to work with.  I’m still working through ideas that came up while working on this aspect of the piece.  I think that its important to note that most people didn’t look at the contract. My action with the sledgehammers became the whole piece for the majority of the audience.

TPT:  Is there a relationship between the action of hitting sledgehammers together and this document?

DD:  Yes, the contract was an example of the metaphor of the action. The piece became self-referential because of it.

TPT:  Why Sledgehammers?

DD:  I liked the weight and force associated with them.  It was a good match for me physically. I wanted to work with an action that  would be challenging both in terms of strength and balance. I also wanted to work with a hard material. Steel is pretty hard. Their familiarity as a working class tool was important as well.

TPT:  Are these objects (Sledgehammers, Steel, and Contract of Sale) familiar to your work?  Are they new to your work?  Do you predict that you will work with them again?

DD:  I have worked with hammers once before. But the steel and the contract were new elements for me.  I was inspired by the weight of the steel and the complexity of the language in the contract.  I have already begun to revisit the role of the contract in my work.

TPT:  What is your relationship to your performance objects in the broader scope of your work?

DD:  You could use the same action to do a thousand different pieces by changing the material. You could also use the same material for a thousand different pieces by changing your action.  Context is another variable. I typically select objects that I feel are most appropriate to the concept and context I’m working with.  However, there have been some reoccurring interests with certain materials and I could see myself beginning to work with more closely over a period of time.  I’m still at a point where I’m exploring and discovering my relationship to the materials in my work. The way I work with gravity is becoming more clear to me. Its one of the major threads in my performance work.  Natural light and sound play a significant role too.

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

DD:  I hoped someone would buy my performance.

TPT:  Were there any moments that surprised you?

DD:  I was surprised by how loud the sound was.  The first day I didn’t wear ear protection and my ears rang for a few days afterwords.  I could have really damaged my ears if I hadn’t worn protection over the last two days.  It was startling for many people who walked by not expecting such a loud sound.  Some of the artists close by were annoyed by it. Others who were farther away said that it was kind of comforting to have the consistency of the sound coming from the distance.  I swung the hammer when I was ready to.  This was around every 30-60 seconds.

TPT:  Why did you choose to create this work over the duration of 3 days?

DD:  I wanted to have enough time to really experience the physicality of it and to see   the impact in the material. I wanted to flatten the sledgehammer, disintegrate it if I could. One swing at a time.  I have even given consideration to continuing the action for many years until the hammer really did flatten or the piece sold.  If the piece was sold and re-performed then I would’t have to do the work myself! I also  wanted to reach a wider audience and to be a constant element in the environment.

TPT:  How did the piece evolve for you over that time?

DD:  I developed a whole breathing cycle, physical acuity, and mental focus that I had not fully anticipated. I became more efficient with my swing pattern the more time I spent with it.  The concentration became clear to those watching in the subtle moments between the fast part of the swing. I began watching the shadows of people in my periphery. I tried to wait until them had passed by before I made a swing.  The sound was so loud I didn’t want to catch people completely off guard.  I also became more sensitive to the swaying of the boat.  I tried to work with the sway for each swing.  My legs were extremely sore after the first day and the second day was colder than the first.  I had different conditions to work with each day but I was able to get into and sustain the focus on the action more quickly after the first day.

photo by Sandrine Schaefer

photo by Sandrine Schaefer

TPT:  What is your definition of “durational”?

DD:  Honestly, I look at it like a relative grayscale.  I don’t have a notion of “durational” that I am trying to champion. Colloquially, I would use it to describe work that is several hours, days, or years long.

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

DD:  The repetition brought subtleties  to the surface and allowed for a visible impact in the material.  At first glance the action is kind of Sisyphean and not very entertaining.  However, unlike Sisyphus, there was gradual impact and change in the material over time. The hammer heads impacted each other and formed an imprint in the steel plate beneath them.  Despite the perceived futility of the act there was actual change taking place. Thinking more about the imprint broadened my understanding of the metaphor I was working with. Also, for me, it was the pace and duration of the repetition which alluded to a feeling of slow, constant, time.

TPT:  Can you describe your process for realizing this work?

DD:  This piece evolved over a month and a half before it was shown at the Fountain Ar Fair.  Initially, I was going to focus solely on concepts around the commodification of performance art.   However, I was having a lot of physical anxiety at the time so I decided to incorporate a physically challenging action. The action of swinging a sledgehammer is what I came up with.  This was also when the series of revolutions were taking place in the Arab World and senators were fleeing Wisconsin.  There seemed to be a lot of social and political unrest going on nationally and internationally.  This piece was an attempt at grappling with some of the skepticism I had around those issues. I questioned the way we use the same tools and systems to achieve our own ideals as the people and systems we ideologically oppose. Are the political and social systems at fault? Are the people at fault? At fault for what? Instead of placing blame and in light of offering an alternative I  created a metaphor through “demur.” I felt more like an observer and time keeper than a problem solver. What I discovered was the importance of the imprint left behind on the steel plate. The impact of the collision of steel on steel was one thing. The shape it left behind was something reflective of the original but completely different.

photo by Bob Raymond

photo by Bob Raymond

TPT:  Define “Demur”?

DD:  “The action or process of objecting to or hesitating over something… raising doubts.” (My computer’s dictionary)

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

DD:  It was farther away from home.

TPT:  What is your interpretation of the “Boston Flavor”?

DD:  I don’t think Im qualified to answer that question.

TPT:  What is inspiring you at the moment?

DD:  Wonder and Reason.

TPT:  What are you studying?

DD:  Ideas, animals, space, and matter.

TPT:  Who/What is influencing your work presently?

DD:  Necessity.

TPT:  In addition to creating performance art, you are active in organizing art events, art research projects, etc.  How does this piece fit into the rest of your work?

DD:  I go through periods when I am more extroverted and have the drive to work collaboratively with larger numbers of artists and organizations.  I have other periods where I am more introverted and make work individually.  I am in an introverted period at the moment and am focusing on artworks like “demur.”

TPT:  What’s Next?

DD:  Three doors and a guillotine that cuts watermelons in half.  I am  also in the beginning stages of another artistic research project that investigates Mexico and the celebrations for the end of the Mayan calendar.  It would be similar to People in Space.

TPT:  Any words of wisdom?  Words to chew on?

DD:  Chew on words.

Adventures in Being (small) US tour Photo Post #1

While many Americans were digesting their Thanksgiving experience and braving the malls on Black Friday, Daniel S. DeLuca and I set out to begin the Adventures in Being (small) tour across the United States.

We have now been traveling for 15 days. The majority of our time has been spent experiencing the southern area of the country through a car window.  Even through the barrier of the windshield, it has been a sensory explosion. I have seen the most bizarre trees, cartoon-like cacti, consumerist sprawl, farm after farm, infinite piles of objects now deemed obsolete, and purple mountain majesties!

Here are selected images from the project thus far.  Keep checking back for more updates!

“Southern Bell” Baltimore, MD

“Needle in a Haystack” Roanoke,VA

“Tractor Tire”  Chatsworth, GA

“Wilbanks” Chatsworth, GA

“Turquoise Pipes” Baton Rouge, LA

“Wheels” Baton Rouge, LA


“Convent of Perpetual Adoration” New Orleans, LA

“Sign” New Orleans, LA

“Forgotten Swings” New Orleans, LA

“Daniel’s Clown” New Orleans, LA

“Weatherman (for Phil)” New Orleans, LA

all photos by Daniel S. DeLuca