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

Remembering The Present Tense’s First Patron…RIP Billy Ruane

5 years ago I was walking down the street in Central Square, Cambridge and my eyes met those of a white haired man wearing a barely buttoned dress shirt. He stopped me and asked “What kind of human are you?”.
With a question like that I couldn’t resist a conversation with this stranger. This was a few days before Philip and I were leaving to go to Muenster, Germany to show work at Gallery SoToDo’s 13th Performance Art Congress. I told this man about my artistic practice, my trip, and our plans to produce The Present Tense’s first art event, Activate, upon my return. He offered words of wisdom and offered me $200 in cold-hard-cash. He was so kind, asking me to use it to make the work I desired to make. He asked only that I bring some music back from Germany for him. This was a particularly difficult time for me financially and although it felt awkward taking money from a stranger, my instinct told me that this man was genuine in his offer and that I should take the opportunity presented to me. When I asked him his name, he replied “They call me Billy.”

When I returned, I emailed Billy several times, but never received a response. That $200 saved Philip and I on that trip and made Activate possible upon our arrival back in Boston. I was tremendously grateful for Billy’s generosity, always hoping that I would re-connect with him somehow so that I could show him the work I made, deliver the Cd’s I collected for him and thank him. I never saw him again, until I saw a friend’s update about his recent death on Facebook.

For the past 24 hours I have been discovering that Billy was a legend in the Boston/ Cambridge music scene. He supported musicians by organizing, promoting, and funding their endeavors in addition to sharing his extrordinary energy and dance moves! He first brought music to the Middle East Club in Cambridge in the 80’s. I have learned that he touched the lives of countless creative minds by offering acts of kindness to show his support and belief in the potential of the artistic process. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and inspiration that I was fortunate to have experienced Billy’s magic.

To be frank, it isn’t always easy to be an artist, no matter what medium you choose. My brief meeting with Billy has been the story that I replay when I feel discouraged and it is one that I love to share with people. The money he gave was needed and well spent, but he provided me with so much more than financial relief. This experience embodied the promise of hope. This experience profoundly affected my work as an artist and organizer. I hope that Billy’s memory will continue to energize, inspirit, an empower.

Below are selections from Activate: an evening of Occurrence
This debut event for The Present Tense, hosted at Zeitgeist Gallery wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of Billy Ruane.

Paul Waddell @ Activate 2005 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Sandy Huckleberry @ Activate from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Bryce Kauffman @ Activate from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Dirk Adams @ Activate from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Mari Novotny-Jones @ Activate from The Present Tense on Vimeo.