As 2011 comes to a close, The Present Tense shares its reflections on the year! 2011 offered countless moments for performance art that The Present Tense found inspirational. Here are 11 of them, in no particular order:
1. MEME ENDS– After 2 years, MEME Gallery in Cambridge, MA announced that it would be closing its doors. Being one of the only spaces in Boston dedicated to showing experiemental and time-based work, the fate of the MEME space created some anxiety among Boston- area artists and art enthusiasts. Would the small storefront revert back to a travel agency, stay vacant, or perhaps get redeveloped into housing? The space had been passed to MEME folk in 2009 by another group of artists who were using it as a studio and gallery space. Following this tradition, MEME passed the charming white cube to Mobius Artist Group…but not before celebrating MEME’s life with an art party to be remembered!
2. Over the past year, The Present Tense’s friend and colleague, Joseph Ravens has been creating innovative opportunities for performance artists across the planet at his space, DEFIBRILLATOR Gallery in Chicago. Something that stands out about this artist/organizer is his ingenuity and open-mindedness to share his vision with the world. This summer, Ravens brought performance art to the stage of America’s Got Talent at the Atlanta Auditions. Although the bewildered judges immediately eliminated Ravens, this performance became an internet sensation!
3. Not only did Boston’s MFA open its anticipated Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art this year, it included performance art at its opening! With multitudes of Boston performance artists hailing “It’s about time!” The Present Tense is excited for what opportunities this may bring for artists working within this medium.
4. Over the summer, Boston’s art scene staple, Aliza Shapiro was admitted to the hospital after having a stroke caused by a cerebral hemorrhage. Aliza has been prolific in her work as an event producer, artist, and activist in the Boston music and queer arts communities for over 15 years and like many artists, she is self-employed. Aliza has neither employer benefits nor deep resources to support her rehabilitation. In an effort to raise funds to help her through, a group of Aliza’s friends created Aliza’s Brain Trust. Through this effort, over $40,000 has been raised to date! Many artists and self-employed individuals could find themselves in Aliza’s position. Aliza’s Brain Trust is an inspirational example of how communities can come together in times of need! It is unlikely that Aliza will be able to work for a long while, so please consider donating to help her out.
5. Marina Abramovic’s recent performance piece for the annual gala of Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in November, created quite a scandal after choreographer Yvonne Rainer wrote a letter addressed to MOCA’s director, Jeffrey Deitch, calling Abramovic’s work exploitative to its performers. There have been countless accounts published in response from artists who participated, people in attendance, etc. This performance piece has created a fervid dialogue around the ethics of art making, while simultaneously contributing to the widespread understanding of durational performance art practices.
6. If you find yourself in Brooklyn, NY, visit our friends at Grace Exhibition Space. Grace Exhibition Space opened its doors in 2006 and is the only gallery in New York City devoted exclusively to Performance Art. They present over 30 curated live performance art exhibitions each year, showcasing new work by more than 400 performance artists from across the United States! In addition to running an incredibly active space, the team at Grace has become seasoned in bringing performance art to the Art Fair circuit. They have participated in major art fairs across the country. In early March, Grace brought Infiltrate to the Fountain Art Fair in Manhattan on pier 66 on the historical lightship Frying Pan. What an infiltration it was! There was the collision of performance artists and commercial artists and gallery owners involved in the strategic dance of selling work. There was seasickness caused by the rocking of the boat and the constant sound of sledgehammers hitting one another. There was rain that accumulated and flooded through the tent-like structures that sheltered the temporary booths built for the fair. The fair ended with a frenzy of artists and gallery owners hurrying to protect their art from the rain, a performance art piece beautifully enveloping over time amongst the chaos. A weekend to remember.
7. Every September, the landscape of Boston changes dramatically with the influx of college students inundate the city. This past fall, artist, Alice Vogler organized a performance art event at The Distillery’s Proof Gallery that provided much needed consistency during Boston’s annual population shift. Vogler invited 12 artists to participate in “Time Body Space Objects”. Each was given 1 hour to create a piece around the theme of “commitment.” The work varied over the 12 hour event. Some pieces were meditative, some were narrative, some were even aggressive, but as a whole, the event exemplified the Boston flavor of performance art.
8. Perhaps its because many artists are questioning the boundaries and potential of the physical body that performance art lends itself to investigating metaphysical concepts. For the month of October, Montseratt College invited 14 artists to participate and collaborate in organizing HOLY GHOST, a month long program dedicated to exhibiting performance art. Each week, the 301 Gallery turned over and exhibited a new group of artists working with ideas about belief and spirituality. The Present Tense was fortunate to participate in the final week of Holy Ghost “Personal Piety & Alternative Belief Systems”. Holy Ghost was noteworthy for many reasons, but most importantly it expanded the network of artists working in performative practices!
9. 2011 introduced Total Art, a peer-reviewed journal dedicated to interdisciplinary arts. Total Art is “committed to nurturing new ways of understanding and interrogating work that crosses the practice-theory lines endemic to traditional academic and artistic worlds.” This online platform documents new ways of making work and investigates the intersections between art/life, theory/practice, and academia/activism. From essays about how technology is changing the human body, to manifestos, to live streamed performance happenings, Total Art promises to be a staple in the developing discourse about contemporary art practices.
10. 2011 also introduced THE ACTION BUREAU, a curatorial collective dedicated to connecting contemporary and historical performance art. Founded in Los Angeles, the group aims to re-establish the boundaries between the specific discipline of action-based, body-centric performance art and those of the performative arts. The BUREAU invites dialogue about these ideas on both locally and abroad, through the production of live-art events, exhibitions, lectures, print and multimedia publications, and their tumblog. The Action Bureau has already produced several “Free Clinics”and has ignited curiosity and discourse about performative practices!
11. You can’t talk about 2011 without acknowledging Occupy. As this movement has unfolded we have seen strategies utilized that are familiar to various live art practices, strengthening the connection between performance art and activism. The Present Tense’s favorites have been “Mic-checking”:
and “The Human Red Carpet”
The Present Tense wishes you all a happy and productive new year!