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.

“Go with your gut…every single time.” an interview with EJ Hill

Back in October, I had the pleasure of meeting and seeing the work of LA based artist EJ Hill.  We both were representing Defibrillator Gallery at the MDW Art Fair in Chicago.  In the midst of the bustle of the art fair, EJ stood as still as possible for 3 hours.  I instantly fell in love with his piece and his demeanor.  The Present Tense is thrilled to share a recent interview we did with him!

"Drawn" 2011- EJ licked every wall of the exhibition space. After a few minutes, his tongue was rubbed raw and left a trail of blood. photo by Matt Austin

TPT: Who are you?
EJ: Ah! Such a big first question! I’m still working on that one. I haven’t quite resolved that one yet…

 

 

TPT:  How did you find live art?  How did live art find you?
EJ: I guess I’ve always sort of been interested in extraordinary experiences or circumstances but I didn’t really come to understand those as art until I found myself hanging out with other weirdos at Columbia College in Chicago. I thought I was going to learn to draw and paint when I got to art school, which, you know, was definitely there, but once I figured out that other things could be art, that experiences could be art, I hit the ground running in a different direction.

 

 

TPT: Tell me about one experience that has influenced, inspired or affected your work.
EJ: When I was about 6 or 7 years old, my only neighborhood friend was the kid who lived next door. He was about a year or two older than me and his family pretty much gave him free reign. My family was the exact opposite; I was so coddled and sheltered growing up that I wasn’t even allowed to go past our driveway onto the sidewalk alone. So I never really got to venture out and play with the other kids. Because of that, my friend knew a whole lot more about things than I did but he was always getting into trouble for one thing or another. So one day we were playing in my backyard and he told me that if I put my mouth on his penis that it would feel good. So not knowing what any of this was about but curious to try it, he pulled out his penis, put it in front of my face and I did what I always did when things entered my mouth… I bit down. Hard.

"Suck and Blow" 2009 blow dryer, vacuum with hose attachment, performance duration: 7 minutes, photo by Tannar Veatch

TPT:  In October 2011,  you made a piece where you stood still for 3 hours for the MDW Art Fair in Chicago. Can you talk about the intention behind this action?
EJ: I think I was just tired of performing at that point. I felt that when people showed up to see one of my performances, they expected me to make some intense, hyper-aggressive, balls-to-the-wall piece where I sweat and cry and freak out. And I don’t ever want my work to become predictable. Ever. So I was thinking about ways to perform, without actually performing. So I thought, “What if I just stood still and did nothing for as long as I could?”

 

TPT:  Can you describe your process for realizing this work?
EJ: Yeah, so after the “What if…” thought, I decided to try it. The fist time I tried it, the plan was stand still for 24 hours and see what happens. I was working late in the studio one night and I asked my friend Dylan Mira to take one photo of me on the hour every hour. So I set up the tripod and camera and just stood about 20 feet away from it. That night, I only made it to 4 hours, but those 4 hours were so crazy! By the end of it, snot was running from my nose, my shoulders sagged by about a full inch, my feet were swollen, and I couldn’t really see because my eyes had been tearing up for the last hour or so.

 

TPT:  What were some of your expectations/ hopes (if any) of your audience?
EJ: I had hoped that whatever meditative, out of body, mindfuck that I was experiencing could somehow be transmitted from my body to anyone else who encountered me. I wondered if whatever energy that was flowing through me while I was in that altered state could be felt by others.

 

TPT:  Were there any moments that surprised you?
EJ: I think it was somewhere around the last hour where another piece in one of the other booths at MDW sent me flying somewhere else! It was a sound piece that could be heard throughout the entire floor. It was a continuous low drone that layered and got louder and more complex with time. I noticed that the whole time I was there, no one really engaged with me for longer than a few seconds but when the sound piece started to affect me in this hypnotizing way, people started to gather around and just watch. I’m not sure what I looked like but I think it was at that moment that I tapped into whatever I tapped into that first night in the studio. People stood around, and just watched. Just watched me stand.

 

TPT:  Why did you choose to create this work over the duration of 3 hours?
EJ: I planned to go for longer, but shortly after the low drone of the other piece ended, I just didn’t want to continue. After the sound stopped, I felt like I was doing that thing where I was performing. I was only continuing for the sake of the audience and it began to feel really insincere.

 

TPT:  How did the piece evolve for you over that time?
EJ: It was painful. Ironically, standing still takes a lot of hard work, tons of stamina. The soles of my feet were killing me, my back and shoulders were hurting from the weight of my arms. Physically, it wasn’t very pleasant but psychologically, it was almost euphoric.

 

TPT:  How was performing in Chicago different from making work in other places?
EJ:Well, I went to school in Chicago so I had a few years of developing a practice or a working method. I was comfortable. And I think toward the end, other people were comfortable with what I was doing and expected me to deliver a certain type of work. So any time I got the opportunity to travel and make work somewhere else, it was exciting. I could go and make my work with an entirely new audience who didn’t go into it with any preconceived notions. Chicago also has this very impressive “get off your ass and make it happen” kind of attitude. If it’s not being done, and people want to see it happen, someone will make it happen. People are grinding hard and not so much because of market pressures as is the case in some other cities, but because they really believe in what they do. It’s phenomenal. It’s beautiful. It’s so fucking REAL.

 

TPT:  How did the context of an art fair inform your piece?
EJ: I knew it was going to be busy. There was going to be a lot of people, a lot of action, a ton of art. I wanted to contrast the usually overwhelming nature of art fairs.

 

TPT:  Do you have an ideal context for your work to be experienced in?
EJ: Yes. That moment when you’re least expecting it.

(photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images North America)

TPT:  You were one of the performers who participated in Marina Abramovic’s piece for The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles’ annual Gala. How did this situation challenge your perception of stillness?
EJ: That one was weird because there were so many other things going on at the time (the Debbie Harry performance, the tiff between Yvonne Rainer and Marina Abramovi?) so it was really difficult to even think about stillness with so many distractions on and off court. And we were all supposed to rotate on lazy Susans beneath the tables so we were still, but only kind of.

 

TPT:  How has this experience informed your creative process?
EJ: The MOCA performance itself, the action, sort of left as quickly as it arrived. But I still find myself asking questions regarding power dynamics in the art world. I haven’t unlocked any secrets or answered any questions definitively, but I’m thinking a lot more about work ethic, compensation, celebrity/art stardom, creative impetus, the role of the wealthy in the production/consumption of art…

 

TPT:  What are you currently studying?
EJ: Love.

 

TPT:  Who/What is inspiring/ influencing your work presently?
EJ: Mark Aguhar, Frank Ocean, Anderson Cooper.

 

TPT:  Any words of wisdom?
EJ: Go with your gut. Every single time.