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.


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. 


JV “Poach” 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca




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.


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.


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

The Present Tense’s Top 11 of 2011

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:


Sandrine & Phil performing "This is an Archive of...." at MEMEENDS

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!


Amanda Coogan performing "The Passing" at MFA 2011


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.

Travis McCoy Fuller and Arianne Foks @ Infiltrate, NYC 2011

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.

Phil Fryer "Wall Melody" @ Time Body Space Objects 2011

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!

Exhibition shot of Sandrine Schaefer "Moving Matter" and Philip Fryer "Drift" @ Holy Ghost 2011

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!