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.

Taste: Hector Canonge

Hector Canonge " S U R " 2013 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

The room is filled with a light aroma that could be rose.  It is familiar yet unidentifiable.  A nude body is curled up on the ground beneath a sheet of plastic, the material sticking to different parts of the body.  Condensation can be seen on the plastic, showing that the body has been in this position for some time.  This visceral action was one of many enacted in Hector Canonge’s S U R.   The artist describes S U R as a series of actions that (re)capture, (re)frame, and (re)contextualize the work the artist created during his travels in Latin America in 2012.  He further explains that S U R is composed in five interrelated parts (Genesis, Fatherland, Heartland, Tropica, and Carnation) that blend into a narrative related to the artist’s life and familial history.  Canonge brought S U R to Boston, where his actions merged the contexts of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru with Mobius intimate exhibition space.

Hector Canonge " S U R " 2013 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

When the artist emerged from the plastic, he began to cycle through a series of actions that employed materials indigenous to Latin America.  He poured Mate tealeaves on the floor, the muted smell filling the space.  He poured refined sugar in a circle around his body while singing, his controlled exhalations oscillating between power and sounding as if he were out of breath.  He wore a heavy woolen sweater that he unraveled with his fingers, the smell of dust captured in the fibers traveling through the air.  As the piece unfolded, Canonge continued to build a visceral and sensorial installation through his chosen materials and focused movement and sound.  The gentle introductions of smells created a crescendo that led to one of the most dynamic actions in S U R.  Canonge revealed stalks of raw sugarcane that he broke into smaller pieces that were tied to his waist.  He proceeded to peel them with his teeth.  He then invited the audience one by one to experience the delight of tasting raw sugarcane.  With one side of the stalk in the participant’s mouth, the other in Canonge’s, the stalk sat between the two people, their heads at an intimate proximately.  Boston is known for having active audiences that are open to participate in live art pieces, however, this action was so intimate that I was surprised at how quickly the audience agreed to engage.  After more reflection, I believe that the eagerness to interact with Canonge was something that the artist intentionally built into the structure of the piece.  Not only did the deeply poetic actions create a familial feeling amongst the audience, Canonge’s consideration of faint smell created a curiosity around the materials he used.  By the time we were asked to participate, we were thoroughly intoxicated by the experience, making it impossible to refuse.

 

Hector Canonge excerpt from S U R 2013 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

S U R opens a dialogue around a myriad of ideas.  The work clearly has political overtones, providing opportunity to consider the complex relationship that the US has with its Southern neighbors. Although Canonge is specific in creating an experience inspired by Latin and South America, S U R also tackles more general considerations around themes such as otherness, colonization, and how place informs constructions of identity.  The piece was loaded with complex content, yet maintained a sense of accessibility throughout.  As we experienced Canonge exhibit his vulnerability, we were open to engage with him, ask questions, and contemplate the evolving role of place in the 21st century.

– Sandrine Schaefer

 

 

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Hector Canonge is an artist based in New York City where he studied Comparative Literature, Filmmaking, and Integrated Media Arts. His work incorporates the use of New-media technologies, physical environments, cinematic and performance art narratives. In his work he explores and treats issues related to construction of identity, gender roles, and the politics of migration. His performances mediate movement, endurance, and ritualistic processes as well as the interaction with the public. His visual arts projects and performance art work have been exhibited and presented in the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

 

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“i wish you no ill will” EL Putnam / “I Wish You New” Kurt Cole Eidsvig

El Putnam "i wish you no ill will" 2012

In August and September of 2012, artist and philosopher, El Putnam handed out 200 postcards with the following instructions:

“write an anonymous note to someone you have loved and lost. you can write whatever you wish, but you are required to end your note with the sentence: ‘i wish you no ill will.'”

The cards were returned to her via USPS and used to build an installation at Mobius’ space in Cambridge, MA. In the final performance, the cards were read by Putnam and audience members, and then placed one by one into a shredder.

Part of The Present Tense’s Mission is to include a myriad of ways that individuals archive and document experiential art pieces.  Artist and poet,  Kurt Cole Eidsvig wrote a poem documenting his experience with this transformative piece.  We are happy to share it on The Present Tense!

El Putnam "i wish you no ill will" 2012

I WISH YOU NEW

Kurt Cole Eidsvig

After EL Putnam’s “I wish you no ill will” at Mobius, Cambridge, MA USA  Sept 8, 2012

 

1. Woven scripts, as in a chain of words reassembled from tangles. This line, this line is now your bracelet, these memories record to handcuffs. Of course you feel the grit of glitter under foot. The road to crystal suffering is a version of America obese hearts with hardened arteries suffer for. I’m kidding, of course, as the delay of dish sounds regurgitates flickering glass chewed through to sewing needle skin. Your alterations to the breezy wind behave so necessary, just as exhales only matter if something plans on following.

2. Behold the thorns on flesh hung upside-down in effigy. Behold ligament and joint, gasp. Behold the breaking sound of items getting crushed to bits and shards and molecules, the smallest parts of each of us that disfigure but won’t go away.

Hold the remnants of what you were, of what I was when we were we, and consider:

The tangled ends won’t render, the tangled ends begin.

3. Because of shadows the font of words can be confusing. Nib and pencil tip chew against bright pulp. In the background— do you hear it—these echoes of hollow wind through the structures. Bridges pull against two things here, rather than connect and allow mercy in catastrophe. When I say “I wish,” I mean “I don’t wish.” Just as when I said “I don’t know,” I was certain. Now look at us: You, and that shadow of yourself behind you, the layers of our time-bomb gasps—the way fingertips can be squares, strings, chains, flowers, legs and light collections in the course of just one night. I am sure you realized at the end of every curve of words, sinewy across the page, was another
lesson in infinity. The two of us repeating; the two of you, so sad.

4. Remember when we danced, the way your voice collapsed?

5. Cave entrances with beads of glass for windows, as if your eyes were premonitions.
Like, lay in bed next to me and create a story with your pillows. As anonymous confessionals
of our hand-me-down linens become a metaphor for the landscape spots we mailed pieces of ourselves
from, no longer blurred by the dishonesty of atmosphere. As the necklace of doubt
is certainty, a noose of stories even your handwriting can’t believe anymore. As when I say, “I wish,”
I mean, “I’m leaving.” As when you command things of me, you command the sun to disappear behind the hills
without the benefit of time passing. And did I ever tell you about the whispers in the dark, my house at half-past martini?
This is my equation: Vodka plus footfalls equals promises on pillows, the lipstick stain of glasses
breathed at hopeful earlobes. Regret is shaped like a nightlight.

6. When I said, “I hope I never see you again,” I meant, “I hope when I see you again, I look different to you.” I meant: “Every time I try to break the mirror that you were to me—that you are—your power only multiplies.” There are countless memories of you cutting me from the floor. There are multiplying versions of you, seeing me, reflecting me, from the floor, from the whispers,

from the filament of your near-invisible fishing line words and promises; the curve and hook of C’s, of J’s, of S’s, of kisses, of denials. In every crunch and break and broken collapsing piece of us, I am chewing silver- glazed glass in teeth and gums. You have caught me. I’m on the land. I bleed.

7. All of us eventually disrupt the air so much, rose petals hit the ground.

8. Behind the girl with the single lens reflex camera there is always a fire alarm.
When you raise your hands, this sculpture you are, roses implode in their lack of water.
On my way back from the shredder I realized you had booby-trapped the safety pins. What else could I expect from all this merciless opening?  Tell me, tell me, my feet dismaying my swaying torso, tell me, what you hope to impose here. The edges of this room are the centers of multi-dimensional omniverses, the bent-out gravity of forgotten strands catching souvenirs of words turned into light.

9. Before we met I couldn’t read my own handwriting.
Now I know each defogged windshield glass I pass
allows your eyes to see me.

10. This census of disregard creates paper stand-ins for humanity. This consensus of disregard is a series of balled-up tissues mispronounced as grief before dislocated into wastebaskets.
On Saturdays, wherever you are, I still take out the trash for you.
On Sundays I’m still angry you forgot to buy more trash bags.

11. Depending on the angle you deposit these messages into mailbox, our frames become uneven. Our squares and rectangles, gulped and digested, are mishandled into rhombuses. From where I stand our shadows have elongated. From where you stand there is light—bright, exotic light—shining against your face. Both of us stand still as the lies we hung from unevenly wobble and dance around our figures. In this, both of us are paint. In this, both of us are lines.

12. Pretend there is a word for truth and pretend you understand it. This is the definition of wishing, of course. But isn’t it irresponsible to suppose your unclasping buttons, zippers, safety pins, snaps, won’t lead to heaps of regretful clothes on the canvas of regretful floors?
There is, of course, the brutal honesty of two people having sex in a lightning storm,
a power outage, and then the emergency generator rumbles and the back-up lights blast on.
When we meet again, let’s travel to red glitter beaches, so the two of us can look down and then agree—these footprints in the ground, these are the places
we dropped our spectacles. This is the spot where our lenses cracked, where landscape disappeared.

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!

 

http://youtu.be/WJfre5UEPqs

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Rope Series: Alice Vogler

The Present Tense has decided to end our 2011 Rope Series by highlighting a recent work by Alice Vogler.   As many of you know, MEME, the gallery that The Present Tense co-founded in 2009 came to an end in late May.  Vogler was also a co-founder.   She continued to run MEME with Vela Phelan and Dirk Adams after Bradley Benedetti, Philip and I resigned from MEME in June 2010.  Her farewell to the space came in the form of a 24 hour piece.
Vogler began at 7pm on May13th surrounded by a stack of toilet paper, three spools of white mason string and seven white bottles of water.  She wrapped the string around the toilet paper to create a rope.

Norfolk Street visited her throughout the night, peering through the windows and offering her gifts.  This ritual began with the first exhibition held at MEME.  The neighborhood was always eager to participate in what was happening in the space.

Vogler describes the rope that accumulated on the floor as an umbilical cord, connecting her to the space.

She finished constructing the rope around 5:30pm on May 14th.  The rope became a nest that Vogler rested in.  When she woke up, Dirk Adams and Vela Phelan wrapped the rope around MEME while Alison Adams helped Vogler wrap the rest of the rope around her body.  People were invited into the space to witness this action.

After Vogler was encased by the rope, she engaged in a litany of sorts, reciting all of the exhibitions that had taken place at MEME.  MEME showed over 200 artists in its 2 year history, making this an overwhelming task for anyone, especially the sleep deprived.  As Vogler recited the names of the artists and shows, she slowly untangled herself from the rope.  As the rope fell to the floor, it was revealed that the end was tied around Vogler’s waist.  She ends the piece by cutting the rope, releasing MEME.*

Alice Vogler’s work center’s around the physical and mental healing processes that exist in individual’s lives and her own day-to-day life.  She is interested in investigating what heals: the process, that object, or the ritual.  Most recently she has been working with the element of anticipation.  She has been investigating to what extent anticipation changes how time is experienced.  The viewer is always an essential element in her work.

Alice received her Bachelors of Fine Arts form Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland Oregon, and her Masters of Fine Arts form the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tuffs University in Boston Massachusetts.  She co-owned and curated MEME Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 2009-2011. She has shown her work in many performance events over the last 10 years including:  Rough Trade in Chicago, Illinois, LUMEN Festival in Stanton Island, New York, Tremor Festival in Bogotá, Columbia, OPEN in Beijing, China, and Transmuted in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

* The MEME space (55 Norfolk St. in Central Square Cambridge, MA) began as 55 Gallery in 2008 and was passed on to us.  MEME has been passed on to Mobius Artist Group.  The Present Tense looks forward to seeing how the next cycle of this space will manifest.

Rope Series: Lewis Gesner

“I use rope and string often, because it is a simple material which allows great control (few moving parts) as well as flexibility. It is a direct use as well, often when pulled tightly, giving the the most direct path to what is at the other end. To pull, to bind, to control, to suspend, these are all simple or atomic functions which use of string or rope allows an unmediated experience of. It is an obvious and simple choice for many purposes that might involve exploring rudimentary performance concerns.” – Lewis Gesner

excerpt from “Voice Throttle,”  2010  location: Nanhai Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan

This was an illustration of Gesner’s ideas concerning simple actions during a lecture.  The artist uses voice and rope to manipulate sound and mechanism.

excerpt from “Draggin,” 2006  location: KriKri festival, Gent, Belgium

Gesner lead the audience to attach string and sticks to their legs.  Together, the artist and audience walked through streets to next performance area.  The sticks served as plectrums on various street surfaces

Lewis Gesner has been presenting action and performance based work for several decades, and works internationally at various venues. Working toward simplification of means and materials, he follows a path of simple atomic art, or, irreducible matters in presentation. His lives in the US and Taiwan, and is a member of mobius artists group, presently on leave.