Sweat: Sarah Hill

“The performance I’m Fine is deeply concerned with moving the audience into a state of feeling, through anger on the part of the performer. In this way I view my practice as cathartically dialogical. When I say catharsis I mean: To purge. An emotional cleansing and sweating that can be experienced as therapeutic but never therapy. In other words, a strong laxative, that allows one to shit out what is no longer necessary. This extreme change in emotion (on the part of the performer) is where the audience could potentially become activated by his or her own catharsis. I’m Fine as been performed at Grace Exhibition Space, and Lumen Festival in New York as well as Hillyer Art Space in DC. ”

I’m Fine Le Lieu, centre en art actuel, Québec, Canada, Documentation by Patrick Dubé from Sarah Hill on Vimeo.

“Gender confusion is a small price to pay for social progress. I define social progress as the visible presence of transgendered bodies in my work. I am aware that others may not read my body as transgendered when viewing my videos or performances. However, this is how I choose to define my body and gender. People can learn to work around my definitions of gender because I have spent my life working around others’ definitions. I have the right and ability to exercise complete control over my flesh. It’s mine. I live here. I don’t rent. I am not borrowing it. My body belongs to me and I am going to do with it what I choose until I die. My work becomes the performance of reclaiming psychological space.”

 

 

Sarah Hill received her B.A. from Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa and recently received an MFA from the Museum School in partnership with Tufts University. Sarah has studied with Black Market International, Festival of live Art in Glasgow, Scotland. Sarah has also performed at Mobius, Proof Gallery, and Grace Exhibition Space in New York. She has worked on projects with William Pope. L (Cusp) and Roderick Buchanan (Swim). Sarah was a graduate and post graduate teaching fellow for the performance department as well as a graduate fellow for the Artist Resource Center. She will be showing with Anthony Greaney, Boston and Le Lieu, Center en art Acuel, Canada in the spring of 2013. In July, she was featured in a blog about performance art on Philly.com.

 

 

Selections from the LUMEN 2012 Festival in Staten Island NYC

I was lucky enough to be invited to the LUMEN festival in NYC this year, the third of its kind. The Present Tense has always had a soft spot for offbeat and unique spaces for presenting performance art, you can imagine my excitement when I found out the festival was being held in the presence of hundreds of pounds of salt. Since I was scheduled to perform later in the evening, I attempted to put our Twitter (@eternalpresent) to use and tweet some of the visuals as they were happening. In case you missed them, here they are:

 

Rob Anders and collaborator

Celeste Welsh

Celeste and her "Medical Team"

Not sure who's performance this was, but it was beautiful.

 

Bicycle Series: Joe Bigley: Traversing a Foreign Border Domestically

“Within the context of the project, Traversing a Foreign Border Domestically, the bike seems like the most appropriate mode of transportation. The bike is seen as a symbol of personal freedoms reflecting its self reliance nature reflecting on establishing a sovereign nation in Afghanistan. Bicycling around the country as a performance work, has proven effective in engaging in the public’s natural sense of curiosity augmenting the initiation of a dialogue regarding their thoughts on the war. “

Traversing a Foreign Boarder Domestically was a long-term endurance public performance project. Starting and returning to Ground Zero in Manhattan, New York, Joe Bigley bicycled the length and shape of the border of Afghanistan within the United States.


Averaging 75 miles per day, the project took 69 days to complete. This specific route intended to highlight the arbitrary nature of political boundaries and sets up opportunities to engage in a dialogue with a wider public to archive perceptions on the war.


Joe maintained a neutral stance on the topic of the war within the context of TFBD. This multi-faceted project has an experiential narrative aspect as well as the interactions with the public and their constant and humbling generosity. A wide range of opinions on the war have been collected, in addition to a number of bike related experience.

Project participant

Performance participant

The content my work influences the methodologies and materials chosen for any given project.  My studio practice incorporates a wide range and expanding use of materials including cast metals, kinetic installation, digital video and performance work. I am constantly exploring the role that art plays in society by challenging the location of arts existence both in thought and physicality. Lately my work has been placing itself in a public setting to gauge a reaction to scenarios that challenge people’s expectations of navigating through the everyday.

For lots more information, videos, and photos, please visit this project’s website.

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.

The Artist Is Present

Being a performance art initiative, it seems vital that we touch on Marina Abromovic’s MoMA exhibition, even though it seems that everyone and their cousin  knows about this piece. I often look at a sports event or concert and think, why won’t that many people show up to see a piece of art? This is the first time that I’ve seen anything come close, and its thrilling to see the ways that it infiltrated so many of our familiar platforms (If you don’t know this piece, a simple google search will be more than enough information on it). First off, if you were not able to make it to NYC to witness the piece, there was a live webcam that allowed to you to see the performance as it happened. While it may be problematic to witness a piece that is so deeply about presence via a webcam, it provides a heightened level of access to it and and opens it up to and audience that may be to timid to approach a piece of “Live Art”

What is more impressive, it the life this piece took on with other social networking and creative platforms. It had/has a presence on just about every one I can think of, facebook, youtube, flickr, tumblr, vimeo, and even a parody tumblr. Many people, myself included, were reluctant to embrace these facets as tools, but when the self proclaimed “Grandmother of Performance Art” proves that they can be invaluable, it is clear that such components are pivotal in advancement of the medium.

Sandrine Schaefer and Philip Fryer in NYC 12/12/09

This weekend in Brooklyn:

 (NAOKI IWAKAWA, EXCAVATION 7 / NEW YORK GHOST, 2009)

(NAOKI IWAKAWA, "EXCAVATION 7 / NEW YORK GHOST," 2009)

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English Kills Art Gallery is pleased to present the inaugural Maximum Perception Performance Festival, December 11-12, 2009 at English Kills Art Gallery in Brooklyn, NY.

Over 2 nights, the Maximum Perception Performance Festival will be a showcase for over 20 national and international performance artists, focusing on presenting a dynamic range of contemporary performance practice from the best emerging artists in performance.

Curators Peter Dobill and Phoenix Lights seek to present a counterpoint to the fiscally bloated, dilettante-based spectacle that has consumed the image of performance art in New York City. The Maximum Perception Performance Festival will feature newly commissioned performance works in addition to site-specific actions and ongoing projects from all participating artists.

Established as a critically acclaimed exhibition in 2008 to survey the Brooklyn performance art scene, the Maximum Perception Performance Festival has evolved to become a yearly showcase for the forefront of performance art practice in New York City and beyond.