Dear friends…

Dear friends of The Present Tense,

2015 marks ten years since our first event, Activate: an evening of occurrence. Back then, we had a simple goal to support a movement of experiential art that we felt was underrepresented and had few options for exhibition. The event was modest but well attended, and confirmed our belief that it was our responsibility to support this movement that we were a part of. From 2005 through 2009 we continued to organize a series of events ranging in size from intimate happenings to large scale international performance art festivals.  Our goal was always to show the work of artists at varied stages in their career from all over the world, to create thriving bridges between Boston and other places connected by experiential art practices.  The outcome of these efforts was intense discourse, countless moving performances, many new friends, and of course shoeboxes full of documentation.

In 2009 we both lost our space and launched The Present Tense Archive online, which was an effort to take the traces of the works hiding in shoeboxes and make them available to anyone. It was a daunting task, but with the help of many friends including the Berwick Research Institute, Vela Phelan, and Coco Segaller, we were able to create an archive in the form of a blog. Since then, the archive has accumulated more content than we ever imagined. Interviews, guest posts, and curated thematic posts populated the archive alongside the images and video we had captured ourselves. It became more than an archive, it became a community platform for the art and movement we had set out to support.

A lot has changed since 2009, especially ways for individuals to navigate the internet and strategies for archiving experiential-based works.  It is time for TPT to change, too. This will be the last post on this platform, and the rest of 2015 will be spent reconfiguring the way TPT exists. The form will change, but the function will not. Priority will be given to finding a way to make this accumulated content easier to navigate and more accessible.  We are also contemplating other, more experimental forms of archiving.

This does not mean that The Present Tense will not be active!  We will still be maintaining our TumblrFacebook pageTwitter, and of course our Vimeo page which hosts a large number of works by many artists including our own work.  We will still send out seasonal email updates about our activities.  The Present Tense was born out of our collaboration and has always been an extension of our own artistic practices.  You can also keep up with what we are working on through our personal websites. The blog, however, will remain untouched, enshrined as a relic much like the work it hosts.

Looking forward,

Phil & Sandrine

ThePresentisEternal@gmail.com

www.PhilipFryer.com | www.SandrineSchaefer.com 

Selections from Praxis 0.1

Little Berlin, an alternative space and zine library in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood, played host to a new series in October. Wayne Kleppe, the event organizer, felt that Philadelphia could benefit from exposure to different forms of performance and thus started utilizing the space at Little Berlin to organize. Kleppe himself does not identify as a performance artist, however he and his partner contributed the opening piece to the show. I look forward to seeing what he does with this series!

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Wayne Kleppe and Janette Chien IMG_3155 IMG_3163

Eames Armstrong

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Philip FryerIMG_3178 IMG_3182

Kaycee FilsonIMG_3186 IMG_3188SCRAAATCH

Collaborative Duos- Part 1

The Present Tense was built out of Sandrine Schaefer and Philip Fryer‘s long time collaboration.  Because of this, we have always held collaborative duos close to our hearts.  Next month, LONG-TERM, a live art event curated by Sandrine Schaefer and Adriana Disman that features the work of various artist duos who investigate extended duration, will come to Toronto’s Hub 14.  In honor of this upcoming event and our sustained love of artists who choose to make work together, The Present Tense has revisited the archives to bring you a few videos from artist duos we have exhibited through the years.  To begin, we are sharing excerpts from Sandrine and Phil’s 17 year “Cicada Project.”  Then we revisit the Contaminate Festival to share Mari Novotny-Jones & Kristina Lenzi and Coach TV.  We also bring you JV‘s “Trapped” at the Seconds Festival, The Royal Najo Family at PT3 and Tomoko Kakeda and Joanne Stein at PT5.  Enjoy!

 

 

Sandrine Schaefer & Philip Fryer “Cicada Project” 2006-2023

Philip Fryer & Sandrine Schaefer from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Cicada Project 8.2010 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

3CiadasFinal from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Mari Novotny Jones & Kristina Lenzi at the Contaminate 3 International Performance Art Festival curated by The Present Tense & TEST 2008

Mari Novotny Jones and Kristina Lenzi @ Contaminate 3 2008 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Tomoko Kakeda & Joanne Stein  at PT5 curated by The Present Tense 2007

Tomoko Kakeda & Joanne Stein@ PT5 2007 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Royal Najo Family at PT3 curated by The Present Tense 2007

Royal Najo Family @ PT3 2007 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

JV at the Seconds International Performance Art Festival curated by The Present Tense 2006

JV @ Seconds 2006 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Coach TV at the Contaminate 1 International Performance Art Festival curated by The Present Tense & TEST 2006

Coach TV @ Contaminate 1 2006 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Remembering Peter Grzybowski

The Present Tense is saddened for the recent passing of artist and curator, Peter Grzybowski. A long time friend of The Present Tense,  we are grateful we had the opportunity to show his work at the Contaminate 3 Festival in 2008.  The following is a collection of memories from those who were touched by his presence and his work.

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Peter Gryzbowski “Press” 2008 photo by Ben Smart

In the 21st century, many have surrendered to the inevitability of the hyper-documented life, a result of current technologies, but nothing can replace the experience of witnessing a live-art piece unfolding in the present moment.   To performance artists, art lives in real time and often times is believed to live in the body.  Consequently, when a body deteriorates the art dies with it.  The death of an artist working in experiential media can be devastating because it eliminates the possibility of ever experiencing their work in its totality again.

On August 29, 2013, artist and curator, Peter Gryzbowski passed away.  Like many, I learned of Peter’s passing through social media.  Discovering the death of a friend in this way seems impersonal, but it offers a collective experience of mourning that is strangely comforting.  We can see the magnitude of the expansive territory that a life can touch.  In the days after news of Peter’s passing spread throughout The Present Tense’s networks, it was amazing to see how many people in so many places throughout the world had been impacted by his work.   This tribute is an attempt to capture a morsel of Peter Gryzbowski’s impact on The Present Tense and the communities of artists with whom we are connected.  No video, no photo, no written account can capture his work, however, it feels crucial to try to compile something to honor Gryzbowski’s creative contribution.  This is also an admittedly selfish attempt.  Peter was a friend and teacher of sorts.  He showed my work when few believed it was mature enough.  As my own curatorial practice evolved, I had the opportunity to show Peter’s work as well.  He was a constant fixture in my career for a decade and I am grateful that I had the chance to experience his work and his friendship.

The following footage is from “Press,” a piece that Peter created at The Present Tense and TEST’s Contaminate 3 Festival in Boston in 2008.  The piece was minimal, cyclical and repetitive.  The principal action of the piece was captured both in real time and in video that illuminated the space through projection.  Peter engaged in the action of crumpling pieces of newspaper and throwing them on the ground.  The video played in reverse, making it appear as if the crumpled paper was magically floating back into Peter’s hand.  There were three bodies in the piece, the present self, the past self (video) and Peter’s shadow, an acknowledgement of the future self.   If my memory serves me, I remember being most excited by the moment when the accumulated paper on the ground matched the volume of paper in the video.  This visual collision offered a brief time where all three Peter’s could exist within the same moment.

Rest well, Peter.  Thank you for gifting me experiences for contemplation through your work and teaching me how to be a better artist.  I am forever grateful.

– Sandrine Schaefer

Peter Grzybowski “Press” 2008 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

This past summer, I was invited to participate in the SUPERNOVA festival in Rosslyn, Virginia. The festival circuit is an exciting one, a wonderful networking experience with both new faces and old ones. When I first caught a glimpse of the roster,  a particular old face jumped off the screen: Peter Gryzbowski. I first met Peter at the 14th International Performance Art Congress in Sacramento, California in 2006. His piece at that festival haunts me to this day. Peters presence during his performances was very powerful, and having seen and met him at a very early stage of my own performance practice, I learned quite a bit about the medium from him. Over the years I’ve felt more and more grateful for the impact he had on the genesis of my work. 

 Once I arrived in Rosslyn, I learned that Peter was unable to make it to the festival. Sad that I would not see him, I made a mental note to contact him and let him know I’ve been thinking of him. Later that day, I saw obsolete computer monitors, a favorite performance object for Peter, being loaded off a van and into the space I’d be performing in later in the festival. Once I learned that they were originally indented for Peter’s performance, I immediately felt connected to them. Eames Armstrong, the festivals curator, was kind enough to let me take one of them for my own performance. I wondered, what was Peter going to use these for? They were going to end up smashed up, weren’t they? 

I was excited to have an addition to my performance, but I was more excited to pay homage to an artist that I’ve always respected and looked up to. In the end, I chose both actions that are pertinent to my work as well as actions that were inspired by Peters work. I feel very grateful that I had this unique opportunity to connect with Peter and his practice, even if he wasn’t present for it. Peter will be greatly missed.

– Philip Fryer

Still from "WHAT NOW", Photo by Sandrine Schaefer

Still from “WHAT NOW”, Photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

I met Peter in 2011 at Grace Exhibition Space in Brooklyn.  His interest in my work as so genuine that we spent several hours talking about performance and art in general.  His passion for live action art was clear and enthusiastic especially when he described the projects he had been involved.  We kept connected even though many times we were in different continents doing separate things.  It was until last year that I had the opportunity to witness the strength of his performances and the details of their sociopolitical content.  The last time I saw him, and I believe it was the last time he performed, was in June this year at the same place where we met, Grace Exhibition Space.  He was in full command of his performance, and enjoying every minute of his delivery.  While buildings of the former Soviet era collapsed on the screen, he walked lively through light bulbs that rested on the floor, and much later while we crushed old television sets that had been covered with different flags.  That is the last image I have of a friend who knew how to listen and how to appreciate the liveness of art.

R.I.P. Peter, you are remembered.

– Hector Canonge

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Hi Alien! where did you disappear … sounds like your last words to me? an’ of our anachronistic turn – the promise of a next round – a one again happy fight coming s…  ?I miss THE LAST MAN headlined on the seafront / a no sense postcard without you in “your meta final. touch” I picture out of the frame where to keep on hanging(…) la vie est un rêve et… then I say fucking hell* (en français dans le texte*) I could not imagine how much you are here, where only your laugh, your tenderness, and your strength, remain. My. Indian  September  summer  passenger / hush .  ???Hey! Peter “excuse my french” Hey, Peter, I am telling you good bye… and hey. Peter, I am telling you hey for very long

– Stefanie Seguin

 

 

Peter Grzybowski, 06.16.1954-08.29.2013

Peter Grzybowski was born in Krakow, Poland. Peter was a performance artist, multimedia artist and a painter. Since the eighties he completed a number of performances, individual and group shows, installations and multimedia works ?presented worldwide. In his latest work, he created performances and installations using video, audio, light and live action, synchronized by computer. His paintings are in USA, Canada, France, Germany and Poland. 

 

Rough Trade II Interviews: Philip Fryer | Elena Katsulis & Erin Peisert

 

ERIN PEISERT & ELENA KATSULIS

 

Elena Katsulis and Erin Peisert 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

TPT: How did you meet? How long have you been making work together?

E&E: We were once co-workers. We bonded over a mutual love for performance and decided that we should collaborate. We’ve been working together for about a year and a half.

 

TPT: Can you describe your process for collaborating?

E&E:  Most often, it starts with an interesting image, concept, or material that we’d like to explore. After some discussion, we realize that there is usually an implied subject to which we both relate; in a general way. Then we share our personal impressions and individual experiences in relation to the subject and these are what form the more specific intentions behind the piece. In terms of collaborating on durational work, we’ve discovered a previously unexperienced level of investment and accountability. It is very different from performing solo. As a duo, you find it’s necessary to find that general commonality and put your specific differences aside.

 

TPT:  Do you have individual practices? Can you talk about them?

Elena: I have done a few solo pieces, and also work with a performance trio called KEN. We use movement, music, hand-made objects and sculptural costumes. I also write.
Erin: I practice butoh dance, movement, some 2D visual stuff, and sounds.

 

Elena Katsulis & Erin Peisert 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

TPT:  How did the context of the Pozen Center inform your work?

E&E:  More than the Pozen Center itself, it was our relation to each other and those around us in the space that informed the piece. In the space of the Pozen Center, we decided to position ourselves in the front doorway; with intent to disrupt the expected pattern of foot traffic.

 

TPT: Why rope?

E&E: Physically, the rope functioned in binding us together; externally. It allowed for added dimension in negotiating our release. Aesthetically, it seemed like the simplest, most raw material. Visually this reminded us of a Chinese finger trap. Unable to successfully separate until both committed to doing so.

 

TPT:  How did you communicate through your piece?

E&E: We could sense subtle energetic and physical shifts; intuition. One would initiate and the other would agree.

 

Elena Katsulis & Erin Peisert 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT:  The audience became concerned for you as the piece evolved. Elena was visibly cold and your fingers were turning blue. Some came over and touched you. How did this inform the work for you?

E&E: It definitely broke the traditional audience/performer unspoken boundaries. We were no longer just objects to be looked at. The fact that our physical well-being was a concern for those around us certainly brought a compassionate quality to the piece that we weren’t expecting. The viewers became actively invested. The people who came to warm our hands had the courage to step outside of, not just the traditional artist/viewer relationship, but possibly their own hesitation, in terms of breaking that barrier. That was particularly inspiring.

Elena Katsulis & Erin Peisert 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT:  Can you talk about the intention behind the actions? Did that intention change once your were in the piece?

E&E:  We wanted to explore how two people relate to each other and how that relationship changes over time. One person’s actions and desires undeniably effect the other. When there is mutual investment, and over the course of time, one change will eventually effect the dynamic of the whole either by transformation or dissolution.
The intention didn’t change once we were in the piece, but once we were actually bound and laying on the floor, we became less focused on the intention behind the piece and more on the present situation. For me (elena), I had a hard time separating myself from the physical aspects of the action and surroundings. I was freezing, and shaking uncontrollably. When I could sense people standing over us and witnessing that, I started to shake even more. I became aware that people might be concerned about us.Visually this reminded us of a Chinese finger trap. Unable to successfully separate until both committed to doing so.

 

TPT: What were you thinking about during your piece?

Erin: I feel like my body-awareness is heightened when I’m at ground level. I try and be as present with every aspect of my physical condition as possible. I often think of Elena and how she’s doing. Sometimes I observed the space, the people in it, sounds, shapes, and light from a different perspective; the floor.

Elena: My mind was wandering. Like a graph that starts small, curves upwards, then slopes back down again. I was thinking about the smallest things: my toes, the temperature, etc., to observing the surroundings and what I could view of the people, to Erin and what she might be experiencing; and to larger concepts…then back down again.

 

TPT:  What were some of your expectations/ hopes (if any) of your audience?

E&E:  We didn’t have any expectations, but by obstructing the open doorway, we hoped that the audience would be engaged in a way that they weren’t expecting and that they might reconsider boundaries between audience and performer.

 

TPT:  Were there any moments that surprised you?

E&E:  Yes. One time was when we were treated us as, not art, but people through the warming of our hands. Another time, we both noticed that people had started to congregate around us; waiting patiently for what seemed like us to “do something”. After the piece ended, we talked about that moment and discovered that, while it it, we each had the initial impulse to move our bodies as if to satisfy a perceived desire for entertainment, but consciously resisted.

 

TPT: How was performing in Boston different from making work in Chicago?

E&E:  In Boston, most of the audience we performed for had very little preconception of our work as artists or of us personally. Elena was interested in how that informed their perceptions of the work, compared to some of our peers in Chicago who know us in a different way. We also noticed a great willingness by the Boston audience to wait out the duration.

TPT:  What imprints did Boston leave on you?

E&E:  In Boston there was a strong sense of community. It opened our eyes to a world of artists who initiate events; previously unknown to us.

 

TPT:  Why did you choose to create this work over the duration of 3 hours?

E&E:  We wanted to become part of the structured event as a whole more than an action to be watched from beginning to end. Even when we remain relatively still, as time goes by, there are many external variables which end up demonstrating that passing of time. By remaining for three hours, we hoped to show this change physically.

 

TPT:   What is the role of repetition in this work?

E&E:  Most often our performances do use very clear repetitive actions, however this happened to be one of our most static. Despite that, we did still experience similar changes in energy as we do in our more clearly repetitive work.

 

TPT:  What is inspiring you at the moment?

E&E:  Push/pull, initiate/allow, finding interest in the mundane, accepting not knowing the unknown, time, idiosyncrasies, reduction, bare essentials vs. excess, discipline (within reason) self-observation, ‘obstacles’

 

TPT:   What are you studying?

E&E:  Sincerity.

PHILIP FRYER

 

Philip Fryer “TREE/POOL/SKY” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

 

 

Sandrine Schaefer:  How did the context of Defibrillator impact this piece?

PF: Since sound is such an essential part of this performance, the noises I found within the space really dictated how the piece was performed. The movable walls and the metal attached to the wall helped to lay out how and where I did each action.

SS: What was your inspiration for this piece?

PF: The lyrics of a Mount Eerie song titled “Summons”. It’s about a pool of water formed by the roots of a tree being pulled out of the ground when it fell over, reflecting the image of the sky. The visual of this in my head made me think about how these things are seemingly separate, but at that moment are connected. I aim to do the same in this piece, to find hidden things within a space and imagine what else might lie behind walls or under the floor.

SS: This was the 3rd version of TREE/POOL/SKY. How has it evolved?

PF: The first version in Boston was much more paired down, partially because it was in a small space. It felt unfinished so I decided to perform it again. A few months later I was in Montreal, where it really took on a life of its own. Many actions were added in that version, including sounding the space, peering at audience member through the black portal,  and recording and playing a cassette loop live. I had anticipated doing the same actions as I did in Boston but once the performance started I felt the piece wanting to fill the space (which was enormous). The third version in Chicago didnt really see any actions added, but they certainly altered based on where I was and who I was with. Rather than interacting with audience members I didn’t know like I did in Montreal, I chose to acknowledge people I did know (Sandy Huckleberry and Marilyn Arsem). Marilyn was the first person to take the interaction a step further and put her hand through the portal and touched my lip. I can’t explain why, but this interaction makes me feel like this performance is now complete.

SS: Can you elaborate on the sound that was present?

PF:  I like to think of it as a heartbeat. A heartbeat generated by the space that is unique and omnipresent. It is one of a million possibilities. 

SS: Talk about portals…

PF:  This is a new element to my work that is yet to be really explored. I have a feeling that the next things I work on will delve further into what a portal is to me. In TREE/POOL/SKY, it is simply something that can swallow a being or alter its form. 

 

Phil Fryer "TREE/POOL/SKY" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

SS: Can you talk about the intention behind your actions? Did that intention change once your were implementing the piece?

No, the piece has stayed pretty true to what I set out to do. It’s the first time that I’ve had an idea that I’ve felt the need to explore until it feels completed by performing it several times. 

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SS: Can you talk about the extension?

PF: The extension came to me more as a visual than as an idea. I really liked the image in my head of a body extension that erases identity and creates something that looks almost non-human.

SS: What did it feel like to engage in such an intimate action with the audience (eye contact through the portal) then to be cut off from them? When you couldn’t see or hear were you scared or did you feel that that first action cultivated a sense of safety in the space?

PF: I like the idea of an experience transforming over the course of time. Initially, this experience with the audience is an intimate one and only a few have it, which makes it kind of sweet. Later in the performance, the portal changes its tone and takes away my senses. It was very scary in this performance, however, I did a different piece titled “APOCRYPHA” there I stood on the edge of a shipping container for 3 hours wearing the extension. It was really scary because I was only a few feet away from a 10 foot drop, and the sensory deprivation made it so that I could tell how close I was to the edge. That was pretty scary. 

SS: Talk about Xfiles and John Cage.

PF: I recently came out of the closet as an x-files nerd. It’s really had a big impact on my work. I just really enjoy the fact that each episode is its own rhetorical question, and challenges the viewer to question things in our realities that we take at face value. I wish they had done an episode about John Cage, that would have been awesome.

SS: What are some of your expectations/ hopes of your audience?

PF: I really just hope that the audience gets something out of the performance. I hope what I’m trying to convey is coming across but I really like hearing interpretations as well. Marilyn push my expectations a bit because I don’t get a lot of unsolicited interactions with my work, and it was really nice to have that happen. It really makes you check in with yourself about what your doing and how your doing it. If someone is moved enough to interact in an unexpected way it forces you to evaluate why it happened. 

SS: How was performing in Chicago different from making work in Boston?

PF: It’s always something I think about when I don’t perform in Boston, that different cities have different influences and histories. Therefore, your work is going to be read via that lens. 

SS: What imprints did Chicago leave on you?

PF: The most American city I’ve ever been in. Looking at the Sears tower from an empty lot. Triumph and tragedy. 

SS: What is inspiring you at the moment?

PF: Lucky Dragons “Ouija Miore (A Wave That Interferes)” synthesizer. An interactive, sonic and visual synthesizer that utilizes both chaos and order. So. Fucking. Cool.

SS: What’s next?

PF: I’m searching for the “Tonybee Tiles” that are in Boston. These tiles are from some sort of bizarre personal mythology that led someone to embed into the streets and sidewalks. I’ve seen them before in other cities but didnt really take note until I say the documentary (Resurrect Dead) about them. They seem to be disappearing and deteriorating rapidly so they might not be viewable much longer. I love the idea of chasing a decaying idea and it feels important to what is coming next for me. 

SS: Any words of wisdom?

PF: “If you understood everything I said, you’d be me” -Miles Davis

Boston infiltrates Chicago

Last weekend, 6 artists from Boston traveled to Chicago to make work at Defibrillator Gallery as part of ROUGH TRADE II; a Boston Chicago artist exchange.  Here is video documentation of the pieces that they created.  In the coming months, The Present Tense will be posting extended interviews with each artist, giving them the opportunity to talk about the intention behind their work, their experience with the exchange, how the context informed their pieces, etc.  Stay tuned!

 

 

Philip Fryer “TREE/POOL/SKY” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Sandy Huckleberry “Fishing” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Marilyn Arsem “still, waiting” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Sandrine Schaefer “SecondSkin” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Daniel S. DeLuca RKSR CNL from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Jeff Huckleberry “Fourth Rainbow” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.