In September 2011, I was invited to be part of an exhibition titled Time Body Space Objects, curated by Alice Vogler. For this exhibition, each artist was allotted an hour of performance time, on the theme of ‘commitment’. I wanted to create something that challenged me to commit to an action for the full hour allotted to me. I had been thinking a lot about John Cage at the time, and about his experience in the anechoic chamber at Harvard. Expecting to experience the ultimate silence, Cage was confronted by the sound of his own blood flowing in his body, and thus the impossibility of silence. I wanted to make a commitment to the omnipresence of sound, by way of introducing a single tone, generated by a keyboard. For one full hour, I stood in a corner and held one note. The chosen note mimics the drone of our blood flow, and gives us the opportunity to meditate on our own audio output. The commitment of this performance is its stillness. Like Cage’s anechoic chamber, this stillness provides an access point for the nuances of the sound, which present themselves over the course of the hour.
Philip Fryer is a performance, sound and video artist living and working in Boston, Massachusetts. His work is a meditation on mortality, chaos/order, and the body as a circuit. His recent exploration has been focused on using lo-fi technologies such as circuit bending and cassette tape loops, both as individual pieces and as elements of performances and videos.
Mimicking the “Gifting” ritual of Pink River Dolphins, Sandrine and Phil passed a pile of stones from one side of the space to another via their mouths. They were both covered in white cloth that unraveled as we moved across the space. When each rock was deposited on the opposite side of the space, it’s sound was amplified. This action continued until each rock was successfully transported.
Our recent call to artists working with Rope/ String has come to a close. In the coming weeks, the 10 selected artists will be featured in individual blog posts on The Present Tense. You will see work that uses rope because it is a versatile, durable and accessible material. Some artists use it to draw connections, conclusions, and create relationships between people, objects, and spaces. Some are enticed by the material’s ability to simultaneously create tension and support. Some treat it as a 3 dimensional line that moves through time. Regardless of the their attraction to this material, each artist uses rope/ string to create provocative performative works.
Rope is of specific interest to The Present Tense because we associate it with our history.
To begin our online Rope/ String Series, we want to share a work Sandrine created in 2003, titled “Swallow”. It was this piece that caused Sandrine and Philip’s meeting and sparked their collaboration. If you look closely you can see Philip in the audience!
Every once in a while the Boston art world aligns and produces a performance art marathon. March saw one of these weekends with Control Y Control Z at MEME, curated by the MEME Team, and Yard Sale at Mobius Curated by Jeff Huckleberry.
Control Y Control Z
Leigh Waldron-Taylor (performed by Daniel DeLuca)
More photos from our exhibition “Thus Far”, these ones from the closing event. It felt great to get back to our roots and host a night with a just a few performances, and to utilize the MEME Gallery to officially launch the Present Tense archive.
It’s important to note that the artists body was not present in Daniels piece. Instead, the audience was instructed via a series of cryptic text messages and hidden notes to go to various locations and perform various actions. The final part of the project will come on a later post when it is completed.
Announcing our new show of past relics, photos and videos from the Present Tense Vault:
A celebration of Boston‘s Performance Art Initiative and release of long-awaited web-based archive. Exhibition of performance art relics and evolving timeline on view at MEME October 9th-23rd
October 9th 8pm
October 16th 8 pm
Screening of selected and extended archive footage
October 23, 7 pm
Live Event, featuring the work of:
Coco Segaller (Boston)
Sarah Schoemann (NYC)
Philip Fryer (Boston)
Daniel DeLuca [Boston]
About “Thus Far”
Since 2005, we (Sandrine Schaefer and Philip Fryer) have been
organizing performance art events and exchanges under the name The
Present Tense. Since then, we have organized 9 events and shown over 80 artist from around the world, with each event documented in a variety of ways. Whether it is photos, videos or physical relics, there is a memory of each event and performance that has happened. As these relics accumulated, it became more and more clear that The Present Tense doesn’t just organize art happenings, it is a resource. A resource that not only shows, but also documents the movement of action based art that is thriving in this moment. Remnants of performances should see the light of day, rather than sitting in a shoebox for years on end. Its important that these things are presented, not as a piece, but as a memory. These performances acknowledge the past and influence the future, they exist in their moment but that doesn’t mean that they need to die immediately after.
The Berwick Research Institute took an interest in our idea of an
archive and donated their funds and human power to turn it from a
concept to a reality. The form that took shape is a bi-weekly blog
post of a past performance with text and either photo or video
In the Spirit of Independence day, we unearthed some dusty footage from Gallery SoToDo’s 13th Performance Art Congress. What Makes the Congress interesting is that it’s not tied to any one city, state, or even country, but instead prefers a nomadic existence moving from place to place. In summer 2005, the 13th Congress took place in Muenster Germany. This was the first international festival that Philip and I participated in together, an experience that enlightened us as artists and began to define our curatorial esthetics. Theodor Di Rico, the organizer of the festival, had Philip and I create performances on the Fourth of July.
Previously that year on my birthday, the universe gifted me the first installment in what later became an epic piggy bank collection. Walking down the street, I stumbled upon ambiguous white ceramic pig legs sticking out of a small pile of dirty city snow. When I unwrapped my present I discovered that the piggy bank was positioned with it’s arms on the ground and it’s legs over its head, revealing an awkward coin slot in between it’s legs. I had been making work that was fueled by the gender politics enforced within America’s meat and dairy industries and this object was the inspiration I needed to take my work to the next level. From January to July I began hunting for piggy banks. When it came time for us to leave for the Congress, I had collected 13 piggy banks of all shapes and sizes. To name a few, there was a piggy that looked like a baseball, an extra large piggy hand painted by a child, and my personal favorite, a glamorous Miss Piggy wearing an evening gown and a coin slot masquerading as cleavage. I began my piece by pulling each pig from my body that was wearing traditional German work clothes. I arranged them into a linear composition as they each sang “God bless America.” When each piggy met their impending doom of being smashed on the floor, a pile of U.S. pennies and animal bones appeared in the rubble. I scooped the relics from each pig in my hands an offered them to the audience. The currency that was useless in Muenster made the piece more about the action of giving than the gift itself. As I repeated these actions, I found myself avoiding destroying that first birthday piggy. I didn’t want to see her go. It finally came down to her and another piggy I planned not to smash because Philip and I were planning to use in a piece we were making collaboratively a few days later. As I was making my offerings and emotionally preparing to smash the piggy that started it all, I was given yet another slice of magic. One of the other artists in the audience marched up to the pig and smashed her so I didn’t have to. A mixture of shock and relief presented me with the decision of whether or not to smash the pig for Philip and I.
My days leading up to our trip to Muenster were spent engaging in a game of trial and error with my suitcase. I had to figure out how to stuff all of my pigs and clothing into 1 suitcase and keep it under the airline’s allowed 50-pound minimum. Naturally, Philip had a much more simplistic approach. He packed the night before, bringing only a carefully chosen paper bag. He wanted to see what would happen between 1 simple object and his body in a completely unplanned performance. I was both intrigued and secretly envious of his ability to leave his esthetic to chance. When his turn to present his work had arrived, he casually knelt on the floor and cut 2 sides out of the top of the bag, making room for his shoulders when he placed his head into the bag. The bag became armor for his head and face as he dragged it across the floor until he hit some kind of obstacle that would change his direction. He physically encountered the wall and the legs of the audience in this way for approximately 20 minutes. He stood, disoriented and filthy, and then rebalanced himself by placing his head against the wall.
This was a turning point in Philip’s work, where he found success in the mundane and minimal. This also infiltrated our collaborative work and gave me a new perspective on the potential of live art.