Revisiting ROUGH TRADE


The Present Tense is gearing up for ROUGH TRADE II that begins in just 1 week.  ROUGH TRADE II is an exchange between live artists working in Boston and Chicago.  The Present Tense has selected 6 artists to represent Boston in a public event to be held at Defibrillator Gallery on September 7th and 8th,2012.  Defibrillator Gallery’s Artistic and Executive Director, Joseph Ravens, has selected a group of artists to share their work in Boston at MassArt’s The Pozen Center on September 21st and 22nd, 2012.

This exchange is designed to highlight and build bridges between the powerful communities of action-based artists that currently reside in Chicago and Boston.  In addition to the live events, The Present Tense will produce a series of interviews with each participating artist that will be featured here!  This will bring ROUGH TRADE II to an international audience.  To view details about the live events and learn more about participating artists, check out the press release.

In 2007, The Present Tense collaborated with Joseph Ravens to organize their first artist exchange.  This was such a successful collaboration that we decided to revisit it.  The Present Tense dug through the archives to share some of the pieces that were made during ROUGH TRADE I.  Enjoy!




Noelle Mason was suspended from the ceiling and attached to a keg. As people drank throughout the evening, she was lowered to the ground. Mason created this piece both in Boston and Chicago. Due to restrictions of the space, Noelle had to use Root Beer in Boston. Needless to say, the root beer was not as popular as the beer she used in Chicago, but the Boston audience was happy to engage in other ways. This is footage from this piece.

Noelle Mason from The Present Tense on Vimeo.



Sandrine Schaefer unrolled 75 feet of red carpet over the duration of 4 hours, creating a red line across the space. Inside, she had speakers attached to her face that played a chaotic sound piece composed of American wrestlers challenging one another. The sound could only be heard by the curious who came close to her body.

SandrineSchaefer “Survival of the Fittest Part 1” from The Present Tense on Vimeo.


In this durational piece made in Boston, artist, Mouseman was installed with his head inside of a column for several hours. He recited information about mice organizing to overthrow human-created structures. The audience was invited to listen through headphones.

Mouseman @ Rough Trade I (Boston) from The Present Tense on Vimeo.


Play all three videos together to get a sense of the soundscape of ROUGH TRADE I‘s Boston event.

Currently, ROUGH TRADE II is made possible by the generosity of our immediate art communities  (we are paying for everything out of pocket).  Please visit the project’s Kickstarter to help us raise funds for this exchange!


A Giving Performance

Sandrine Schaefer and Philip Fryer “Gifting”

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.

Bicycle Series- “Learning to Ride a Bike” 2007 Sandrine Schaefer

The Present Tense loves bikes.  What’s not to love?  Bikes are an environmental way to get from Point A to Point B, they are interesting objects, and most of all they are FUN!  The Present Tense Co-Founder, Sandrine Schaefer hasn’t always had the joyful relationship with bikes that she does now.  Severe Asthma and allergies prevented Sandrine from having the signature childhood experience of learning how to ride a bike.  At the age of 26, with strong lungs, Sandrine decided to gift herself this experience.  The other Present Tense Co-Founder, Philip Fryer gathered bike parts with their friend, Ryan Stantis and Ryan built her the bicycle of her dreams!  She invited her friends to join her in an interactive performance where they could teach her how to ride her bike.  She also invited the crowd to name her bike and asked them to gift her a trophy when they collectively decided that she had demonstrated the basic skills needed for bike riding.  This is footage from the performance.


4 years later, Sandrine and her beloved “Jersey Devil” have went on countless adventures and are looking forward to a beautiful life together.

The Present Tense gets Nostalgic

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!

Adventures in Being (small) US tour Photo Post #1

While many Americans were digesting their Thanksgiving experience and braving the malls on Black Friday, Daniel S. DeLuca and I set out to begin the Adventures in Being (small) tour across the United States.

We have now been traveling for 15 days. The majority of our time has been spent experiencing the southern area of the country through a car window.  Even through the barrier of the windshield, it has been a sensory explosion. I have seen the most bizarre trees, cartoon-like cacti, consumerist sprawl, farm after farm, infinite piles of objects now deemed obsolete, and purple mountain majesties!

Here are selected images from the project thus far.  Keep checking back for more updates!

“Southern Bell” Baltimore, MD

“Needle in a Haystack” Roanoke,VA

“Tractor Tire”  Chatsworth, GA

“Wilbanks” Chatsworth, GA

“Turquoise Pipes” Baton Rouge, LA

“Wheels” Baton Rouge, LA

“Convent of Perpetual Adoration” New Orleans, LA

“Sign” New Orleans, LA

“Forgotten Swings” New Orleans, LA

“Daniel’s Clown” New Orleans, LA

“Weatherman (for Phil)” New Orleans, LA

all photos by Daniel S. DeLuca

Adventures in Being (small)

I have been involved in a romance with space since I came into being. When I speak of space, I am not referring to stars and galaxies, but physical space here on earth, both natural and manmade. My love affair with space is one of many reasons that I have committed myself to making and showing action art. Over the years, I have found that many artists working within the realm of the ephemeral have a sensitivity that challenges physical space, specifically in relation to time. This is something that I am consistently thinking about when making my own work.

In 2009, I went through a personal shape shift after a mindful and significant weight loss. Around this time, I began a project titled “Adventures in Being (small)” where I explore spaces and places that I could not previously fit. This began as an exercise in measuring my new body, but soon evolved into a practice that addresses the way that we as humans fit into various environments, both physically and conceptually.
For the past year I have been squeezing myself through fences, between parking meters, inside newspaper stands, through trees, the negative space in furniture etc. I have implemented this practice all over Massachusetts, in New York and recently in Shanghai, China.

Adventures in Being (small) started as a personal and somewhat private endeavor. Although I was often positioning my body in public spaces, there was little to no interference or participation from passerby’s. This changed in Shanghai. There was an avid and unique curiosity exhibited by those who witnessed my actions. People would stop, laugh, and gesture in a way that mimicked my position. I even got a thumbs up! In these moments, my found audience and I were transcending cultural boundaries to have an experience together. This affirmed the importance for me to expand this project by experiencing as many spaces as possible.

I have the opportunity to take “Adventures in Being (small)” on tour and will be traveling across the United States from Boston, MA to California in December to discover both natural and human-made spaces. Updates of this experience will be posted here. Please check out my fundraising effort on Kickstarter, and anyone in New Jersey should listen in for my interview on WTSR 91.3 this Wednesday (November 17th) around Noon!