The Present Tense Top 12 of 2012

As we begin 2013, The Present Tense shares its reflections on 2012.  2012 offered countless moments for performance art that The Present Tense found inspirational.  Here are 12 of them:

Mari Novotny-Jones at "100 Years" photo by Sandrine Schaefer

12. We probably don’t have to explain why its awesome that “100 Years of Performance Art” came to Boston University in 2012.  This traveling exhibition consists of documents that capture a comprehensive history of performance art.  In this installment, the 4th version of the exhibition, many important Boston-based artists and groups were included and made live works throughout the duration of the exhibit.

 

Dirk Adam's lecture on "Green" at the ICA photo by Philip Fryer

11.  2012 saw a number of performances and exhibitions tackling the theme “color”. The Present Tense was lucky enough to catch Dirk Adams “lecture” on “Green” created in conjunction with the Figuring Color exhibition at the ICA. Adams stood in front of the audience and used a reel to reel player to play for us a recording of himself giving a lecture on green as it relates to the green movement. The lecture suggests that the green movement may not be so green. Perhaps it is a different color. Perhaps it is Brown. Adams awkwardly watches the audience watching him. It was a hilariously poignant performance!

 

10.  The Occupy Movement in conjunction with 2012 being an election year, inspired dialogues around the synergetic relationship between art and activism.  Activists and the creatively-minded gathered in NYC during the Fall to attend the 2012 Creative Time Summit that focused on the theme of Confronting Inequality.  The first day of the Summit was comprised of nearly 30 presentations on this theme.  Artists, Activists, writers, and even a passionate Doctor shared the stage to talk about strategies to navigate the interstices between art and social practice.  Highlights included Leónidas Martín’s talk on his Barcelona-based artist collective, “Enmedio” and how they have used actions that induce humor and compassion to create interventions with successful results.  Michael Rakowitz shared insights into his process creating conceptual art pieces that investigate the relationship between the US and the Middle East.

The second day of the Summit consisted of workshops that included an opportunity to learn how to map out Utopian Ideas with Steve Lambert, and to engage in a discussion led by the group Tidal Journal around Occupy Wall Street’s history, present and future.  The day ended with a Debt March throughout the streets of Manhattan.  Throughout the multitude of perspectives offered at the Summit, the theme of art action as a powerful tool to communicate and inspire change was consistent.

 

9.   For those in Massachusetts who couldn’t make it to the Creative Time Summit to get a healthy dose of activist adrenalin, Montserrat College of Art hosted an Academic Symposium, Agents of Change: Art and Activism around the Guerrilla Girls exhibition, Not Ready to Make Nice.  If you were brave enough to take a Salem bound Commuter Rail to Beverly during Halloween weekend, you would be rewarded with presentations from a myriad of artists, curators, art historians, and a keynote from the Guerilla Girls.  Highlights include presentations by Eve Biddle and Joshua Frankel, Joshua Seidner, and Randi Hopkins’ panel, Participation is Personal:

Artists Indulge in the Messy Task of Understanding the World.  The following day included a series of workshops on various artistic strategies between art and activism used across media.

 

8.  With all of the discourse on Activism and Art, “Feminism” and what it means today, also seemed to be a topic of interest in 2012.  Of course it was a hot topic around the Guerrilla Girls exhibition and at the Creative Time Summit, but it also came up in the form of New Maternalisms, a performance art happening curated by Natalie Loveless. Loveless eloquently writes about how the work in New Maternalisms offers perspectives from the daughters who are now mothers from the era of feminist art’s intervention.  New Maternalisms offered opportunites for artist-mothers to make pieces and participate in round table discussions about the experience of motherhood today and investigate how this informs their artistic practices.

Chicago about to drive home from Boston!

7.  The Present Tense returned to its roots in 2012, organizing our first live event since 2009’s Thus Far. The second edition of the Rough Trade artist exchange took place in September at Defibrillator Gallery in Chicago and at MassArts Pozen Center in Boston. There are too many amazing moments and aspects of this experience to name here and you can see the work for yourself on the last round of Present Tense interviews and videos. The strength of our communities were apparent in the work shown and put into making the exchange happen, including a grueling overnight 16 hour drive made by the Chicago artists to Boston!

 

6.  A new friend The Present Tense made this year is Brazilian artist and organizer Fernando Ribeiro Ribeiro traveled to Boston and showed work at Mobius in April.  Ribeiro performed a beautiful, quiet piece titled “I Promise”. Ribeiro was the first artist to travel the US circuit between Chicago, Boston and New York.  We feel lucky to live in a time that has multiple cities, organizers and venues that support this medium.  We hope that 2013 will bring strength to these ties and that more artists will travel this circuit!

Rob Andrews "Vampire Dance" at TBSO 2 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

5.  Boston’s thirst for marathon performance art pieces and shows showed no signs of slowing down in 2012, especially with the second installment of Time Body Space Objects. 12 artists, 12 hours, 12 performances. Highlights included Martine Viale’s house made out of sugar cubes, Daniel DeLuca’s subversive presentation, and Jeff Huckleberry’s refrain “This is stupid, this is not stupid.”

 

installation view of INSIDER/OUTSIDER photo by Sandrine Schaefer

4.  Documentation of performance is one of the most common ongoing conversations that occurs within our community. We already mentioned “100 Years” as an example of how performance art can be experienced within a traditional art context. But when it comes down to it, it’s up to us, the artists, to document our history as it goes. Sandrine’s INSIDER/OUTSIDER is an example of the connections that are being drawn between a wide-range of artists work, worldwide, that are current and poignant. The focus of INSIDER/OUTSIDER was on live works that took place outside of an art setting, an advantage that performance has over many other mediums. Simple, understated pieces like Jeffery Byrd’s “Public Art”, which has been witnessed by almost no one else beside the artist himself, had the chance to be seen by many viewers within a context highlighting current performative approaches.

 

3. Another interpretation of documentation was present at Alice Vogler‘s solo exhibition “Time On View” at the Proof Gallery. At a first glance, this exhibition read as a sculpture show, and can initially be approached in that way. However, each object you are seeing is an actual relic from Vogler’s past performances, which is explained in the literature next to each piece. The artists own interpretation of documentation is present in the show. Alice also re-performed several of her past pieces, some of which were chosen at random.

Jeff and Sandy Huckleberry "Green"

2. As stated previously, “color” was a theme that came out in 2012.  Mobius artists, Jeff and Sandy Huckleberry used color as a starting point for a series of improvisational performances they created over the duration of several months. Each week, the husband and wife team painted Mobius’ space a different color, going through the spectrum of the rainbow!

 

1. The performance art community suffered a tremendous loss when Mobius artist and Photographer, Bob Raymond passed away this past Spring.  This was devastating to all who knew and loved Bob and his physical absence continues to be felt within the Boston Performance Art Community.  The Huckleberry’s Rainbow Series concluded with the color blue  on March 1st, which also coincided with Bob’s passing.  In honor of Bob, the Huckleberry’s ended their series by painting the Mobius space black.  This loss inspired many other artists to create tributes to Bob’s life, generosity, and inspirational spirit.  We leave you with traces from pieces made in 2012, in Bob Raymond’s honor.

 

Catherine Tutter’s “Wrapped Intention”

 

 

Philip Fryer "For Bob" 2012

 

 

Sandrine Schaefer "Resting Place" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

 

 

Alice Vogler and Vela Phelan photo by Philip Fryer

Rough Trade II Interviews: Sandy Huckleberry | Adam Rose

The Present Tense is pleased to begin our series of extended interviews with artists who participated in our recent exchange between Boston and Chicago, ROUGH TRADE II!  To start us off, Sandy Huckleberry (Boston) and Adam Rose (Chicago) share their thoughts.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

SANDY HUCKLEBERRY

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

 

TPT:  Your last few performances have been collaborative but this one wasn’t, how does your work change when its just you?

 

SH: I think my response in collaboration is a little like when I’m talking to someone with a strong accent and I just can’t help but start falling into the rhythm of that speech and doing it myself a bit. Either that, or I become a little more intensely the opposite of whatever’s happening. When working with Jeff, for example, I tend to get a little butch. Working with Mari, I tend to react to her intensity and slowness by becoming very quick and flighty. Working with her recently brought this to my awareness. I was almost like a dog shaking off water, trying to get through the task of the performance so quickly.

When I first started performing, almost 30 years ago, I had such a self-assured sense of “presence” (from being a dancer, singer, actress, etc.) that it kind of annoyed me. It almost seemed hackneyed, or something, so I wanted to throw it away. I oriented my work toward doing tasks, and got used to talking to the audience as if I were chatting with guests in my kitchen while I cooked. Working with Mari, and then seeing your performance at Defibrillator, I realized that (in comparison to your sense of presence) I had thrown my own “presence” so far away that it had gotten lost and it almost seemed like I’ve been hurrying through performances to get them done, as if they were the slightly less interesting items on a long to-do list. What they really are is a sacred opportunity to come into communion with myself and others. So I wanted that back, and for this performance I decided to give myself the time to try, and quite possibly fail, to do something almost impossible.

When I’ve just been working with others, and then work with myself, I’m still resonating to a sense of challenging/emulating an “other”, and so I think I look for the “other” in myself. This particular performance, I was trying to figure out some aspects of a recent experience that were obscure to me. So I was searching (or “fishing”) for something to be learned, something I knew was there but I couldn’t figure out. 

 

TPT: You mentioned this performance came from a childhood ritual, can you tell us about that?

 

SH: When we were kids, my mom used to make this game for my sisters’ and my birthday parties. She would hang a sheet over the chin-up bar that spanned the doorway to our bedroom, and each kid would hold a “fishing rod” (a stick with a string attached) and “fish” over the sheet and pull over a little treat or toy of some kind that they could keep. 

 

Sandy Huckleberry "Fishing" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

TPT: It was quite a difficult task to catch an object, was it that difficult when you were young?

 

 SH: Not at all. My mom was on the other side, tying the treats onto the string!

 

TPT: You had two distinct parts of this performance, one part on the ground with your objects and one above. Can you tell us about why you chose to have two different approaches to the same action and what they symbolized to you?

 

SH: Well, I think this goes back to the sense of searching for something. I needed an alternate place to get a perspective on what I was searching for. I didn’t know whether the forest or the trees would be more helpful. In the end, it was the forest.

 

TPT: Many of the materials used in this piece were things you got while in Chicago, what went into the process of choosing what objects you wanted to use?

 

SH: Well, I went into the thrift shop open to what I might find. I was looking for things I might, or might not, be able to catch on my hook. (Practical.) Other than that I just found things that I might be interesting to look at, or catch the light. (Formal.) I also hoped there might be some things that would resonate with me ( I found some goblets that reminded me of my grandmother) and some things I really disliked (a detached, broken plastic holder for speaker wire with a bit of wire trailing off of it). (Content.)

For the stick and stones, I went foraging on a lovely walk in a park and around the neighborhood. That’s always a huge pleasure for me, and an important part of the performance. 

 I borrowed the string.

I purchased the wig (my one “souvenir”). 

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Good for weddings, good for performances…?

 

Sandy Huckleberry "Fishing" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

TPT: Why the blue wig?

 

SH: That was actually the first clear image I had for the performance. Although I brought the emotional content of the performance with me, I waited until I got to the space to figure out the particulars of the action. My eyes were drawn upward (such wonderous high ceilings) and I saw the corner of the partition, that looked like I could climb up there. I got an immediate picture in my head of wearing a blue wig and looking through binoculars down at the crowd. I liked the sense of distance the wig gave me… distance from the “other” me that was toiling down below. I guess the wig was “she” (the forest) and the one below was “me” (the trees).

 If I think about it now, where that image came from, I guess I think of two things. 

One is that the idea of being up above the crowd, on that little partition in the corner, makes me think about an experience I had when I was about 15. It must have been 1978 or 9 and I was at a club in New York with some friends. It might have even been called the Triangle club. It was a tiny little place, a loft in the shape of an isoceles triangle. 60 feet at its longest, with a teeny stage in the sharpest corner. We’d gone there to hear an electric violinist called “Nash the Slash”. I guess it was what would now be considered a hipster place, because I remember Debbie Harry was there (she threw up in the elevator, as I recall) and so was David Bowie. He took a turn with the DJ, who was perched in the dark above us all on a tiny little platform at the top of a very similar partition against one wall, and began spinning tunes of his own choice for us all to dance to. Great memory. (I loved to dance!)

Anyway, the second thing was that I saw “Moonrise Kingdom” this summer and the girl in it reminded me of me at that age. Really into dressing up and being somebody else, somebody who wouldn’t be caught dead in the time and place in which she actually found herself. 

So, yeah, I think that’s why the blue wig.

 

TPT: Is there anything else you’d like us to know about this piece?

 

SH: Jeez! I’ve already said a lot. I never write this much about a piece! Mostly, I just do them and then they’re done. I sometimes tell people about what happened, if they seem interested, but that’s it.

I will say that I was able to feel more present and less rushed than I have in a while. Maybe it was because Marilyn’s piece was durational and Daniel’s was brief and in a “lecture” format, that I felt I had the opportunity, or even the responsibility, to take my time and allow the piece to be a longer one. The crowd was very kind (by which I mean attentive and enthusiastic) and it was only after that I worried I might have bored some people. (That’s always a speed-inducing thought if it occurs in the middle of the performance.)

So maybe I did find some of the elusive stuff I was fishing for…

 

Sandy Huckleberry "Fishing" 2012 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

 

 

ADAM ROSE

 

Adam Rose “Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party” 2012 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

TPT:  Your work explores the interstices of dance and performance art.  Do you feel that this has made your work more or less accessible to certain audiences?

 

AR:  Dance and Performance Art audiences tend to have different expectations, and I encounter different obstacles in each context.  Where as a dance audience might question my technique or level of training, or be confused and put off by the imagery I employ, a performance art audience might be disappointed by seeing something that’s ‘just a dance.’  

I think dance and performance art are two contemporary manifestations of a more primordial performance tradition that underlies them both.  I learn from performing in both contexts, and any confusion or misunderstandings that might arise are ultimately productive.  

 

TPT:  Do you have an ideal context that you like to make work in?

 

AR:  No, no context is ideal–not dance, not performance art, not butoh.  They each have their unique obstacles and expectations.  I enjoy the chance to perform in every context.

 

TPT: Can you talk about the role of personae in your work?

 

AR:  I don’t believe in the idea of a single self or single self-identity.  Anyway, I think it would be boring to perform as just me.  So I try to push self-expression to the point where the different aspects split off into separate characters with their own lives.  “My name is Legion, for we are many,” (Mark 5:9).  But basically I have two personas, a male persona and a female persona, Elena.

 

 

Adam Rose "Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT:  Who is Elena?

 

AR:  Elena is my goth girl persona.  I’ve been performing as her since 2007.  She is a witch and acts as a channel for my more purely gothic obsessions.  She’s a little more than just a character though–I’ve had several dreams in which I was a woman, or looked in a mirror and saw a woman’s face.  So she definitely is a strong part of my psyche, and is with me even when I’m not performing in drag.

 

TPT:  In Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party, you used sound in an interesting way.   Can you talk about this choice, how you created the pre-recorded sound pieces, and the choice to use your voice as you exited the space at the end of the piece?

 

AR: In dance performance it’s pretty standard to use pre-recorded sound coming from a single sound source–you have a moving body that’s very present, and then a kind of distant layer of sound that seems almost arbitrary.  That can be frustrating, so recently I’ve been trying to make the sound more embodied.  

In Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party there’s the sound of Elena’s (my) voice coming from a portable speaker tied around my neck, guitar samples playing from a guitar amp, and the overhead in-house sound.  I distorted my voice for the vocal track using auto-tune software, and created the rest using samples and a MIDI keyboard.  

Using my own, live voice at the end of the piece was not the original plan.  The pre-recorded vocal track was supposed to continue till the end, but I had transferred the wrong file so it ended early.  I had to improvise and it seems to have actually worked out better that way.

 

TPT:  You used the majority of the space in this piece.  Even if your body wasn’t present in all of the nooks and crannies of the space, your shadow or sound was.  Was this intentional?

 

AR: The Pozen Center is such a big space, I was determined to not be overwhelmed by it and instead conquer it in some way.  I’ve also lately been working with imagery related to Nyx, the Goddess of the Night Sky. As the Night Sky, she is also the Goddess of Space.  She embodies what appears to be empty, and so using the totality of the space would be an aspect of her expression.

 

Adam Rose "Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

TPT:  Do you consider your work to be site-specific?

 

AR:  Not especially.  Although I do consciously plan and try to think about the space I’ll be performing in, and make last minute changes once I’m in it.  I’ve noticed that if I don’t consider the space enough, the piece is more likely to fail.  

 

TPT:  Something I was struck by was your use of facial expression in this piece.  Can you talk about this?

 

AR:  I naturally make facial expressions when I dance, and I wasn’t taught to suppress this in my dance training, like in more classical forms of dance where the face is not expressive.  Of course in Butoh, using the face as an element of the dance is very important.  I’ve learned to use my facial expressions more consciously, as organic masks, as a way to both engage or manipulate the audience.  

 

Adam Rose "Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

TPT:  What is Antibodycorp?

 

AR:  Antibody Corporation is a non-profit organization specializing in mind-body and occult research.  Antibody uses the specter of the Evil Corporation as one aspect of its sorcerous work.  Biotech is currently impacting our everyday lives in many ways, through the foods we eat, the drugs we take, expanding the range of mutations that are available to the species.  Antibody takes a DIY approach to epigenetic mutation, on the premise that the body may actually be able to mutate itself by mental effort alone.

 

TPT:  Can you talk about your use of goth imagery?

 

AR:  In terms of the classical dichotomies of light/dark, male/female, left/right, and day/night, Western civilization has almost exclusively favored the right, light, male, and solar.  In Western culture, darkness is represented by the Gothic.  Gothicism emphasizes everything on the lunar and left hand side of the equation, and that’s what makes it worth paying attention to.  

Horror and goth may be considered low and adolescent forms, but it’s also possible to consider horror as a discipline.  There’s a discipline involved in continually turning towards what horrifies.  The longer you stay in negative affective states like anger and fear, the less human you become.  This can be seen positively as an evolution towards the alien, the above-human.

 

TPT:  Can you talk about the intention behind your piece?  Did that intention change?

 

AR:  Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Destruction is part of an ongoing investigation into the mythology of Nyx and her children, including Nemesis, which was a piece I performed over the summer.  Since civilization has obliterated the night sky with light pollution, making the stars invisible, Nyx exists as a strong adversarial current, opposing everything light/male/solar and right.  It was my intention to align myself with her.

 

TPT: What were some of your expectations/ hopes (if any) of your audience? Were there any moments that surprised you?

 

AR:  I try not to have too many expectations regarding the audience, but I was pleasantly surprised when I heard people laughing during the performance.  I always like to hear people laugh.  My favorite audience reactions are fear and laughter.

 

TPT:  How was performing in Boston different from making work in Chicago?  What imprints did Boston leave on you?

 

AR:  If I were to compare Boston and Chicago, I would say that Boston has these winding streets and Chicago is built on a grid pattern.  So maybe Boston is a more intuitive and organic place than Chicago.  Chicago is a very rational and productivist city, and that makes it crazy.  

I will remember most the conversations I had with Boston artists and audience members.  The atmosphere in Boston was serious, but also open-minded, generous, and not cynical.  

 

TPT:  What is inspiring and influencing your work at the moment?  What’s next?

 

AR:  The entire Midwest is inspiring me right now.  What’s next is Mistake on the Lake, a project I’m undertaking with Antibody ally Andrea Peterson.  Mistake on the Lake is Antibody’s response to the Midwest–what happens when the midwest reflects on itself, turns it values and symbols back in on itself?  

There is a tremendous aggressive energy hidden there, barely hidden behind a polite reserve and friendly smile.  You might say we Midwesterners are Children of the Corn–something strange and terrible is being birthed from these fields.  Mistake on the Lake will be performed in Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, OH, and at Antioch College in November.  

What I’m studying right now in relation to this project is a book on Chicago’s history, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by William Cronon.  I’m continuing my occult research with Lords of the Left Hand Path by Stephen E. Flowers, a comprehensive history of sinister occultism.  And I’m reading Artificial Hells by Claire Bishop to figure out why participatory art makes me so uncomfortable.

 

TPT: Any words of wisdom?

 

AR:  The World does not need to be saved, and neither does Dance.  Beware those who force Dance to Speech.  Beware the Word.

Adam Rose "Neu Iconoclasts: Wig Party" 2012 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

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.

Remembering The Present Tense’s First Patron…RIP Billy Ruane

5 years ago I was walking down the street in Central Square, Cambridge and my eyes met those of a white haired man wearing a barely buttoned dress shirt. He stopped me and asked “What kind of human are you?”.
With a question like that I couldn’t resist a conversation with this stranger. This was a few days before Philip and I were leaving to go to Muenster, Germany to show work at Gallery SoToDo’s 13th Performance Art Congress. I told this man about my artistic practice, my trip, and our plans to produce The Present Tense’s first art event, Activate, upon my return. He offered words of wisdom and offered me $200 in cold-hard-cash. He was so kind, asking me to use it to make the work I desired to make. He asked only that I bring some music back from Germany for him. This was a particularly difficult time for me financially and although it felt awkward taking money from a stranger, my instinct told me that this man was genuine in his offer and that I should take the opportunity presented to me. When I asked him his name, he replied “They call me Billy.”

When I returned, I emailed Billy several times, but never received a response. That $200 saved Philip and I on that trip and made Activate possible upon our arrival back in Boston. I was tremendously grateful for Billy’s generosity, always hoping that I would re-connect with him somehow so that I could show him the work I made, deliver the Cd’s I collected for him and thank him. I never saw him again, until I saw a friend’s update about his recent death on Facebook.

For the past 24 hours I have been discovering that Billy was a legend in the Boston/ Cambridge music scene. He supported musicians by organizing, promoting, and funding their endeavors in addition to sharing his extrordinary energy and dance moves! He first brought music to the Middle East Club in Cambridge in the 80’s. I have learned that he touched the lives of countless creative minds by offering acts of kindness to show his support and belief in the potential of the artistic process. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and inspiration that I was fortunate to have experienced Billy’s magic.

To be frank, it isn’t always easy to be an artist, no matter what medium you choose. My brief meeting with Billy has been the story that I replay when I feel discouraged and it is one that I love to share with people. The money he gave was needed and well spent, but he provided me with so much more than financial relief. This experience embodied the promise of hope. This experience profoundly affected my work as an artist and organizer. I hope that Billy’s memory will continue to energize, inspirit, an empower.

Below are selections from Activate: an evening of Occurrence
This debut event for The Present Tense, hosted at Zeitgeist Gallery wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of Billy Ruane.

Paul Waddell @ Activate 2005 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Sandy Huckleberry @ Activate from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Bryce Kauffman @ Activate from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Dirk Adams @ Activate from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Mari Novotny-Jones @ Activate from The Present Tense on Vimeo.