Present Tense’s 13 of 2013

As we greet 2014, The Present Tense shares its reflections on 2013.  2013 was a fruitful year, offering countless moments for experiential art.  Here are 13 of these moments that The Present Tense found inspirational.

 

 

13. In April, Boston Center for the Art’s Cyclorama was activated by Vela Phelan’s Near Death Performance Art Experience (NDPAE).  In a simple stroke of irony, NDPAE had its own experience with death. Originally scheduled to unfold over 2 days at Fourth Wall Project in Boston and after months of planning, Fourth Wall was temporarily shut down due to permitting issues, a historic plague among Boston alternative art spaces.  NDPAE was postponed until further notice.  The event fortunately found shelter at the Boston Center for the Art’s Cyclorama, a stunning space with a history of being used as a war memorial.  NDPAE was rescheduled for April 21, 2013, less than 1 week after the Boston Marathon Bombings.  In this 7 hour performance art event,  artists created live works around the theme of life and death.  Both the context and content of the work at NDPAE made for an intense experience for all to remember.

Jamie McMurry "Flawed" 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

Jamie McMurry “Flawed” at NDPAE 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

 

12. This year saw the beginning of new and important series of curated performances in the Museum of Fine Arts. Odd Spaces, curated by Liz Munsell, was the first of the series and  included artists from Boston and New York. Musell is no stranger to performance, and “Odd Spaces” has frequently been referenced as a very successful collaboration between local community and institution. Liz’s choice to have the event on the MFAs weekly free night, as well as a panel discussion immediately after, encouraged a discourse between artist, audience, and curator within the walls of the respected institution.

 

11. A stand out piece this year was created at Odd Spaces at the MFA.  Marilyn Arsem’s 6 1/2 hour piece, “With the Others” challenged what it means to experience a live event.  Hidden beneath a bench in the Egyptian Galleries of the MFA, Arsem’s body was anointed with Jasmine and covered in black cloth.  The aroma filled the halls leading to the space where only the curious would discover Arsem’s living body amongst the mummies and other artifacts in the room.

 

Marilyn Arsem "With the Others" at Odd Spaces 2013

Marilyn Arsem “With the Others” at Odd Spaces 2013

 

10. During the summer of 2013, a marathon of performance art festivals occurred throughout the United States!  Chicago’s annual international performance art festival, Rapid Pulse activated the Wicker Park neighborhood for 2 weeks.  Rosslyn Arts Project, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, and The Pink Line Project debuted the Supernova Festival throughout Rosslyn, Virginia, in raw spaces, office lobbies, rooftops, parks, the Metro station, and other public places.  Edge Zones presented the second annual Miami Performance International Festival that provided 4 weeks of programming throughout the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens and the Miami Design District.   The Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival (BIPAF) used 11 spaces in Brooklyn and involved over 150 artists from all over the world with the aim of creating constructive institutional critique as an attempt to relationally construct new economic and social contexts for performance art.  Alejandra Herrera and Jamie McMurry curated the 4th installment of Perform Chinatown in Los Angeles.  Presented works ranged from street interventions to body- driven works.  Durational performance installations unfolded throughout the event in large boxes that lined Chung King Road.

 

09. Also in the summer of 2013,  Anthony Greaney closed its doors, but hosted many memorable shows that supported performance and other experimental time-based media. Greaney’s presence on Harrison Ave in Boston was a testament to Boston’s need for space to show experimental work, and to challenge the status quo of what Boston’s art scene really looks like. It’s no secret that many lament the loss of this space.  Some noteworthy exhibitions this year included the Tactic Series, Pan Act, Epoch and RE:Present Me.

20130713-_MG_9396-Edit

o+ “Vast Mystic Mecca Void” at Tactic 2, Anthony Greaney 2013

08. Grace Exhibition Space  in Brooklyn has made it their mission to glorify performance art since 2006.  In 2013, Directors Jill McDermid-Hokanson and Erik Hokanson acquired a second space in Kingston, NY.  GRAY ZONE for Performance Art adds an exciting new context to support their programming!

 

07. Temporary Land Bridge, run by Kirk Snow and Andrea Evans, launched over the Fall of this year. Land Bridge further contributes to Boston’ s network of of support within the creative community, doing so by giving artists interviews, reviews, and “statements” where the artists themselves curate the content of their posts. Temporary Land Bridge offers an exciting new resource for artists working across media.

 

06. In 2013, we saw artists, curators, and organizations continuing to explore the interstices between art and social practice.  Suzanne Lacy’s “Between the Door and the Street”  supported by Creative Time, was a notable moment of performance art serving as activism and was not without its own controversy.  This piece has sprouted dialogues around the complex relationship between art and activism, bringing opinions around issues of conduct, authorship, privilege, and agency to the surface.

 

05. The First Biennial Festival of Performance Art and Sound Art came to The Quarry, an arts campus under the auspices of Contemporary Arts International  (CAI) in Acton, MA.  A stand out moment was JV’s (Jeff Huckleberry and Vela Phelan) 24 hour collaborative piece, “Poach” in the woods. 

676-V+J_Photo-by-Daniel-S.-DeLuca-copy

JV “Poach” 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

tumblr_mrfsgpJWWX1qz7wfjo1_1280

 

04. The spectacle of Marina Abramovic´ continues! In 2013, we followed the Kickstarter campaign used to raise funds to make the Marina Abramovic´Institute a reality, watched a video of Lady Gaga practicing the Abromovic´method and Jay Z’s attempt at performance art go viral.  It is safe to say that performance art is no longer hidden in the shadows of society. Whether one thinks this direction is desirable or detrimental, this has certainly inspired interesting conversations throughout the year.

 

03. The DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum’s Paint Things show was a strong exhibition throughout.  A stand out moment of the exhibition was Claire Ashley’s inflatable sculptures that were created on sight. The Chicago-based artist brought these sculptures to life with her playful delegated performance piece, “Double Disco” this past Spring. Jim Dine’s hearts will never be the same.

double disco: i’m goin’ nowhere from Claire Ashley on Vimeo.

 

 

02. Mobius’ Fall programming was exceptional, featuring exciting works by local artists and artists from across the globe.  Some stand outs include Ieke Trinks,“Dynamorphic” by Nedregard and and Hillary, Ampala Prada, and Antoni Karwowski/ Daniel S. DeLuca/ Vela Phelan.

IMG_0715

Nedregard and and Hillary “Dynamorphic” 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

 

1.  After years of living in boxes, storage units, basements, and  other inaccessible places, Mobius’s massive 37 year old archive has been inducted into the Tufts Library. Over the next few years, the archive will become more and more accessible, revealing an important part of  the history of experimental and experiential art.

photo

William Pope L.’s boots from a 2003 performance, among other relics.

This Generation’s Population of Ghosts: Near Death Performance Art Experience

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Generation’s Population of Ghosts*

Near Death Performance Art Experience BOSTON 2013

Sandrine Schaefer

As performance art moves into a phase where it faces the same commodification, professionalization, and institutionalism that other art mediums have endured, artists and organizers are challenged with how to maintain the authenticity of the medium and it’s history.  Within this medium, where artists call upon their physical, mental, emotional, and intellectual endurance to challenge the parameters of real time, it is impossible to remove mortality from performance-based work.  As artists connected by this medium watch one another’s practices evolve and mature, they are simultaneously watching each other age.  They witness their bodies change, ideas develop, and they can see their impact on each-other and the future generations of performance artists with whom they are connected.

Working with the concept of Life and Death, Vela Phelan conceived of Near Death Performance Art Experience(NDPAE), a performance art event that offered an opportunity for multiple generations of artists to create live works around this theme. In a simple stroke of irony, NDPAE had its own experience with death. Originally scheduled to unfold over 2 days at Fourth Wall Project in Boston and after months of planning, Fourth Wall was temporarily shut down due to permitting issues, a historic plague among Boston alternative art spaces.  NDPAE was postponed until further notice.  The event fortunately found shelter at the Boston Center for the Art’s Cyclorama, a stunning space with a history of being used as a war memorial.  NDPAE was rescheduled for April 21, 2013, coincidentally the birthday of the late Bob Raymond, and less than 1 week after the Boston Marathon Bombings.

For 7 hours, audiences were given time and space to contemplate how we make sense of the cycle of life and death through the lens of action-based art.

Marilyn Arsem "Edge" 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

MARILYN ARSEM “Edge”
The work began at 4 pm (3:55 to be exact) when Marilyn Arsem sat down at a square wooden table in the center of the Cyclorama. 2 glasses of water, filled almost to the brim, were placed side by side at one end of the table.  The natural light that streamed in through the Cyclorama’s dome silhouetted her form.  A spectator excitedly whispered that she was holding the room in the glasses.  Taking a closer look, I saw that she was, indeed the keeper of the room, as passersby’s reflections danced across the water.  Upon closer inspection, I noticed small bubbles lining the insides of the glasses. A reminder that the water itself had already stood still for a period of time, or a foreshadowing of Marilyn’s prolonged presence within Near Death.

The beginning moments of Marilyn’s piece, titled “Edge,” were perfect. The Cyclorama was almost silent except for the sound of a clock ticking, emanating from Marilyn.  I was grateful for these beginning moments with her.  The materials present in the other artists’ installations set around the room suggested that chaos would soon ensue.  I meditated on the methodical opening and closing of her eyes.  She looked spent, but her presence filled the entire space with a level of intensity that I had never before experienced in a performance art piece.

 

Faith Johnson "We Are What We Dream" 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

FAITH JOHNSON “We Are What We Dream”

Tucked away in a corner of the Cyclorama, The question, “If we could dream a new world, what would it be like?” was subtly scrawled across the threshold of Faith Johnson’s interactive installation, “We Are What We Dream”.   A woman approached with a map of the installation.

On one side of the space, people sat on pillows wrapped in silver heat blankets, reminiscent of images of the marathon runners after reaching the finish line.  The map invited me to choose a crystal from a carefully arranged circle on the ground.  After selecting my crystal, I was instructed to travel to the “Silver Mountains” to choose a place to sit and meditate on the question: “If we could dream a new world what would it be like?”

As I wrapped the heat blanket around me, I noticed the color of my skin reflected in the material.  It transformed into a second skin and made me think about all of the people who had worn it before and would wear it after I left. I was able to forget that there are people watching, focusing on the warmth of my “mountain” and the sounds it produced.  The crinkling of the Mylar reminded me of the sound of animals rummaging through piles of trash I experienced during my recent travels in India.

Faith Johnson "We Are What We Dream" 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

When I climbed out of my “mountain”, a wall displaying a growing “waking dream map” confronted me.  Sitters were invited to write their thoughts directly on the wall.  Faith nailed their crystal next to what they had written.  With delicate silver thread, she integrated each crystal, each thought, into the map. I felt thankful for Faith’s choice to directly engage her audience in a way that was instantly gratifying.  It was fulfilling to see my direct influence on the piece.  Exercising this control offered a much-needed respite from the intensity of Marilyn’s individual focus.

After I made my contribution to the piece, I stood back and watched the sunlight from nearby windows dance across the crystals and the “silver mountains.”  Before leaving India, I spent several days in Varanasi, where I observed the Ghats where bodies of the wealthy are cremated in open air.  I watched bodies covered in golden blankets (much like the heat blankets used in Faith’s piece) burn a steady stream of smoke as roaming cattle and goats ate fallen marigolds from the garlands that decorated the corpses.  Watching participants interact with “We Are What We Dream” was a similar experience.  As people emerged from their “silver mountains,” there was an air that they had been transformed, perhaps even transcended their understanding of time and space.

 

 

Travis McCoy Fuller 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

TRAVIS MCCOY FULLER:

Back in the main space, the glasses on Marilyn’s table appeared to have moved, making clear that she was pushing the glasses across the table with a tedious pace.  Using the ticking of Marilyn’s clock as a sonic foundation for his piece, Travis McCoy Fuller was first to activate the outer edge of the circle of the Cyclorama.

Travis employed subtle variations to ask for participation in his piece.  He asked out loud, gestured, and spoke softly to offer a more intimate experience of the performance.  One of the beginning actions in the piece included two volunteers transporting a pile of rocks on the table to small piles on the floor around the space.  Simultaneously, Travis pulled a bag of sand with a hole in it around and through the audience, an arbitrary line of sand marking his path.  This was the first in a series of actions that broke the traditional performance space, clarifying that this piece required the audience to witness actively.

Travis asked the audience if there was anyone who would like to sit at the table.  A man sat on top of the table.  Travis adjusted his semantics and asked if anyone else would like to sit at the chair that was next to the table.  A woman sat in the chair.  Travis joined them and the three engaged in the act of eating basil plants in silence.  The man and the woman negotiated sharing the plant, the woman taking delight in nibbling the stems.  Sometimes when I witness delegated tasks in performance, it feels like an attempt to control the audience’s experience or nothing more than a practical choice.  As I watched the woman (who chose to stay at the table for the majority of the piece) it became apparent that Travis’ choice to solicit help was an invitation for participants to explore their own performativity.  He cultivated a community within the piece, giving the audience the choice to directly contribute to its creation, if they wished.

The performance space was broken again when Travis sat with the audience, took a swig of vodka and passed the bottle around the room.  This offering was a gesture that leveled the playing field between the performer and audience.  He proceeded to cut his arms and rubbed curry into the fresh wounds.  The bloodletting directly referenced the corporeal self, while establishing empathy between the audience and the artist.  This empathy was ignited again when Travis “challenged” several people in the audience to hold ice cubes until they “turned to water”.  This immediately induced the same visceral response that I felt watching Travis cut himself.  Although I was not holding an ice cube, I could feel my own fingertips growing numb as I watched and waited with the people in the audience who were given ice.

Travis McCoy Fuller 2013 photo by Philip Fryer

 

Travis seemed to be moving between meditative and aggressive states.  I interpret this as another technique for breaking the performance space.  There was time for quiet contemplation (eating plants, balancing stones, watching sand fall) but there were also moments that demanded the audience to be alert (pushing stones, hammering, using a staple gun).  While these aggressive actions could be misinterpreted as angst, the destruction served a function to the cycle of the piece.  After smashing holes in the center of 2 square tables, Travis balanced one table on top of the other.  He stapled the neck of a pair of coveralls around the hole in the bottom table.  With the help of the audience, he lifted another pair of coveralls filled with sand onto the table on the top. The sand from one body poured into another, a symbol of reincarnation that took on the form of an hourglass.

Travis McCoy Fuller 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

The piece evoked infinite notions of how humans structure, understand, and attempt to control and change time.  Melting ice, the image of the reincarnation hourglass, a loop of John Cage’s saying, “But when we don’t measure time…” fusing with the ticking of Marilyn’s clock all culminated into an experience that questioned perceptions of time.

The piece ended with the action of Travis nailing himself to a wall holding nails in his mouth.  He ripped himself from the wall as if he were shedding his skin.  He spit out the nails, a letting go of sorts, another suggestion of a transformative process.  After Travis nailed himself to the wall and tore himself free a second time, he stopped, releasing the entirety of the space back to Marilyn.

 

Jamie McMurry "Flawed" 2013 photo by Philip Fryer

 

JAMIE MCMURRY “FLAWED”

The wall and floor of Jamie McMurry’s space was covered in faux-wood paneling.  A white suit and various tools hung on the wall, while a dusty colored recliner awaited action in the middle of the space.  The installation placed the audience somewhere reminiscent of a basement, a trailer, or a houseboat.  A microphone on a stand was presented, making the space feel a bit like a makeshift nightclub.   Wherever Jamie had taken us, it was steeped in nostalgia and felt a bit creepy.  To add to this aesthetic, he used an over-head projector to share an article written on the 1953 murder of Mable Monahan.  The article claimed that the only clues in the murder were 2 shoe prints and a bloody handprint smudged on the wall of the victim’s Burbank home (Jamie explicitly referenced this by leaving his own imprints on the wall of his installation). He lunged in front of the article, one hand extended towards the projection, the other, jiggling a ring of keys attached to his belt loop.  This action, like so many in the piece, oscillated between feeling antagonistic, ritualistic, and humorous.

He moved throughout the space, shifting between aggressive movements, ceremonial-like gestures, and childlike explorations of the body. He engaged in actions like gargling, gagging, and attempting to piss in a bucket.  Many of his actions forced the audience to make quick decisions about proximity.  He threw things around, created aggressive sounds, jumped rope with a long chain, and created slingshots that catapulted glass jars full of paint-covered wooden beads against the wall. Some may consider this irresponsible behavior, but I appreciated this tension as a strategy for breaking the traditional performance space.

Within the piece, Jamie engaged in a cycle of activating, referencing, and reframing images.  We saw this first with an image of a palm tree.  He wore the image on a T-shirt, projected it and proceeded to paint it on the wall in white.  Jamie then spit the same white paint out of his mouth, referencing the tree through symbolic action.

Jamie McMurry "Flawed" 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

The most dynamic icon he used was an image of two hands in a gesture that is commonly read as “OK”.  Between the hands was an oversized image of an open mouth.  Jamie created this image with his own body in real time, referenced it on a t-shirt, and later recreated it on the wall.  In one of the final actions of the piece, Jamie used a makeshift slingshot to throw one of his glass jars into a large vinyl print of the mouth.  This action and the remnant of this action offered space to contemplate the notion of consuming experience.

Jamie McMurry "Flawed" 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

Much of “Flawed” made use of actions that explored the complexities of consumption/excretion paired with the dichotomy of power/vulnerability.  He addressed colonization, referencing the ghosts of the displaced.  He wore an army blanket over his head and turned it into a poncho as he pushed his head through.  When he emerged, a pair of pantyhose he wore over face had erased his identity.  He ritualistically shook the glass jars he later fed to the mouth on the wall.  He explored colonization again when he changed into a white suit that was embroidered with the words “GOOD PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS SURE THEY’RE RIGHT”.  He literally buried himself in the recliner, covering his body in soil and mud.  After raising himself from the dead, he attempted to destroy a wooden birdhouse with his bare hands.  Watching Jamie expend so much effort, trying to destroy a home belonging to someone else, transformed him into the devil incarnate.  Yet, the struggle of battling with his physical limitations illuminated his vulnerability, made him human, and somehow relatable.  I couldn’t help but internalize this, becoming aware of my own arbitrary attachments.  At what point does the struggle outweigh the perceived gain of a situation?  Much of the piece existed in this area of grey.

 

Jamie McMurry "Flawed" 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

In addition to creating actions that demanded an upheaval of the audience, “Flawed” required multiple shifts in how the audience listened.  Sometimes the audience was strained to decipher soft or muffled sounds.  At other points in the piece, Jamie produced more abrasive sounds that resulted in the audience covering their ears.  This varied sonic experience was a subtle call to action that foreshadowed the final action of “Flawed”.

After playing Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” Jamie picked up a woman from the audience, offered a private sonic experience by giving her a pair of headphones, and carried her outside.  When he walked through the Cyclorama’s doors, he was handed a bouquet of black balloons.  As he walked down the sidewalk, the audience giggled and hustled to catch up. The lyrics “I’d trade my soul for a wish, Pennies and dimes for a kiss, I wasn’t looking for this, But now you’re in my way…Where you think you’re going, baby?…Hey, I just met you, And this is crazy, But here’s my number, So call me, maybe?” still fresh in our minds.

A few blocks from the Cyclorama, Jamie stopped and released the balloons.  Together, we all watched them drift through the night sky until they were out of sight.

 

VestAndPage "Thou Twin of Slumber" 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

VestAndPage “Thou Twin of Slumber”

The installation of VestAndPage (Verena Stenke and Andrea Pagnes) included a pile of broken glass with wine glasses hanging above, suspended in a moment of free fall.  Two large bricks of ice melted throughout the day, requiring an occasional mopping around the space where they rested on the floor.  The melting of the ice and the glasses frozen in time set the pacing of the performance before it even began.

When the time came for the installation to be activated by the artists’ bodies, the piece began in darkness.  A flame methodically illuminated a pair of legs hidden inside of a square shaped hole in the wall.  I don’t remember the moment or how the lighting situation changed, but I remember Verena repeating the action of falling onto a mattress as Andrea built a road from golden bricks to walk across the space. The inability to fully register the actions through memory or documents due to the constant variances of low light situations was something I wrestled with throughout the piece.  After learning that VestAndPage source content for their performances from their own dreams, I realized that these were intentional choices made in an effort to induce dream-like states in the audience.

The collaborative duo spent much of the performance on opposite sides of their space, traveling towards one another.  This resulted in the audience having to manage a tension between where to look.  When giving attention to one artist’s actions, the viewer was forced to experience the other through their periphery.  We had to use our other senses and call upon our intuition to gain an understanding of the totality of the performance.  I had to make peace with the fact that I was going to miss much of the piece and that the action of forgetting and late remembering, much like a dream, was built into the nature of the occurrence.

Andrea stood on a brick and carefully cut his face and chest in a mirror that was suspended in a similar fashion as the wine glasses.  He followed this action by walking across the pile of glass.  After seeing the blood from his body trickle from his carefully placed incisions, I prepared myself for the worst.  The inner dialogue began and I anxiously tried to decide at what point I would intervene.  At what point would it be negligent to watch another being put themselves in this kind of danger.  As I looked closer, Andrea did not appear to be getting cut as he walked across the glass.  This seemed impossible and I felt as though I had been tricked.  Once I surrendered to the illusion, I was able to enjoy the beauty of the image and the sounds it produced.

VestAndPage "Thou Twin of Slumber" 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

Meanwhile, Verena held a large glass jar containing a light, a piece of molding bread and larvae on her bare stomach.  She sat close to the audience so that we could see the larvae’s movements.  This was hypnotic.  Andrea wore a contact microphone that amplified his breathing.  Certain actions produced heavy and erratic breathing that broke my focus on Verena. I turned and saw his face in a container of sand, his breath captured in a dust cloud as he exhaled.  When the two artists finally, physically met, Andrea was standing on one of the ice blocks.  He invited Verena to stand on top of the ice with him using an arm gesture.  Placing the jar aside, she curled up into his arms and into what appeared to be raw wool that was wrapped around his form.  The two tried to balance and hold one another as they slipped off of the ice.

VestAndPage "Thou Twin of Slumber" 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

In the action that followed, Andrea laid on the ice as Verena, randomly placed her foot into the hands of people in the audience.  Similar to Travis’ use of ice, this action induced an empathetic response to the action that Andrea was enduring.

Andrea sat up and Verena randomly chose people in the audience, leading them one by one to Andrea.  She placed their hand on Andrea’s back.  She continued this act of choosing and transferring until Andrea’s back was covered in hands.  She illuminated this image with a small and cool-colored light.

Our bodies are our vehicles for experiencing waking life, but like the decomposing bread consumed by the larvae, it does break down.  It bleeds when cut.  It is subject to extreme environmental conditions.  It is vulnerable. Through the use of highly visceral actions, some that even appeared to defy physical reality (walking on glass without harm), VestAndPage challenged ideas about what it means to be in a body and conjured romantic notions of what can be experienced beyond the physical realm.

When the lights lifted, Marilyn was still sitting, gently pushing her glasses across the table. I watched tears travel down her cheeks, as she maintained her uncompromising focus.  Watching her travel through the subtleties of the grieving process imparted her strength as an individual and the honesty behind her artistic practice.  It reminded me of the first time I saw Bas Jan Ader’s “I’m Too Sad to Tell You” but without the buffer of an interface.  I felt a deep gratitude for being witness to such candor unfolding in real time and space.

 

Jeff Huckleberry 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

Jeff Huckleberry

Near the end of the evening, Jeff Huckleberry engaged in a series of struggles.   His installation was perhaps the most tactile, consisting of raw wood; some premade boxes that still had the bar codes stapled on them, balloons, buckets and various other tools.  Jeff paced around the space, before engaging in a series of cleansing actions.  First, he poured a bucket of water and oblong balloons over his head.  He followed this by drenching himself in rubbing alcohol, disguised in 2 Super Super Super Big Gulp travel mugs.  In this quantity, the fumes were dizzying.  Two clown noses dangled around his neck.  He played the harmonica through a microphone and placed a hand held electric sander into a pile of coffee inside one of the premade boxes.  It danced in circles as it droned, producing an intoxicating aroma of burning coffee and sawdust.  He wrapped a long black cord, soaked with the rubbing alcohol, around his neck.  He looked like he was wearing a contemporary ruff.  He then wrestled with a pile of wood in an effort to transfer it from a pile on the floor, into one of the wooden boxes.  We watched him make one bad decision after another.  I thought about the consequence of action.  As he stood, hugging the pile of wood while being asphyxiated by the rope around his neck, I felt conflicted between the desire to unwrap him and the desire to laugh at the absurdity of what he was doing.  I’d like to believe that my desire to intervene had been outweighed by my appreciation of the creative process, but in hindsight, I am not so sure.  I ask myself if I chose to passively observe these actions because this was a “performance” or because I have the advantage of knowing Jeff’s work well enough to believe that he was “in control”.  I also wonder if this choice was at all informed by Jeff’s physique.  Maybe his strong-man-esque stature was fooling me into believing that he was somehow invincible.  The fumes from the alcohol couldn’t hurt him.  He couldn’t possibly slip and fall on the spilled liquids on the floor.  This shifted my thinking to contemplate the shared human experience of struggling with the confines/potential of one’s own physicality and the inherent identities it takes on.

Jeff Huckleberry 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

Many of the actions Jeff engaged in either illuminated or exaggerated how cumbersome the body can be.  His physical transformation through the rainbow, however, was something his body was well suited for.  He stood, nude, inside the box fitting his legs in between the fallen wood he had previously wrestled with.  He dumped white paint over his on his head.  He repeats this action: red, blue, orange, purple…He turns for a moment.  The purple paint has trickled down his back in such a way that splits him in two.  He is half orange, half purple. He continues with green paint, then blue.  The watery paint moved over his form gracefully, pausing only as it gathered in his body hair.  This action referenced art history, both the disciplines of painting and sculpture.  The clown noses referenced ‘entertainment’.  Although Jeff wore the signature of a clown, the ultimate entertainer, used colors that were exciting to the eye, and cultivated an air of absurdity, the performance was far from entertainment.  After he finished this action with yellow, he turned on a pump inside of the box.   We watched as the brightly colored run-off paint turned into painter’s mud as it glided over the chaotic wooden structure.

He moved onto his next action that entailed filling a coffin shaped box with bottles of Miller High Life.  He filled another coffin shaped box (slightly shorter) with the oblong balloons.   He changed into a white shirt and pants that the residual paint left on his body seeped through.  This involuntary remnant left me to ponder our inability to fully control the imprints we make throughout our lives.  He raised the boxes, mildly reminiscent of the twin towers (an image difficult not to conjure in our post 911 society).   He broke the beer-filled box on the ground to release the beer.  He performed a cycle of libation, pouring 1 beer on the box and 1 beer over his own head.

Jeff Huckleberry 2013 photo by Phil Fryer

Nude once again, Jeff traveled the space hitting sticks, a ritual believed by the Ancient Filipinos to guide the departed to heaven.  He left his installation to hit sticks in front of the photo of Bob Raymond displayed on a wall across the room.  At this point, I had also left Jeff’s designated space, noticing that Marilyn was nearing the end of her action.  I did my best to situate myself between them, an attempt to fully experience both pieces simultaneously.  This action of mourning paid homage to Bob, and also established a physical space for Marilyn within Jeff’s piece.

Jeff proceeded to turn off his sound, Marilyn’s clock echoing throughout the room.   He transformed into a ghost while sitting inside of another box that faced the fountain he had previously made.  Black liquid seeped through the white fabric that covered his form and poured down from a point on his head.  He pulled the fabric off, revealing a tube inside of a bucket that continued to pump black water over his body. As the paint accumulated in the box beneath him he wore a black clown nose.  This image evoked decay, leading me to contemplate embalming rituals and notions around preservation of the body.  His clown nose suggested that this had all been a joke.  The performance ended with 2 fountains made from matter, Jeff’s body no different than the pile of wood positioned in front of him.

Like much of the work that unfolded earlier in the evening, Jeff’s actions created a dynamic tension around spectatorship and the importance of surrendering to process and allowing it to run its full course.

 

GJYD

Marilyn ends.  One glass fell.  The other glass followed several short minutes after the first.  The crashing of the glasses on the floor was quick, less sonically jarring than expected, and seemingly anticlimactic.  It was the moment when Marilyn left the table and disappeared into the shadows that my eyes started to burn, preparing to release tears.  Several moments later, Phelan made an announcement and Bathaus began to sound.  My experience of processing what had just happened felt rushed.  I wanted for more time, more silence.

Marilyn Arsem "Edge" 2013 photo by Daniel S. DeLuca

Before the water that spilled from Marilyn’s glasses even had time to begin the process of evaporation, 3 figures wearing Gene Simmons masks swarmed Marilyn’s remnants.  They played Ring-Around-the-Rosie around her table.  When they stopped, they each revealed a roll of small black plastic bags that had been concealed in their hoodies.  They pulled the bags one by one, littering the ground.  I was put off (to say the least) by what appeared to be a lack of regard for the space created by the previous artist.  It felt like I was watching someone dance on a grave.  The action felt incomplete since they didn’t finish pulling through the entire rolls of bags.  To inhabit a space where someone else had committed to a task with their full intention and presence just moments before, only to short-change their own action, was frustrating to witness.  This oversight is a reminder of the importance of a site-sensitive practice and the power that can come from mindful considerations of the totality of a context and duration, as demonstrated by Marilyn’s piece.

GJYD 2013

In its best light, GJYD’s action pointed towards the varying understandings of death. The impact of death is selective and there are great variances between grieving processes.   I faulted these performers for their insensitivity to Marilyn’s space, for their inability to acknowledge it as still being occupied, but perhaps they believed enough time had passed for the space to be activated by someone else.  I, like so many, had been with Marilyn from the beginning of the day, thoroughly invested in “Edge”.  GJYD’s action forced me to confront my own personal connections to Marilyn’s piece and the knowledge that NDPAE was dedicated to her late husband.  GJYD reminded me of the importance of practicing non-attachment even in the light of personal adversity.

 

In Hindsite…

Performance artists have been organizing their own opportunities to share work for years. In the late 90’s and early part of the 2000’s, performance art was a medium that seemed to require gentle introduction to audiences across the U.S.  It’s not theatre, not dance, not music, and though it is related to visual art, what is called “art” is a process, rather than the product of a creative process.  It is conceptual and often strange for new audiences.  What is the etiquette for witness engagement?  How do you know when a performance is over?  Should you applaud?  Answers to these questions vary greatly depending on individual pieces and different artists’ philosophies.  Historically, the responsibility of inventing structures for presenting this work has fallen on artists and performance art organizers.  Many of the early events and festivals that The Present Tense has organized employed strategies that were used at NDPAE.  Music was played between performances, other time-based media such as ephemeral installation and video were programmed alongside action-based pieces, and announcements were made to alert the audience when these action-based pieces had ended.

Within the context of NDPAE these strategies felt unnecessary, and at times, inappropriate.  The music often felt overwhelming and distracting.  The video program and announcements were in competition with the physical conditions of the space (announcements were difficult to hear and the videos were washed out by the natural light).  These details were initially frustrating, but have made me acknowledge how many changes the performance art scene in Boston has cycled through.  There has always been a practice of patience among Boston audiences, but I believe that there has been an even deeper shift in how we collectively experience performance art in this city. Tools and strategies once used to calm the audience, to “loosen them up” are not needed in the way they once were.  NDPAE illuminated the fact that audiences are more willing, equipped and wanting to engage in the dialogues that artists are putting forth without mediation.  Audiences are prepared to invest in works that take on longer durations.  This opens up potential to develop new experimental collaborations between creative minds connected through experiential practice.  Instead of educating audiences on what performance art “is” and how it can be viewed, artists and organizers can instead focus our energies on developing multifaceted content that inspires deeper thought through the work we present.

 

Marilyn Arsem @ NDPAE 2013 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Faith Johnson @ NDPAE 2013 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Travis McCoy Fuller @ NDPAE 2013 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Jamie McMurry @ NDPAE 2013 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

VestAndPage @ NDPAE 2013 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

Jeff Huckleberry @ NDPAE 2013 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

* a reference to Travis McCoy Fuller’s piece created for Contaminate I in 2006. 

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

Present Tense Interview: Wilder Huckleberry

There aren’t many 16 year olds out there that could school the Present Tense on performance art. Wilder Huckleberry is one of the few exemptions. Having grown up with two parents that make performance and regularly attend events, he’s probably seen more performance in his life than most working performance artists have. Below, we pick his brain in an interview on his take of performance if Boston.

Present Tense: What is the first performance you remember seeing?

Wilder Huckleberry: first performance… the one that stands out is one that Mari did in one of the earlier Mobius spaces. Definitely wasn’t the first i saw, but the one that was pretty early on. She was doing some crazy things under a red light with tall tree  pillars and meat and gods and a sliced up napkin toga thing.

PT: Is performance art cool?

WH: Yes, performance is cool, but its really more that the artists themselves are cool. Audience and artist together make the performance, that’s how I’m thinking about it right now.

PT: Can you name a few artists or pieces that you really liked?

WH: I’ve really liked every piece of art that I have ever seen from Julie Andre Tremblay and Jamie McMurray, to name two.

Julie Andree T

My parents’ stuff I always have a different mood about, probably because they’re my parents, and you always have changing feelings about your parents. The collaborations between my father and Vela Phelan are almost always badass.

Jeff Huckleberry and Vela Phelan

PT: Have you ever made your own performance?

WH: I have taken part in many performances, but never made my own.

PT: Are there any objects that you can’t look at with thinking of a performance you’ve seen?

WH: Yes, there are so many. My room contains a few. There are a bunch in our basement. I can’t even look at a plywood sheet without thinking of my dad.

Plywood

PT: Would you say that having parents that are artists has impacted you in any way?

WH: Well if my parents hadn’t been artists, well, I don’t even know what that would be like.

Ego Shadow- a performance in 5 parts by Vela Phelan

The alchemists believed that extensively cooking all alchemical ingredients to a uniform black matter was the first step in achieving the “philosopher’s stone,” a substance used for rejuvenation and immortality.  This “blackening” was considered a ritualistic cleansing and was named Nigredo. Jung, a student of alchemy, further developed Nigredo through his work with analytical psychology.  Jungians interpreted this “black work” with the process of an individual confronting the shadow within to balance the conscious and unconscious.  The shadow is sometimes hidden, repressed or rejected by the conscious ego.  Confronting the shadow is a complex process, an exercise in humility, vulnerability, and patience.  The outcome, however, establishes equilibrium and creates a deeper sense of the authentic self.

Vela Phelan participated in this “black work” over 5 weeks at Close Distance, at Boston’s Mills gallery.  Close Distance, curated by Liz Munsell, exhibited Boston-area Latino/ Latina artists working across diverse media and national borders. As anticipated, much of the work on view at Close Distance addressed multiple concepts around identity in relationship to place.  Vela did this as well; creating a sacred space within the gallery that housed a series of his assemblages, his body, and an audience to witness his creative process and the relics that this process yields.  

Let’s start with the clandestine space.  When I use the word space, I’m usually referring to the concept of place, but in this case, “space” means something in between “place” and “outer space”.  Vela began with a black void that he entered through a triangular door.  A bell hung at the doorway, a sonic signal that an activation was about to take place.  Within the black void, Vela’s assemblages looked like planets.  They were absurd, yet familiar; planets ruled by ET, Mr. Burns disguised as a Mexican Wrestler, a blackened Big Bird hanging upside down by an extension cord.  In the center of the space, Buddha sat on top of a structure made of golden bricks, cradling a gilded Baby Jesus.  The heads of both figures were cloaked in black fur. We learned early on that this Buddha/ Jesus fusion was the most powerful planet, besides Vela himself.  Together they create a trilogy of sorts: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost. 

Ego Shadow generated notable departures in Vela’s work. The most apparent being the shift in the relationship between Vela and his objects.  Vela’s assemblages and his signature objects used in performances have always felt like an extension of his body and being.  Over the duration of Ego Shadow, these objects seemed to inhibit his movements.  The abundance of black clothing, mirrors, the countless sound producing devices, the idols, the carefully chosen smells of anise, tequila, rum, and crushed chili peppers became cumbersome.   When he entered his sacred space each week, his messenger bag and the objects it contained compromised his ability to fit through the opening. Once inside, his actions fluctuated between curiosity, menace, labor, and prayer.  He seemed to be involved in an attempt to take on the identities that the objects conjured, in an effort to transcend them. 

Each week Vela repeated the action of pouring rum or tequila over himself or over Buddhesus.  Over the weeks the smell accumulated and became oppressive, causing fits of coughing.  He would suck the liquid off the ground.  He would drink the liquid that would collect on the objects ritualistically placed at the feet of Buddhesus, appearing to ingest the idol’s piss.  During the 2nd performance, he took in the liquid and released his own.  He used the force of his breath to sound the bell at the entrance of his sacred space.  These were existential moments, relieving the perceived functions and obligatory preciousness associated with these objects.  But is expropriating an object’s identity enough to transcend it?  Each week, Vela would threaten to destroy Buddhesus, holding a baseball bat in a ready to swing stance.  He would hit the idol just hard enough to produce a sound, but never enough to break it.  Over the weeks these actions became empty threats.  Buddhesus had a unique hold over the artist.  Week after week, Vela would somehow end his performance engaging in actions with Buddhesus that demonstrated his devotion.

Another notable departure in Vela’s work happened in the first week of Ego Shadow.  Vela surprisingly left his sacred space during his performance to interact with the galley’s architecture.  He mimicked the placement of Daniela Rivera’s sculpture, leaning head first into a column that supported her form. 

 

He stood in the doorway that led to a room housing Ricardo De Lima’s videos.  Vela transformed into a sculpture as Ricardo’s videos of different locations near Boston poured over his body.  The other work featured in Close Distance stayed within its designated space.  Using the transient nature of performance art, Vela infiltrated his colleagues’ work, giving the audience the opportunity to witness the work with another dimension.  Even the work he didn’t directly interact with was affected by this choice.  Raúl González III’s multimedia drawings and his collaborative sculptures with La Die took on new meaning when experienced as a background to Vela’s actions.  Mariá Guest and Rafael Rondeau’s sound and video installation that was projected on the gallery’s windows provided a gentle transition from Vela’s performances back into the “real world”.

The same sensitivity was given to the neighborhood during Vela’s “artist talk”.  Vela held a speaker that amplified a recording of his voice speaking about his work and his connection to the color black.  Vela’s past work has found equilibrium within the black void, however he spoke of a soul mate in this recording.  He explained that the performance that was about to occur required balance that only this soul mate, dressed in white, could provide.  The black and white figures carried Buddhesus out of the gallery and into the plaza in front of the gallery.  They engaged in a series of cleansing rituals.  They burned incense, washed the idol with red wine, milk and finally, they sprayed Buddhesus with a fire extinguisher.  The wind carried the white dust through the plaza wafting around a child hopping over puddles of wine and milk and drifting between the legs of onlookers desperate to capture this moment with their iphones. 

During Ego Shadow, Vela painstakingly cooked his identity and we watched it melt beneath him.  We spent 5 weeks involved in the anticipation of how this process would unfold and whether or not he would ultimately destroy Buddhesus.  During the final week, he finally struck the Buddha’s head.  The head anticlimactically tumbled to the floor and it was over.  No explosive sounds, no shards of ceramic flying through the air threatening injury, no signs of the annihilation we were secretly hoping for.

It was in this moment, it became clear how profoundly mundane this performance was, despite the beauty of the objects and the ritualistic nature in which Vela interacted with them.  The decapitation broke the spell.  Vela’s ego had been exposed and confronted.  Those of us, who accompanied Vela on that journey, were left with a piece of this transcendence.

-Sandrine Schaefer

Vela believes in magnifying the energy of objects, sounds and actions, blending subconscious with spirit and allowing the unknown to present it self. He enjoys transforming & altering modern and ancient energy’s into a new unknown universal existence. Vela’s art embodies many methods, he considers himself a outerdiciplinary artist, always shape shifting and adapting to his instinct and the unknown. From performance art to VJing, to animated gifs and assemblages,  he has been activating and creating since 1994, both nationally, internationally and in the World Wide Web. 

To learn more about Vela Phelan’s work visit Temple of Messages

 

photos by Bob Raymond

Farewell to Big Red and Shiny

Last week, Big Red and Shiny, an arts journal that served as a staple in the Boston art scene for the last 6 years, launched their final issue. After providing our community a forum to challenge and create dialogue around the state of the arts in New England, Founder, Matt Nash decided to “close up shop and make way for the next group of motivated artists to build a voice for their community.” Nash points out that Big Red and Shiny had been online a full third of the life of the Internet and lists poignant changes that the Internet has endured through the years. Nash expresses gratitude for the endless art, food, and music blogs that have sifted through content, providing him with the knowledge of “how best to spend the few years I have on this earth”. As I read Nash’s farewell, the worry lines began to subside and I became filled with hope and excitement for the future. In this move to end, Big Red calls upon the creatively minded to meet the challenge of building platforms for one another while simultaneously filtering through the blossoming chaos present in the internet age.

Big Red and Shiny has been crucial to The Present Tense’s evolution. It has been a cheerleader, a source of inspiration, and brain candy for us over the years, publishing interviews about our endeavors, posting our calls, and giving me another platform to publish my writing. In my grieving for the end of one of my favorite Art Journals, I have concluded that it takes courage to end something good to make room for the equally tenacious.

Because the Big Red and Shiny archive is uncertain, check out these Present Tense related posts:

Contaminate 1

Seconds Festival

Contaminate 2

Contaminate 3

Interview with Sandrine & Phil

Revolt2Die @ MEME

Sandrine’s review of The Human Cost of War

Alternative Art Spaces

Sandrine’s Review of X Me Lab

Vela Phelan @ Contaminate I

From 2006-2009, The Present Tense operated primarily out of Fort Point and more specifically, Midway Studios. We had access to multiple spaces and were able to organize events without having to pay anything, something we took advantage as much as possible. 9 Events later, the spaces became occupied by companies and are no longer available for what we were using them for.
The "Theatre Space" at Midway Studios
The first of over 70 performances that took place in midway was Vela Phelan’s “Absolute Repent” at Contaminate I. I didn’t know it at the time because it was the first encounter I had ever had with Vela’s work, but it contained all the elements that make up one of his pieces. Gods/Icons, Digital/Analog, Person/Creature, Order/Chaos. Vela’s work exists simultaneously in two different dimensions. In this realm, Vela is shaking to a strobe light, in another, we are all in a club in Mexico City, our families are there, and everything smells like cereal and charcoal.