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performance art vs.art performance
Hillary Holsonback Consuming Image
A Short History of Performance Art in Dallas in 2012 — dueling performance series at 500X' Object and CentralTrak's To Die For
Object A Series of Seven Performances April 7-29 2012 at 500X Gallery - Courtney Brown, Joel Kiser, Shannon Brunskill, 7-10 Saturday, April 7, Shannon Brunskill, 7-10 Sunday, April 8, Shannon Brunskill, Jeff Gibbons, 7-10 Saturday, April 14, Sunday, April 15, Kimberly Harris, Robert Wedepohl, 7-10 Saturday, April 21, Sunday, April 22, Alison Starr, 7-10 Saturday, April 28, Ruben Melendez, Kevin Ruben Jacobs, 7-10 Sunday, April 29, Between Hope and Fear - Crash Collective: Ashley Bryan, Paul Bryan, Deborah Falls, Tanner Harmening, Eric De Llamas, Joshua Poole, Sam England, Val Curry, Rachel Lee Stephens, Saucerful of Sorry - Kerry Pacillio, Tiffany Wolf at 500X opening 7-10 Saturday, April 7, through April 29
To Die For Performances, "a collaboration between performance and visual artists" 8-10 every Saturday night through May 19 at CentralTrak, 800 Exposition Avenue near Fair Park.
This page is in reverse chronological order with the most recent performances at the top, but the rewriting continues as I ponder what I've seen in 500X' remarkable series and the couple good ones at CentralTrak, how they fit the pantheon of performance, the many questions they raise and the few they answer. As always, if you any names or titles that should be included, email them to J R's address on the Contact Us page. We are grateful for corrections.
This page and the Performance Art Section that will succeed it, will continue to follow this intriguing and metaphoric art form, and explore its possibilities through other performance art instances, including the month-long series planned at The MAC this November.
If you know or learn of a performance of art or art performance, please let me know at my email second from the top of our Contact Us page and email Anna Palmer, at hers there, too, the who, what, when, why and where of it, so she can list it in our growing Art Calendar.
Pass The Remote
Then, in kinda a hurry to see what CentralTrak was really up to — despite what they'd listed last week, I worried a Saturday Night stand-still traffic jam through The Canyon might keep us from the 'performance' I'd read in their "advance publicity was to be a movie about a dance troup, but I've learned to check it out anyway, because what they say and what they do so often do not coincide. We arrived early into their first wild dance performance that pertained to birds, with birdsongs in the audio-dance mix, was active and full of informal and impromptu dance moves. Even eliciting a few startled laughs. Grand fun watching bodies in informal near-abandon.
Please Pass The Remote
I've been following CentralTrak's ongoing performance series that for awhile paralleled and nearly interacted with the Performance Art series at 500X, and this might get added to that already odd mix of performance forms. Again for the Trak, this was art performance, not performance art, but the two share so many syno- and anto-nyms it contrasts and confuses the sames and differents.
Sharing Red Velvet Cake
The Trak announced a half-hour break and we were oddly fatigued, so drove to nearby Deep Elm, where Mocha's warehouse district parking was gill-crammed with what turned out to be a big wedding that closed but did not occupy the coffee shop, and we found one open slot in the lot right up front, walked up the stairs to try the coffee shop door, but it didn't budge. Then we were caught off-guard when the barristo invited us in, so we got our coffee and choco fixes and back to the Trak in time to see the dance gathering into another energetic and entertaining performance, concluding with audience invited to participate in a red velvet cake celebrating the end of their performance series.
Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet
Danielle Georgiou and Hillary Holsonback side-stage at Neo-Classical Dance at CentralTrak
The weekend after the 500X's Object performance series concluded, CentralTrak turned from performance art to art performance with short, unsustained snippets of Neo-Classical and Classical Dance. It was passibly art and true performance, but nobody would confuse it with Performance Art, so the chronological splay up this page may be completed, unless The Trak's final "performance"— the next one is a dance collective's short film screening — switches again from performance to art.
At CentralTrak, if I find out at all, I usually learn what's up that night when there's a program, or online the week after. The minute-by-minute dance program I picked up at the door was offset by a last-minute, half-hour delay at its spoken introduction, which itself was about five minutes late. Time loses its veracity when there's so much bending it.
Let's explore back through what we've seen in the two series so far, starting with the most recent.
Ruben Jacobs and Bryan Scott Prater
Making Balloon Animals with My Best Friend
Member Requests a Balloon at the Mike by the Video Projector
The final performance in Courtney Brown and Joe Kiser's Object series at 500X seemed a lark — a funny thing that happened on the way to making art. Kevin Ruben Jacob's Making Balloon Animals with My Best Friend, despite the other title listed on the series flyer, was a hoot. Not sure why they didn't just make their balloon animals and other shapes right there in front of us, but what's the fun in that?
The pair of best friends set up their ballooning in the 500X office down the hall behind the hoola-hoopers below, and when I wandered downstairs 500X looking for them despite Courtney Brown's admonition not to, they were easy to find from their loud laughing, even if their renarrowcast laughs echoing back from the Pit were fractionally delayed.
the Hula Hoop
The audience grew slowly. but rounded up several times more than you see in these photos. Good crowd for performance art. Most knew each other well enough to joke and josh and finish sentences and keep laughing. The woman in the middle asked the balloon-animal-makers for a hula hoop and several long minutes later, one of the guys delivered it. A hula hoop without hooping makes little sense, so when she tried and and couldn't get the too-light structure to spin, two friends made it go round for her, adding to the impromptu and spreading the performance of "Another spontaneous work from Rubens…" That quote goes on about a whole other performance from remote-video Balloon Animal-Making, but we were happy for the diversion and interactive.
Delivering the Balloon Bed; the Balloon on the Woman to the left's head was The
The video projections, especially into a room with a big metal door open to the searing sunlight outside, rarely showed much resolution or any color, and it jerked to sudden stops with a big, all-cap, "MOVIE RECORDING HAS BEEN STOPPED AUTOMATICALLY" notice and "FORMAT CARD. ALL DATA WILL BE LOST!" warning four times, so one of the guys down the hall had to come down and reset it patently revealing his unvideoed, real self, but the attempt made for an oddly techno-based interaction nobody else in these series or any other performance art I've ever seen has even attempted — and I love good perf art, which may be why I'm so ready to put down the lesser stuff.
Starr's Of Tension Sewing Machine
Every performance art rule I've conjured only works some of the time, and I don't have patience for any much longer than an hour unless it holds me like a spell — and there have been those, mostly in that last long century, but it's been awhile. There's darned few movies I'll stick to much longer than that, without a break, and those are usually in a movie theater I cannot escape or start over. Or lecture, slide show or presentation. I get up, walk around, bump into other ideas. Part of why I have so treasured Object leaving the detritus of each subsequent performance around in the gallery these weeks since April 7.
Sometimes, like this 'thread'-wrapped sewing machine with braided locks not the color of Alison Starr's hair lent me wild guesses as to how that performance I got weary of watching the night before concluded. There were darned few hints of prior performances at the always pristine new space at the Trak or the last PA series I glued into at Caravan of Dreams sometime late last century. But Joe or Courtney or somebody had that fine idea to populate the gallery with left-over art, and the notion raised the level of the series several notches.
I'm happy I finally get to sleep late on Satty and Sundays again, but I'll miss this many amazing perfarts in a row for a long time.
Danielle Georgiou and Hillary Holsonback
with photographs by Emily Loving:
9¢ a copy
with Feet Up on Disheveling Icon Wall of Photograph Multiples by Emily Loving
Pushing preconceived constraints like prosceniums and audience placements and individual audience-member contacts seemed what UTD students Danielle Georgiou and Hillary Holsonback's performance at CentralTrak was about. During Georgiou's PHd thesis project, she and her MFA student cohort interacted with everything in their environment, rapidly negotiating pathways through the moving mass of audience that was always trying to get closer to one or the other but not get run over, with always at least half the audience taking pictures with every conceivable shape, size and color device, almost as if they were choreographed, too. Emily Loving developed the space with the two dancers.
Corner Crumple: Hillary Holsonback and
At turns hyperactive, then nearly comatose, the two women in white tutus with a single ply of pink thwarted nearly every performance rule I'd learned watching the slow and careful performers at 500X every weekend in April 2012. Sometimes one of the two women whom I think of as dancers, would disappear around the corner for awhile while the other took up the slack, often they'd do it together — ripping unfocused photographic images off the walls, wadding up those focusless multiples, eating them, stuffing them into their tutus, shredding or balling the scraps up to drop on or throw at the other.
Georgiou Seeking Approval
They rarely held still, although when they did, we knew they needed the rest. Audience chairs would have just been in the way. When they moved, they often moved fast. Very energetic. They never spoke words, but when one stopped in front of a member of the swirling audience sometimes, as if to seek approval, they'd preen and stand as one would to attain validation. Very human and a telling action each of a half dozen times through the night. I wondered if they'd approached friends and teachers previously, or picked their targets at random. Only one, a guy, attempted to squirm away from the sudden stop-action attention. Most, like the woman above, seemed charmed by the brief reprise in the action, aimed at them.
Georgiou and Hillary Holsonback Consolation
I did not want to be separated out for such a tête-à-tête, although watching the dancers go through their gyrations, running through the audience, jumping up the walls, slamming themselves against the bed in the pink corner when it was vertical or onto it once it was horizontal, and tearing, always tearing, all those icons from the walls, was exciting and fun, I kept telling myself, "for the first hour." But I stayed two hours and five minutes. I stand-danced with their rhythms and mine, and did not want to lose of the big smile on my face. But most into that second hour we saw nothing new. They repeated and repeated, and still I watched, photographed and got out of their way when I needed to.
Dancer Against the Wall
Meanwhile, they were tearing through emotions like they tore through the room all those identical images (Were they what was advertised out front as "9¢ each.") dark to light to somewhere in the betweens — interactions with each other, anger, near-violence, condolence, commiseration. In and out and back into a dancer-sized cardboard box, on the bed, rushing to a window box on the far side of the gallery, running madly through the crowd or climbing the walls. Happy, seeking approval, angry, fierce, submissive in a quick kaleidoscope of human emotions. Mock hitting, threatening. Not a noiseless opera, but no singing or telling. But plenty of showing.
At most about 45 persons attended. Each new time I counted, fewer or more would be in the swirling crowd. A few new ones would enter, a few tired ones exited. I wanted to stand and applaud their efforts at the end but feared it never would. At last, too tired to stand or sit on that concrete floor or lean on anything else, I left and still wonder sometimes whether they're still at it.
Danielle Georgiou running during Silk Stockings/9¢ a Copy performance at at Centraltrak.
I wanted this to have been an original performance but tracking down names to credit those involved, I found earlier photos of a similar event with analogous images on the walls. The CentralTrak performance series is curated and produced by Danielle Georgiou. Although Val Curry and Spencer Brown are credited in the Harakiri: To Die For Performance schedules, a last-minute change excluded their participation.
Starr Delineating her Stage Area
Starr's performance, about sewing and other tensions, proceeded slowly, not just circumspect behind a perceivable proscenium but marking it with her bright white "thread" and staying within its craftfully defined boundary staying carefully within it, and within most of the usual trappings of theatre.
"Being allowed to only work with materials she can carry alone, Starr reflects on her own narrative and current artistic practice/themes by way of sewing machine." Allowed, by herself, apparently. Self-imposed. Most boundaries to performance artists are. The ladder was there already, no longer wrapped in Canvas by previous performers Kimberly Harris and Robert Wedepohl. In fact the only remnants I saw of their performance last weekend were two steps on the stairway and some stained canvas on the floor near where I stood to take this photograph.
Starr Sewing on stage April
28 at 500X
A large book on a shelf too high to reach even stacking her folding chair and typing table 'called for her' while I could stay during the first hour of Starr's performance. She'd look longingly at it, appear to cogitate its necessity, even touch the ladder, then go on doing something else. Slowly, always slowly. For most performers slow = deliberate. I liked the ladder there waiting for just such a purpose, part of the accumulating detritus of performance past, wrapped in canvas last weekend, then liberated sometime since.
Starr's of Tension performance utilized visual tensions like looking at the ladder and back at the book high on its shelf, but no physical connections occurred while I watched. It had already gone slow a long time, as if slow were profound, having caught that contagion from other performers in this series. I had to leave, I left, and am told she kept the tension strengthening till at her conclusion many in the audience teared up in release.
When I left last night the ladder was still hanging on the wall. Today, it's where she left it, against the left wall, where she was able to reach the book — although the book was still there. That tension relieved, in her and her audience.
Alison Starr, Ruben Melendez and Joel Kiser
Two performances at 500X after noon Saturday and one at CentralTrak that night. I nearly missed the noon one with Bodybuilder Ruben Melendez, who in the short minutes I was there remained dynamic unto hyperactive, and if as advertised, it began promptly at noon, it finished a few minutes into Alison Starr's "beginning promptly at 1;30." Courtney Brown told me the two were "negotiating" to end one and start the other as Starr obviously unfolded materials on her side of the room, moved small furniture and kept looking up expectantly at Melendez till he finally cut his performance that looked like it could easily continue longer, stopped short, picked up his gym bag, briskly walked down into The Pit to the front door and disappeared into the sunlight beyond.
Kimberly Harris + Robert Wedepohl
Canvas Continues at 500X
Earlier that afternoon and on the next, Kimberly Harris and Robert Wedepohl's Canvas continued in the comparative quiet and isolation of Texas' oldest coop, art gallery and group residence a quick, three-minutes walk west of our state's younger ones, where it was attended by as many as three of us the first day and only me the second, plus a couple walking through — that I saw. This was Sunday, after they'd wrapped the banister, painted primitive figures on it, and I couldn't tell what if anything else.
Not sure the ladder counts as architectural, but the motivation was plain, their plan straightforward. This was easygoing, natural. As much fun as painting a fence. Maybe more for the colors. I'm sure they'll leave its detritus in situ for the next one and the two performances after that.
And I quote:
In their first public performance Harris and Wedepohl improvise the practice of painterly skills, posing the galleries' own architecture as the support for which to stretch and prime canvas.
A collaboration between performance … and visual artists, Harakiri is a ceremonial disembowelment specifically performed in front of spectators. This public self-execution creates a ritual of performance in the act of death. An idea that is at the basis of all performance — … if you do not leave your soul out there for all to witness … [and] die with every performance, have you lived honorably?
Jill Foltz, Tabitha Pease, George Quartz and DGDG
My Island Home by Jill Foltz
of DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group) Jill Foltz, Tabitha Pease
Reading about Performance Art may not be high on most artists' agendas, but I urge you to drop by during Courtney Brown's Object series at 500X on Saturday and Sunday afternoons (See full list of events above.) till the end of April, and oh, why not drop into Centraltrak on a Satty night through May 19.
Art Performance, and especially Performance Art is ever an iffy thing that seems to linger in the intellectual sphere of memory and dreams more than most spectator sports. With the little distance time now affords, the 500X performances seem ever more elegant and compelling, and while CentralTrak's first attempt is rapidly fading, their second attempt scintillates still.
On the third weekend of Object at 500X, Centraltrak started their own, intersecting performance series. The 500X series was originally set for January then pushed back to April. So on this balmy spring day, the first two performance art series Dallas has had this century and a good chunk of the last one, came within a couple hours of occupying the same space and circumstance. It's unlikely they will be confused. The initial UTD effort was far more performance than art, and the 500X series is different — elegant, intellectual, sublime.
Although Centraltrak's was noisy and decorative, with bodies bumping into each other and jumping and/or flailing and trying to look serious, the depth of 500X' Object series has not been altogether obvious. The Trak version of performance art was unsubtle. Neither seems overt enough to figure out what they are going on about, with Object settling in slowly then subliming, while To Die For just kinda sits there undigested.
It may be particularly telling that while CentralTrak's Saturday-Night series continues through May 19, they don't yet know what performers or performances will perform on those nights (the official schedule was not finalized till the weekend of April 28). DallasArtsRevue likes to credit every artist is every event, but we have not yet seen a list of events or performers. Courtney Brown's Object series has been carefully curated for diversity and intelligence. The Trak's series may not have been thrown together at the last moment, but it has those aspects.
Chair Pair: Lolling as Performance Art: George Quartz and a DGDG member.
Colorfully painted and dressed persons in solids and gaudy prints and body paint and one with that and a veil, jumped and writhed in what may be performance art circumstances. About forty people watched in various degrees of incredulity, many more than I've seen at 500, but then the X doesn't have a university to draw students from.
The one aspect that raised the Trak's endeavor to art fractionally and briefly, was a tuxedoed man behind a translucent handwritten screen in the front-door niche, visible from in and outside. That small duality of presence was appreciated.
and Resting Performers
Reading inside out is rarely worth the effort, when I can flip it in Photoshop later, but even the scrim seemed leftover from another project. I saw it as partially obscuring an elegantly dressed contortionist. This quick-shot group pose lasted seconds, but Text Guy endured.
I don't know the man on the left. The woman going into Glamour Girl pose is Dallas artist Kim Alexander. I wish I could credit the guy behind the scrim, whom I am calling "Text Man. Alexander is doing what women often do with a camera pointed in their direction — a quick, defensive slice of almost expected performance. Artist Foltz told me later that Text Man was supposedly "reciting statements and warnings from the Tristan da Cunha website, which was hand-written on the translucent plastic. His sequestered performance was, according to Foltz, intended to give viewers a sense of context."
I thought he looked like a ticket-taker taking liberties, but most of what the man in black was up to was lost on this observer, but he looked comfortable juggling that one potato — a major Tristan da Cunha crop — until he did this:
Text Man with Potato
If individuals scripted themselves, which seems likely in the confused plot not quite connecting three sites around the gallery, Text Man gets my vote for thrashing through the barrier into the actual art that whooshed past the writhers, jumpers and posers. Most of the crowd, however, faced the loveseat-jumpers, not Text Man nor the chair pair.
What the Trak's performance lacked in purpose or style, they made up in exuberance. For their soundtrack, they chose a tone so piercing loud that while it failed utterly to advance any plot, it impelled us out the front door, where we could see enough without the blinding snowstorm of sound. Then that was so close to our car on the other side of Exposition Avenue, why not exit entirely? If there was a finale, we missed it.
Jeff Gibbons Gabriel's
Horn April 14 and 15 at 500X Gallery
According to the Object series schedule, "For the duration of two days, [Jeff] Gibbons meditates on life, meaning and performance; scribing his internal musings on humble materials such as rolls of toilet paper." And I might have believed that serene-sounding description, except I saw and heard his loud, dissonant performance, and it was no bliss-out session of infernal peace and clarity.
For a long time, I let myself believe it was about data spew — the production and proliferation of more information than anyone can ever use or know or want. I watched him process, one sheet at a time, long rolls of TP from neat stacks under the stairs [far right above], pull it through that low-tech device from one end of his desk to the other, quickly scribble one word on each square, then process the rolls into a growing pile.
Strewn about were wires, TVs and TV-like devices with un-flickering images, some of which I saw in his book at The MAC that night, various states of electronic consoles at one end and a growing pile of balled-up paper trash in the corner off the other side with machine shadows on the wall. I'm calling where this busy performer stayed sat always both days I visited, command center, and I thought of it and him as an exacting machine.
Jeff Gibbons exacting
The Gibbons factory motions peated and repeated and re-repeated five hours each day. And like a machine, it was accompanied by loud noises — previously gathered from around that building, remixed, thrashed and amped. Annoyingly loud, though it seemed less so the next day, when I could almost think.
I came back not so much because I was fascinated, though there was that, but more because I hadn't been able to figure it out the day before, and thought I needed to. What was he writing? Why was he doing it this this way? How did he spindle that only slightly-used TP into ropes and what was up with the art-like presentation in the nearby gallery? Why project live video of the paper falling into a curling pile of white at the end of command central?
Its meanings escape me still, and I've had it explained. But knowing and accepting or believing and understanding are too disparate notions. I saw it, I know it happened, and I even have pictures to prove it, but the reasons escape me more every time I reach for them. I liked it better when I thought I knew what was going on. But putting the pieces together into the sense I wanted never made it the real I needed, and eventually I simply settled for what I could photograph, so maybe readers could parse it later.
Gibbons Live projection of TP off the end of the machine
Gibbons Spindled TP rope presented as art nearby
Much as I like his methodical machine, its layers and procedures, and the odd piles and gatherings and linked intra-production projections and videos scattered around the front gallery, understanding was beyond my ken. Not all that unusual in the best of performance art.
While I watched, I kept remembering flickering glimpses of a more organized and maybe more eloquent, less dissonant and certainly quieter, group presentation of what I believe comprised similar themes mixed in with humans as menial machines creating extraneous meanings on long rolls of paper from Ian F. Thomas and Shreepad Joglekar's Ergonomics of Futility with Ryder Richards in an early temporary Ro2 Art space at 411 North Tyler [See Art Here Lately #10 for extensive coverage.] two years ago.
This one was almost painfully loud, so wasn't easy on thinking, and I didn't want to stay longer than I had to, to adequately document the performance and soak in what I could perceive of what was going on.
I worried about the gallery sitter and performance series curator's ears — and mind — though she was pleasant and informative throughout, but I did wonder why nobody else was there to watch that first mid-afternoon, although audiences come and go for these all-day events. Brown told me 65 to 70 people a day dropped by that weekend's performance.
Shannon Brunskilll's self-entrapment Staying to live, dying to escape
Meanwhile, the detritus of past performances accumulated around the downstairs galleries, slowly filling where were once disconcertingly empty spaces around the the settings for the performances. The once black, moist dirt on the riser in The Pit has dried towards brown, then darkened as the humidly soaked again, and Shannon Brunskilll's box now lies opened and illuminated, exposing some of what she was doing in there ten hours last weekend.
Spilled dirt drawn on by gallery attenders on the floor at 500X from Occupied the day before
Staying to Live, Dying to Escape
Sunday we were back for more, and we will document as many others as we can in the coming weeks. Apparently, CentralTrak will host their own, me-too performance series soon. See our Art Calendar for more information.
While Occupied was, in some measures, interesting, though more a show to watch and drift off from than anything that piqued interest or held attention, Shannon Brunskill's Staying to live, dying to escape was compelling with its artist hidden and personal communications filtered through the confessional grill in the wood box she sat in for five hours that mercifully cool afternoon and five the afternoon before.
Brunskill Staying to live, dying to escape April 7-8
It's a wood box with a loose top and an adjacent stool, that is the symbol for her performance, whose description is actually descriptive, so I'll risk it here: "Unfolding over 10 hours, Brunskill explores the idea of mental space in the physical realm. During the performance she plans to document and explore the challenge of communication with viewers while contained within her mental [and I should note, physical] space."
The stool was how the artist climbed into the box, which she did before the gallery opened [noon till five pm], then unwound and exited after the gallery closed. Those ins and outs might have made interesting photographs, though there's much good in keeping the artist's physical identity inside the box. When I sat on the striped pad and talked with her through the grill, she seemed remarkably positive and gentle. I have been confined in small spaces, and I would likely not have remained so positive.
When Anna asked her in that box, "she calmed my fears with her serene voice" and told about "a sweet child poking notes on paper through the little speaker holes."
Brunskill and I talked about her difficulty getting into a mental state in a physical box — this on her second five-hour stint doing that, and I wondered if I could be that calm about it, but our conversation was easy and pleasant. I don't remember our other topics, but it was an actual conversation. It flowed, ebbed, and I like thinking we both benefited from it. I'd like to do it again, with her not in a box.
Brunskill Staying to live, dying to escape
the stool, Shannon Brunskill's sandals, Anna's camera and Anna listening and the striped pad
There were probably many times in those ten long hours when Brunskill had no one to talk with. I might have brought flashlights and a Kindle, though neither are particularly conducive to opening passages to our inner minds, although I suspect she had light in there, no electric cords lead to it. Sitting by it, I judged it possible to sit up straight in or slump a little, though not move around much. Hardly enough room to stretch.
We found this performance intriguing and compelling, thanks to direct communications and the artist hidden, and we look forward to more interchanges of words, ideas and conceptual understandings in the coming weeks and months, and maybe years.
Wolf + Kerry Pacillio
Saucerful of Sorry
Wolf and Kerry Pacillio Saucerful of Sorry Upstairs Project
Room at 500X
There's another one of those wordy 'explanations' for this event in the upper project room, and it goes like this: ""Kerry Pacillio and Tiffany Wolf collaborate to construct a playful exploration of apologetic gesture and regret, both sincere and saccharine, in order to explore and understand the importance of this learned skill and etiquette in our society and perhaps become, in addition, more adept as social citizens." Got that? Me, either. I'm going to have to learn to not read these idiocies, although sometimes they go on at considerable length but barely any depth.
Maybe because I'm a photographer and don't really believe it unless I see it, or maybe because I'm a cynical optimist. I'm just not convinced by art hype.Do you see anything apologetic in this picture? Regretful? Sometimes titles aren't as obvious as artists hope. I've asked gallerists to refrain from sending me art hype, but they can't help themselves. It's an addiction.What I saw and photographed was a Valentine's party, with balloons and costumes, the wide, red, black and white one overt, others more subtle. It looked like fun, but I stood back and photographed without participating. Lots more was going on upstairs, and I wanted to see it all before I returned downstairs to see the performers plod their appointed rounds.
On the floor of the main upstairs gallery were maybe a dozen persons crayoning on large paper on the floor. I photographed them, but maybe just as well, I blurred what action there was. Sam and someone appeared to be dissembling plastic-wrapped roses, and surely, I thought, that had to be performance, but now I'm guessing not. Sometimes not initially recognizing performance is half the fun.
Falls Humanculture foam, wood and video
Video with the same elements as a sculptural entity to its right, on the edge of this image, gives the strong impression of performance. Certainly lots of action and direct reference to what we may see as physical art. I watched a minute or so among the party hubbub, thought I'd got it, and went on to photograph more, hoping I wasn't missing something more interesting downstairs.
But I needn't have worried. These were odd visuals, but — that word again — compelling. The dancing man on the right, clad only in the foam interstices that also populate his larger shadows on the wall, is replete with those dark shadows of shapes. The projected video might well be performance, especially as it is implied as combined with the sculpture of the same wood and foam. If it was performance, it's now a record of that performance, and so, I suppose, is this.
England Sea, Conjure and Tiger, all oil on canvas, and Big Altar
I know better than to explain what Sam England does. I look. I enjoy. I wonder if there are words enough. And if I employed them, would anyone be the wiser? Or should I just show it and leave the telling to those who see it. I am awed. This collection of startling visions could easily be the set and setting for performance. As it could almost be the performance itself, although I believe that would require some movement.
I remember, decades ago, Jerry Hunt's many Dallas performances, in which he went to great lengths to provide simultaneous visual events to emphasize the strangeness and density of his own multi-media performances, chanting, explaining, banging walls and suitcases, rattling fetishes and gizmos to give his audiences a sure sense that something serious was happening, even if they were unlikely to understand exactly what. I often feel that way about Sam England's art.
Curry The Everything Window collected and donated materials $500
I thought this might have been performance or at least the setting for it, but I asked artist Ashley Bryan [above] later, and she said she was just looking at it. Another woman was videotaping her standing in that bright notch of light sun-dialing that odd and colorful artifact-dotted circle, so I wondered. It might have been the intriguing interplay of shapes and color like performance art, or that art performances sometimes employ, but even with nearly none of the above, it resonated colorfully.Ive seen dozens of works in that space by the windows overlooking downtown Dallas in the last thirty years, and this may be one of the best uses of it I've seen.
500X sometimes outposts a shows' worst object d'art back there, but it's second-only to the white metal ladder near the other end of that huge upstairs space in my affections. Big space, brightly lighted with an airy sense about it, and a view .I see a circle like that, and someone dancing around and through it projects into my dreamstate. That's gotta be performance. Just her standing there, her reds aligning with all those tall and small shapes, is pretty close.
Curry The Everything Window [detail]
collected and donated materials $500
I love it when an exhibition's perpetrators go trouble themselves with identifying each piece right next to it, so I can discover whodunit. I've even learned the spatial way they sometimes obscure identifications for free-standing pieces on walls and columns on the far sides of rooms, but Between Hope and Fear has all their identifications and price list in tiny print on one side of a letter sheet un-keyed to where work is in that vast upstairs hallway. I did not see gallery numbers, but I know this piece is Val Curry's The Everything Window with collected and donated materials, because I asked him. It took informed guesswork to know whom to ask, but I got in on the first try.
Then I clambered down the big front stairway, looking out over The Pit, where the broad line of black dirt had grown a few feet farther across the riser, but really not much had changed. People came into the gallery, dutifully perused Joel Kiser's other boots, Courtney Brown's leather sandals and big and little bound bags of something on the floor opposite the performance, and his hulking leather coat hung above on the wall. I wonder if they even saw performance going on behind them. They not have noticed it or its art status. Few stayed to watch, most trundled up the stairs to the party.
Future Performers: Gallerist Kevin Ruben Jacobs Watches
and Artist Alison Starr Documents
No chairs. Nowhere, really, to settle comfortably to watch the unfolding spectacle of moving dirt. I settled my tired bones on the stairway, leaned against the front door, even greedily eyed a stool back behind the front desk. Twice I sat awhile in The Slider parked outside the doors. Here, Oliver Francis Gallery manager Kevin Rubin Jacobs watches from a cramped corner as artist Alison Starr documents the from outside. Starr's performance, of Tension is set for 1:30 pm April 28. Jacobs' will be noon-1 April 29.
We watched a long while longer, counting 'give-backs' of the full but thumped bags (four) and noting that Kiser folded each emptied sack, then stacked them neatly on the floor at his feet, while more than a dozen bags of dirt still lined the gallery floor farther back in the interior, behind where he usually stood watching. I misguessed that if we came back right at ten, we could see the end of it. We went off to explore the world, and came back on our time, but it was over.
Brown + Joel Kiser
Courtney Brown and Joel Kiser Occupied April 7 2012
Still trying to understand why some performance art is compelling, while others are just interesting, if that, I often attend instances of this notorioulsy elusive form just to see what I can see and photograph. Really great performance art is slippery, but I've seen it and have been photographing it since the early 1970s.
On Saturday April 7 2012 we saw Courtney Brown and Joel Kiser's Occupied over The Pit just inside the big steel front doors at 500X, extending into the main gallery and actual and quasi performance upstairs in The Kids from Commerce's Between Hope and Fear exhibition. Sunday we returned downstairs to visit with Shannon Brunskill in her Staying to live, dying to escape [below] about thirty feet back in the main gallery, where it is just visible past her right shoulder in the picture above .I suspect the differences between good and not-so performance will be instructive, although figuring out complicating and difficult aspects of odd art forms is part of why I write about it. It's rarely clear before I start. Sometimes it's more so after.
In this photo, we see most of the elements of Occupied. The elevated wood runway on which Brown kneels spreading out dark dirt. The "fence" behind, where Kiser stands in a black plastic mask, cowboy hat, leather jacket, cowboy boots and chaps. Behind him on the floor, are lined-up piles of burlap bags of dirt. One by one, he picks up a dirt bag, thumps it soundly against a nearby column to loosen its contents, carries it over to Brown who meets him at the parapet. He gives it to her, she gives it back, he gives it back to her, four times each. Then she turns around and carries the bag to the end of the riser and beginning of the wide line of dirt, dumps more out and spreads it unevenly.
Kiser carries another bag of thumped earth for installation
For a little less than four hours. Till the full length of the riser was covered with several inches of dark dirt. I hesitate to explain why, because I believe the performance should do that by itself. Spoken words might help, but these performers were mute. Typed text on a program might have helped, but this time not much.
I quote, "Kiser and Brown seek to reconcile their performance pasts in this labor-centric work referencing their individual recurring performance themes, identity myths, and the origins of the Native American Reservation system." Not knowing their performance history impedes understanding of this artspeak, and although i initially liked sneaking in that bit about reservations at the end, I grew to wonder about it.
I much later asked Brown about the "Indian tie-in ... in 25 words or less," and she replied, "We referenced the methods by which the 1887 General Allotment Act was implemented, in accordance to an ancient English legal philosophy stipulating that for land to truly be owned it was necessary it be transformed from its natural "state of wilderness." In short, the formula would have awarded Kiser and [me] both "one-eighth section" of land (80 acres). We "moved" 80 bags of land (7 pounds each)."
Thus symbologically fulfilling the law, without making it in any way clear to the audience, who saw dirt being moved, transferred back and forth, then liberated and treated as precious.
I didn't get that from their performance. I'm not sure I believe the part about Native Americans, as sensitive as I am to their continuing plight here. After watching Brown and Kiser's slow, ritualized and repetitive actions as she spread the thick soil toward Kiser for the first hour, I walked upstairs to the party going on, where many more people were gathered, laughing, talking and funning with art.
All Contents of this site are Copyright 2012 or before by publisher J R Compton.
All art shown on these pages are copyrighted by the originating artists, although my photographs of them are mine. Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are copyrighted by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission.