Welcome to another monthly installment of What You Should Have Noticed, where I try my best to wrap up this month’s top highlights, salient discussions, and general news of note. This is, of course, no replacement for diligent blog-reading, but I know how busy you are and frankly, I can’t blame you – you’re barely in the studio enough as it is. [Read more]
It’s that time of the year again. Summer is here and this tends to be a prime time all over the world for performance art festivals. The best part is, if you are in Chicago you don’t have to go anywhere to experience some of the finest international performance art. Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival has entered its third year. This year the dates for the festival run June 5-8th and 12th-15th. This years line up proves once again to be very promising. If you are interested in performance art it is an event not to miss.
Rapid Pulse is curated by Steven L. Bridges, Julie Laffin, Joseph Ravens, and Giana Gambino. Together, they bring a wide range of artists to Chicago each year. Rapid Pulse seems to touch on a wide range of genres, embracing theater, visual art, public practice, video, tech, music, and dance all the while dedicated to presenting work that is essentially performance art. If you have not had much experience with performance art or wish to have more, Rapid Pulse delivers a selection of artists that will provide you with a comprehensive look at performance art all in one festival. The lack of typecasting within performance art and the curation of this festival is part of what makes Rapid Pulse dynamic.
This year they will present works from notable artists, real heavy hitters in the performance art world. One of these artists is Kira O’Reilly (UK/IRELAND) who works with tightly controlled body movements that will leave you mesmerized. Then there is Alastair Maclennan (UK/IRELAND) who creates durational performances and sculptures with eerie and nostalgic objects. The multi-member performance group known for their radical actions and border crossings of all kinds, La Pocha Nostra (USA/Mexico) will also be performing. I’m very excited to have the chance to see Lai Thi Dieu Ha (Vietnam) who created a work that used bird feathers to explore sexual identity in a provocative work that in her home country was extremely controversial. As well as Jason Lim (Singapore) will also present his delicate and introspective work; He is a notable figure in performance art and directs “Future of Imagination” in Singapore.
As expected, Rapid Pulse includes emerging artists who you may not have heard of, but you should get to know. I am very excited to see the work of Jessica Elaine Blinkhorn(US) whose work deals with disability and intimacy, Julie Vulcan (Australia) whose meditative work with salt explores ideas of transcendence, and Raquel Punto(Mexico) who deals with filth as a form of performatve evidence. Aiming to foster a supportive community of performance art and artists here in Chicago, Rapid Pulse also features talented local performers such as Mical Samama, Mikey McParlane, and the Antibody Cooperation, among others. In all they have 28 live artist presentations in vivid, exuberant, poetic, and boundary pushing performances and it is definitely worth attending!
Besides the performances which mostly are held at Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery, Rapid Pulse has a wide range of additional offerings. There is an amazing video series of performance art videos held at the Nightingale Cinema. This year they added a performance art workshop lead by Kira O’Reilly that is an amazing opportunity for local performance makers. Though perhaps not as attended as the performance work itself, the festival offers artists talks and panel discussions that are not to be missed deviling into the cusp of the most relevant perfomantive discourse. Still the jewel of the festival is the live performative events and I know this summer I will not be missing a single performance.
Local Boutique Sells Studio Floor Scraps; Calls it Art
Sofia Leiby’s Second Scrap Heap Sale Hits Tusk June 7th
WTT? is always on the lookout for a good bargain (aren’t we all?), and this fire sale is the cheapest/ best deal since Kate Ruggeri’s public drawing trade. After Scrap Heap’s drying rack debut was unfortunately dampened by rain last summer at Medium Cool, Sofia Leiby is back with an even bigger roster of artists willing to sell their tra$h for ca$h. Putting her scraps where her mouth is, Leiby will be hocking studio ephemera for $20 or less.
Delightfully affordable work by Leslie Baum for Scrap Heap II.
Flyer by Louis Doulas.
Featuring artists such as Ryan Travis Christian, Ron Ewert, Magalie Guerin, Ben Foch, Josh Ippel, Leslie Baum, Aron Gent, Emre Kocagil, Tyson Reeder and Aya Nakamura, the fragments and sketches will be available for a limited time only from 11-5PM, June 7th at TUSK.
Matisse much? Aya Nakamura’s painted scraps.
Already jealous of whoever picks up this glorious scrap by Edmund Chia.
More information and preview photos can be found on Leiby’s Facebook. All proceeds will go to participating artists. Tusk is located at 3205 W Armitage in Logan Square.
Shannon Straton dressed in Renovar for the Threewall’s Skywalker Benefit on June 7th VS Kimye’s post wedding gown.
The Weatherman Report
For Chicago IL
Alex Katz, Late Summer Flowers, 2013, 38 color silkscreen on 4-ply, 40 × 55 in, Edition of 50. Vertu Fine Art.
BREAKING: Fitzpatrick to Go Out with a Bang. And a Stage Show. And a Magazine Portfolio.
The artist plans his “sweet goodbye” to Chicago.
If you’ve been awe-struck and slack-jawed since Jason Foumberg broke the news of Tony Fitzpatrick’s departure in April, you may also be wondering where the artist will hold his final exhibition as a Chicago resident. Pick up your face, the wait is finally over: Fitzpatrick’s last show, The Secret Birds (knack for titles, huh?) will be held at the Poetry Foundation from July 1st – September 12th.
Fitzpatrick’s Ice Bird.
Formerly only a student of Studs Terkel and the streets, the 55 year old is leaving his lifelong home for the University of New Orleans. His interest in birds not confined to printmaking, Fitzpatrick will study ornithology and natural history in the fall. In addition to the exhibition in the Foundation’s gallery, Fitzpatrick will also produce a stage version of the show, drawn from his poetry and other writings, of the same name. The performance will feature Martha Lavey (Steppenwolf) and music by Frank Orrall (Poi-Dog Pondering). It will premiere on July 31.
Walk on the Wild Side (Drawing for Lou Reed)
In case you’re not totally Tony’d out, Poetry will also run a portfolio in the July/August dedicated to Lou Reed entitled “The Day Lou Reed Set Me Free.” After that it’s time for Fitzpatrick to update his bio before he spreads his wings and flies away.
Look out for info on the opening and performances related to The Secret Birds. Definitely serving high-quality snacks. The Poetry Foundation is located at 61 W Superior in River North.
T around Town
What you missed while you were at Kimye’s wedding.
Artist, Matt Schlagbaum, convinces viewers to stare at “blank” wall at the opening for In the land of thieves and ghosts at Heaven Gallery in Wicker Park.
GDBD bathed their viewers in their signature pink in and outside of the F&A.
T around Town Continued.
SPOTTED: Chris Hammes and Michelle Harris at In the land of thieves and ghosts.
More ethereal work by Matt Schlagbaum at Heaven Gallery.
Conceptual Artist Lecture Even More Perplexing Than His Work. Richard Tuttle speaks at The Logan Center on the evening of May 13th
A Tale of Two Anthony’s. Romero and Stepter outside the The Artists’ Congress held at Northwestern May 17th. If you missed your chance to discuss radical politics in the arts, you’ll have another chance June 22nd at the follow up picnic to be held at Mana Contemporary in Pilsen.
Good luck ever looking cool again if you missed the Chicago Looks Spring Swamp held at Elastic Arts Sunday May 18th. You already know we love a bargain! Featuring an unbelievable record swap, boozy punch and choice Buffalo Exchange worthy clothes all for free, the event also had local vendors like Leah Ball and Kokorokoko selling affordable duds and accessories. Shout out to the vivacious Isa Giallorenzo of Chicago Looks and the lovely Leah Ball for hooking it up!
Staged inside the 2014 Whitney Biennial, three operas, originally written and scored by American composer Robert Ashley, and currently directed by Alex Waterman, took place: Vidas Perfectas, The Trial of Anne Opie Wehrer, and Crash.
A floor to ceiling mirror forms part of the stage backdrop in both Vidas Perfectas and The Trial of Anne Opie Wehrer, and in Vidas, video cameras shoot around and behind the actors through mirror reflection for in-camera image overlays. E.S.P. TV, an organization dedicated to live studio broadcast, real-time edits the multiple camera angles and transformations into the live-feed television taping in front of the audience. The live feed composition changes according to a written score, melding shots of the performers with scenic footage from a town, coordinated in time with the language spoken on stage.Vidas Perfectas is the seven episode Spanish version of opera-for-television, Perfect Lives, performed live in varying incarnations since 1978. In July, Vidas Perfectas will be performed in El Paso, Texas; Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; and Marfa, Texas.
Actors enter the scene with their lines printed in hand. Strict memorization is never a part. Memorization of lines might be impossible. Plot premises are visible right away, however hypnotic the scripted effect. In Vidas Perfectas, there is a bank robbery, a marriage, a getaway, a distraction – the plot endlessly ropes. Yet, the plot twists fall away, and as it seems – none of it ever mattered. Only the plot’s textured details are omniscient: the returning Bartender, virtuoso piano playing, gossip. Plot is a regurgitation of a television drama through a border town.
I interviewed a performer in Vidas Perfectas, Raul de Nieves, and asked: “Originally, Perfect Lives was set on the Illinois and Indiana border. Is Vidas Perfectas set in a particular place on the Mexican border, or is it anywhere or everywhere on the border?”
Raul: “I think it’s anywhere and everywhere on the border. Vidas Perfectas, the Spanish version of Perfect Lives, to me is more like songs. I remember the first time I crossed the border here, when I moved from Mexico to California. Once you cross, you can’t go back, or you could, if you have papers. Borders, they do exist. It’s a very important piece of land that divides everything.”
I also spoke to Elisa Santiago, a performer alongside Raul in Vidas, “You played more than one character in the play?”
Elisa: “Everyone plays a few voices. Sometimes more percussive, sometimes more airy, sometimes more determined. And Alex (Waterman) always insisted that sometimes we are speaking from the character’s voice, but sometimes we are speaking from the landscape.”
Raul played several characters – the Captain of the Football Team, the Bartender, and as he said, “the way it was explained to me was, I was one of these voices that are supposed to not be there – ”
Erin: “Part of a chorus?”
Raul: “Like those voices in the back of your head that are telling you what to do or what not to do.”
Qualities in common between the three operas are slowed speech in stark surroundings, an onslaught of talking. Intermittent information leaks into the set from the world – a discussion of statistics, footage of a rolling highway, photographs of talent agency advertisements, and questions, like, “Have you ever used the telephone to falsify your identity?”
Ashley writes operas about being ill at ease. The scripts are composed largely of conversations. Either the plot or the conversation, depending on the opera, becomes hard to follow. For example, The Trial of Anne Opie Wehrer presents a person on trial – in the original it was performed by Anne Opie Wehrer, a friend and collaborator of Ashley’s. The new version put four distinct personalities on trial over four performances during which the tone changed from combative to manic to squeamish. Elisa: “In the Trial, for instance, there are proxy characters and interrogators – the proxies could answer real answers from their own lives, or answers through Anne’s story. They had really researched Anne’s biography and her answers, and they could give her answers.”
Interrogators sit behind the person on trial and ask questions, until, at some point the question-askers begin to become the answer-givers, forming a interrogative chorus from behind. An interrogative meditation.
Elisa Santiago described Ashley’s method for writing scores, “Some thoughts are very short within a longer thought. There is the thought, and the reaction to the thought, in one line. It’s almost like he is asking something and answering it in the the same line. Almost talking to himself.”
Robert Ashley scripts are speech patterns built, at times, from Ashley’s own, real-life speech impediment. Ashley learned to speak slowly in order to calm a stutter. He replicated his own mannerisms in written scripts for actors to perform. The performers learn to speak by beats.
A most pronounced example comes from Crash:
The Journal [Year 2]
At two years old I got e—
I was a baby sitting in water in an iron tub on a metal t—
There’s an electric wall plug right there and wh—
Next thing is that some part of me is up in the up—
“Our safe anchor is the page,” said Elisa, “but you can be a little open. Even though time is very specific – you never want to lose that beat, if a piece is in 5 or in 7, we don’t want to lose the 7, but sometimes things get more circular. It’s always not so sharp. If we drift a little in this thing, becoming a little more open, then as a listener, you don’t know where the 7 goes, and that’s when I love it the most. As a dancer and as an improviser, I always loved that moment when you have time so in you, when you’ve been counting a little too much, almost you can stop counting. The beat – it’s inside. And you can be above it.”
I asked Raul, “You were usually speaking in time with another performer, Elisa. Did it help you to keep time with someone else?”
Raul: “It’s actually harder. If either of us jumped a page or a couple of paragraphs, I’d wonder, how do we get back? You have to silence yourself to get back.”
Erin: “And then did it have a lasting impression on you to have learned how to speak someone else’s voice?”
Raul: “Yes, I’ll be doing my own work and then suddenly my voice starts sounding different. You know, especially when I’m just performing in front of someone, it’s almost like it’s already in my head, and it wants to come out again.”
Ashley’s final, autobiographically-derived opera, Crash, debuted in the Whitney Biennial shortly after Robert Ashley died this year at 83. Three kinds of dialogue form the script: a catalog of each year of Ashley’s life, from age one until age eighty-four, each year journaled in a two or three sentence summary; a telephone conversation about researched superstitions, for example, a person’s height as it relates to success, or the female – ten, and male – fourteen, year life cycles; and finally, a melodic and detached retelling of a man’s collapsing spells in social settings, especially around people thought to be important.
At the time of Robert Ashley’s death, numerous memorial postings appeared on the internet featuring remembrances. One in particular brought to mind an image of Robert Ashley standing on the border of a crowd – composer Alvin Lucier wrote, “I remember standing with him at gatherings in the Midwest, simply listening to people talking. He once remarked that, to his ears, the dull roar of many people talking was symphonic.”
Based in New York, Erin Leland is an artist using photography, writing and video. She has recently exhibited in the group exhibition, White Petals Surround Your Yellow Heart at the ICA in Philadelphia and in her solo exhibition, Everything is Everything at Michael Strogoff Gallery in Marfa, Texas. A new series of photographs is included in the group show, Psychic Panic, in Pittsburgh, on view through June 29.