Friday, June 21, 2013

june soapbox at hillyer art space

Last night, Heiner Director Margaret and I went over to Hillyer Art Space for their June Soapbox event. Through Soapbox programming, Hillyer stages monthly performances and this month featured an excerpt from Plot, a collaboration between J.J. McCracken, Eames Armstrong, Ian McDermott and sound engineer, Marc Blackwood. The performance (pictured below) was followed by a public discussion of local performance art and the recent SuperNOVA festival.

The talk, led by Laura Roulet, proved to be very interesting and began with the group discussing what it was like to collaborate with other artists for the performance; as it turns out, scheduling was one of the biggest hurdles. One thing that the conversation kept coming back to was the altered relationship between the spectator and the artists, which is now almost always mediated by a camera phone. Performance art is inherently ephemeral and finite, and personally I can understand the desire (or anxiety) as an audience member to document the experience. A generation afraid of forgetting, we photograph and post instead of relying on our memory.  McCracken is intent on meticulously documenting her own performances and appreciates the mythology that is created by the audience sharing their experiences. She also admitted to some frustration however,  because she puts so much effort into creating these immersive experiential encounters, which disappear when viewed through a lens. 

Another point that came up was the issue of how much information to "give away," especially regarding McCracken's 24-hour endurance piece at SuperNOVA, The Still Point. Performance art can sometimes be baffling, especially to the general public which was the primary audience for this festival. One Soapbox attendee voiced frustration at the lack of background information made available. According to Roulet and McCracken, it boils down to the curatorial perspective and the intentions of the artist, ie. is it important for people to "get it" or is the intent to create an authentic, personal encounter. Armstrong was very interested in viewers' interpretations, saying often what she remembers most about a piece are the discussions she has with people during and after the performance. She builds meaning through her own encounter and the narratives woven by others. I think this becomes interesting to think about in terms of camera phones and social media-- how do artists feel about the collective narratives that emerge online, available to people who were not present for the performance?

Overall I think it was an interesting evening and I look forward to hopefully making it to future Soapbox performances this summer. For more information on events and programming at Hillyer, visit their website here.

Eames Armstron, J.J. McCracken and Ian McDermott (not pictured) performing an excerpt from Plot, originally staged at Artisphere is Rosslyn, VA, May 2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment