Perform! Now!, organized by François Ghebaly, Marcus Civin, Dino Dinco, and Danielle Firoozi, Chinatown, Friday night, July 30, 2010
Some highlights of Friday night’s performances in Chinatown:
Flora Wiegmann, Amy Granat, and Jmy Leary presented a movement piece that seemed to be specially choreographed for the Pepin Moore gallery space. The three dancers swept through the gallery, which includes twin ground-floor rooms and a small upstairs space, demarcating its limits and each other with circling arms and legs. The pragmatism and elegant simplicity of their movements was reminiscent of Yvonne Rainer’s iconic work. Full use of the front display windows was made, as the dancers often looked outward and made steady eye contact with their audience, who crowded outside. What appeared at first to be a loose sweep of the gallery coalesced over time into an absorbing work that amassed energy through repeating motions and the interaction of the dancers with one another.
In the stark project space of The Company, Samuel Vasquez got on a high wire without a net as he enacted an unscripted performance that was about the performance that he was enacting. Standing and moving around in a backlit space that was decorated with a severe selection of all-white furnishings, Vasquez confronted audience members and himself by simply giving voice to what was going on in the moment. “I feel anxious… How long can this moment go on? Will this performance be enough? Can I please everyone? My anxiety gives way to anger… What am I trying to get out of you that I can’t get out of myself? …It’s getting easier now… looking at people, without thinking about what they’re thinking… I am creating a new now.”
This was a remarkably naked and activated performance; it seemed to strip the act of performing down to its most viral and vivid form. Marina Abramović has often said that the most radical thing an artist can do is to be completely present; Vasquez may have found a way to do this that is more raw and revelatory than Abramović’s own statue-like staring contests with strangers. His performance also serves as a fascinating counterpoint to Emily Mast and Jerome Bel’s highly scripted Emily Mast, performed the same night (and also performed at the Torrance Art Museum on July 10). As I discussed here previously, Emily Mast is a skillful deconstruction of notions of authenticity and artifice, the role of the audience, and the expectations placed on performers. Vasquez attacks the same territory, but with exactly the opposite methodology. Together, the two make a terrific pair of gutsy “performances about performance”—and although that phrase sounds precious, the works are anything but.
Speaking of two sides of the same coin, the lovely Annie Wharton and I had a blast sticking our heads inside the dual, facing compartments of Megan Daalder’s Mirror Box. We were in there for four minutes, during which time I believe a two-way mirror continuously reversed itself between us, so that we alternately saw our own and each other’s faces reflected back at us. It was a great opportunity to really get to know each other’s noses, skin tones, teeth, and hairlines. We made faces at each other and totally tripped out when our faces seemed to blend and become one. Daalder, who has a website titled “Welcome to the Petri Dish” and holds a BA in Design Media Arts, describes herself as “a self-styled guinea pig using video, performance, and science to investigate life on earth.” She made mental notes of our behaviors and had us fill out questionnaires when we were done.
I didn’t actually see any of Warren Neidich’s performances, which consisted of interviews with various art world rookies that took place behind colored screens. But I was riveted by the commentary given to me by audience members coming out of the performances. Two people absolutely hated it, to the point where they had visceral reactions of loathing, calling it “boring,” “didactic,” “stupid,” and “pointless.” They seemed to really hate having to look at veiled presentations of people talking about art, when what they came to see was engaged performance. Another person cut it a lot more slack, admiring its simplicity. These comments were so fascinating to me that they served as effective substitutes for the performance itself.
Caught a little of Team Zatara’s An Evening Concert of Live Motion Familial Portraiture Assembled in 7 Phrases. These miniature skits resembled improv comedy, but in a good way. In addition to the skit pictured above, there was also A Portrait of Father Waking Up at 5:30 a.m., A Portrait of Auntie Trying to Step on a Mouse, A Portrait of the Two Dudes Who Stole My Saturn, and others.
Next: coverage of Saturday’s performances.