BIOS_FEAR: Self Expression Night, The Hi-Lite, downtown LA, March 17, 2011

BIOS_FEAR, a gnarly collection of performances by about a dozen artists, was organized by Nathan Bockelman and Eric Svedas to coincide with Dutch artist Renée van Trier’s residency at Eamonn Fox’s in-studio Neon Gallery. It included artists from both the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, and “toured” from downtown LA’s Hi-Lite studio and project space last Thursday night, to San Francisco’s Bay Area 51 the following Friday night. According to the press release, this event was an extension of Bay Area 51’s Self Expression Night, an ongoing experimental platform for performance.

I know it’s tacky to quote press releases, but theirs was not widely distributed here and has a pretty cool paragraph that I want to reproduce: “Humankind shares the narrative of ‘the End’ across centuries and millenniums, cultures and creeds. As the spiritual morphs into the internalized space of the virtual, our society seems stupefied by a fear of what is to come. It is no longer important to meditate on the nature of the apocalypse as an event of the future; it is a process whose mechanics are in full view for all those who care to look. Unable to deny the consumptive and exploitive role that we have been born into as westerners, as Americans, we consume the momentary without the tangible ability to question or access its consequences. Without agency to effect the path which humanity continually determines and reinforces for itself, how do individuals express?”

View from 533 South Los Angeles
building rooftop at night

The result was a long evening of strangely engaging performances that were largely connected by the above theme, and that also displayed a certain discernible sensibility across the board. I might describe this sensibility as vagrant, grungy, theatrical, and most of all, possessed of a sort of raw, genius stupidity. Kind of like if you peeked under a freeway overpass at night and saw a bunch of gifted street urchins putting on a show.

See below for photographs preceded by brief and inadequate descriptions of the performances depicted (not every performance that happened that evening was captured on camera). Renée van Trier’s “innocents abroad” pop-fest, which took place near the end, was the highlight for me.

As we exited the elevator to get into the space, we were confronted right away by Paul Pescador’s cologne-drenched, prostrate body lying directly across our pathway.

Jonah Susskind, following very seriously intoned taped audio instructions, unpacked a ton of random stuff out of multiple bags and gifted some of it to audience members.

After leaving a suicide note, Eamonn Fox led us all to 533’s rooftop, stripped down to nothing but his gym socks, then climbed up onto a ledge to smoke a cigarette, his back facing us. I was told there was nothing but a sheer drop down to the street in front of him. After a nerve-wracking 10 minutes, in which his friends worried about him while simultaneously gossiping about his personal life, he climbed down to safety.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Fox also scrawled “1000% IRISH” on his knuckles and offered “Ask an Irish-American a Question.”

Eric Svedas did a comical rant about his daily life, which culminated in his placement of a papier-mâché turd on top of his head. He also had for sale volumes of his self-published book, Inside Me.

Off-Puters formed the word “EVOLVE” in cocaine on a mirror and snorted it before beginning their performance, a multimedia examination of current events.

Chris Baker drank a lot of NyQuil and tried to sleep through the evening. Towards the end, his sleeping presence was accompanied by video of himself in bed.

Bourgeois Hygiene played some bongos hooked up to a synthesizer. Note iconic hippie pullover shirt.

Trenton Willey did a really hilarious bad comedy routine kind of along the lines of Neil Hamburger, full of bad jokes, but laced with some trippy New Age references and a bouncy Carrot Top-esque appearance. Unleash Pun-dora’s Box!

Nathan Bockelman did a complex movement piece that incorporated a solo electric guitar rendition of a Metallica song. The piece ended abruptly and dramatically when he called out to the audience, “I need someone to stand here and put fake blood on their eyes.” Artist Ana Rodriguez answered the call.

The stunner of the evening was Renée van Trier, who was an exchange student at Otis in 2009 and lives and works in her native Netherlands. I was warned ahead of time that van Trier is an innocent who has no clue about American socio-cultural mores, which can sometimes lead to politically incorrect and borderline offensive works. I could totally see what was meant by that. With tremendous energy, and clarity of her own purpose if not for the cultural context at which she was aiming, van Trier threw herself into a random pile of American pop culture signifiers and messed with them like a hyperactive problem child in a sandbox.

Dressed like a marketing executive and made up like a pageant queen from hell, van Trier, among other things, batted a pair of pink balloons around like yo-yo basketballs; rode a wooden saw stand while blowing a whistle and yelling “Howdy!!”; donned some fuzzy shoes and blew on a flute while doing a mock Native American pow-wow dance; crawled behind an LED animation of Niagara Falls and shot hairspray straight up into the air; and wore a set of wind chimes as earrings, while singing the improvised lyrics, “Why do you like wind organs? Because they make you calm.” Unbelievably ridiculous, unbelievably inspired and inspiring.

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