All posts tagged: performance art

Sonic Space: Interview with Michael Junokas

This is an excerpt from Sight Specific’s interview with sound artist Michael Junokas. Presented through Sixty Regional. In partnership with pt.fwd, a new series of contemporary music and sonic arts performances featuring new work by local and regional artists in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, Sight Specific will be publishing conversations between the featured artists and pt.fwd director Eddie Breitweiser. Michael Junokas will be performing on Saturday, February 9, 2019 at 8pm at the McLean County Arts Center. All pt.fwd performances are free and open to the public. Follow pt.fwd on Facebook and Instagram for more information, including upcoming performance dates. Eddie: For the pt.fwd performance in February, we wanted to have a conversation with you so that we could get more familiar with your work. Today we wanted to talk about three different areas: history, region, and fun. So first, historically speaking, can you place the work you’re going to be performing for us? We ask that because part of the charge that we put on our pt.fwd performers is for them to bring something new that they haven’t …

Color it Clean: An Interview with Jeffrey Michael Austin

I first met Jeffrey Michael Austin through an exhibition we were a part of at the Chicago Artist Coalition in 2015, during which he was a resident in their HATCH program.  He then had successive projects in the St. Louis vicinity where I was living, and I maintained an ongoing admiration for the cleverness, humor, and versatility of his practice (he is also an accomplished musician, one-third of the trio Growing Concerns).  He is an artist that is responsive to his environment, locating the wonders of natural elements, as well as wonder-ing about the state of human nature. His re-staging of common objects and occurrences straddle the playful and the political. As the latter becomes more and more urgent, he engages in critique that arises out of a call for empathy.  Over a very long email correspondence, we reflected on some recent bodies of work, as he prepared to open his solo exhibition ‘Outstanding Balance’ at Heaven Gallery.     Lyndon Barrois Jr: It is notable that there are a lot of stars in the recent …

Begin, Been, + From Within: A look inside Claire Ashley’s Sculptures

This article is part of the Sixty Regional project which partners with artists,  writers, and artist-run spaces to highlight art happening throughout the Midwest and Illinois. Written by Allison Walsh, an artist from Peoria, IL and in affiliation with Project 1612, this article is a first-hand account of what it is like to be in one of Claire Ashley’s inflatable performances. Sitting on the floor, cross-legged with a battery pack strapped across my chest, I looked up at the painted canvas floating around me. My mysterious surroundings brought me strange feelings—the safety of being inside of a womb, the playfulness of hide and seek, and the potential that I was discovering a new planet. I sat and waited inside the sculpture, seeing nothing of the outside world, but the occasional nebulous figure across the inflatable form. I slowly heard more and more people gather in the space. I could sense them look at me, but they couldn’t see past the opaque skin of the inflatable organism. None of the spectators knew I was sitting there, cross-legged in silence. …

Gardens in Open Spaces: An Interview with Leslie Rose

Leslie Rose is a textile and performance artist who creates domestic spaces in public and transforms damaged garments into treasured garments of wearable art through her project Gardens in Open Spaces. Her pieces blossom as they commemorate the stories of wearers and inspire conversation. Rose is a working-class disabled transwoman and a sex trafficking survivor who has experienced periods of homelessness, and she draws on these experiences as she interrogates the nature of domestic spaces, access to public spaces, the gendering and invisibility of certain types of labor, and how to navigate the effects of trauma. Because she is often unable to leave her apartment due to her disability, sharing her project on social media and through those who have commissioned wearable pieces has become part of her performance. You can follow her on Instagram using the tag #gardensinopenspaces.  UPDATE: Since this interview, Rose suffered a heart attack and has launched a campaign to help her meet medical and living expenses while she recovers. This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness. Jennifer Patiño Cervantes: How did your …

Alok Vaid-Menon: Femme in Public, Now

Alok Vaid-Menon is not from the future. Known for their hyper-saturated style, incisive writing, and personal poetry-meets-cultural criticism-meets-(so funny) stand up performance art, Vaid-Menon is very much the gender-nonconforming femme icon of this moment, and one we truly deserve. Their unmissable swagger, well chronicled on their popular Instagram (126k followers and counting) is not just personal, but highly political. Sixty had a chance to sit down to chat with Vaid-Menon about breaking the rules of style and all the binaries before the sold-out performance of their international touring show, Femme in Public, at AMFM Gallery in June. The show was opened by LaSaia Wade, founder and Executive director of Brave Space Alliance, the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ center located on the South Side of Chicago. While Vaid-Menon might be of this time, like any true visionary, their work opens up a space, or “cracks” as they call it, to imagine and inhabit a different kind of world and existence – one where anyone, but particularly femmes, and especially femmes of color, can inhabit any space without …

Lakshmi Ramgopal’s “A Half-Light Chorus”

As I’m nestled between the drapes of lush green fronds in the Fern Room at the Lincoln Park Conservatory, I become aware of the ambient sounds. I hear the steady trickle of nearby water and the bird calls that fill the space. As I wait for the afternoon performance to start, the bird calls begin to demand a bit more of my attention. I hear what sounds like a whistle and then what sounds like a human call. Then, clicking, brief pauses, more clicking, and suddenly a layer of bird calls that begin to sound more and more human as the moments pass, all followed by what I’m sure is a human sound. Click. Pause. Bird call? Chirp. No, definitely a human call. Wail. Human call. Pause. As I become more aware of the presence of the piece, Lakshmi Ramgopal and her ensemble, clad in all white, take their places for the final performance for this installation. This environmental soundscape, which feels simultaneously personal and celestial, is Lakshmi Ramgopal’s installation “A Half Light Chorus” at the Lincoln Park Conservatory as part of …

Performing Revolutionary: Art, Action, Activism by Nicole Garneau

Artist and activist Nicole Garneau’s new book Performing Revolutionary: Art, Action, Activism takes you on an intimate journey through her project UPRISING, a series of performances that took place once a month for five years. Defining her UPRISINGs as “public demonstration of revolutionary practices,” these performances, protests, celebrations envelop around efforts of connection, community, and care in a way that is reflected in the writings in this book (Garneau, 2). The artist lovingly holds your hand while she walks you through how this project began, and then onwards into each of the 60 performances taking place in eight states and other international locations, beginning in 2008. Each of the sixty performances explored within this book is two-fold: one part being ‘IN ACTION’ which describes the performance and event; the other being ‘Revolutionary Practice,’ which offers a prompt, an exercise the reader can do themselves, putting the action into practice. Garneau describes this book as, “The result of many years of exploration into how performance can be used to create public demonstrations of the possibilities for a more loving, …

Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis, The Way You Look (at me) Tonight. Photo: Robbie Sweeny.

“Radical Hospitality”:
Relaxed Performances on the MCA Stage

Chair or floor cushion? I decided to make myself comfortable in a chair on the corner of the stage—in the midst of the action, but removed enough to observe much of what was happening at the edges of the space. This performance of Claire Cunningham & Jess Curtis’ The Way You Look (at me) Tonight was certainly relaxed. Escorted to stage level, the audience was invited to sit directly on the stage in clusters of chairs and cushions, and prompted to make themselves at home, even remove their heavy winter boots if they were so inclined. After explaining what to expect, Cunningham and Curtis—acclaimed international theatre and dance artists—set into motion a “collage of dance, song, and text.” For roughly 100 minutes, the audience was treated to a show pendulating between humorous yet poignant moments and more classical performance segments of dance and song. (You can see a clip here). Though classical might be the wrong word, as Cunningham and Curtis’ work itself questions what we consider classic or traditional, playing with romantic ideals, gender …

Democracy at Work: travis and P.Michael of ONO

“It’s spooky, actually,” said P.Michael when I asked about his 37-year collaboration with fellow ONO member travis. “Sometimes, he’ll be working on something and I’ll be working on something, and we’ll show each other what we’ve been working on, and it’s the same thing, sort of. It’s like one person started it and one person finished it. It just fits perfectly.” We were sitting at travis’s kitchen table in his South Side Chicago home on a Sunday afternoon, drinking peppermint tea ladled out of a pot. ONO is the “Avant-gospel” noise band that P.Michael and travis formed in 1980. They started regularly performing again about seven years ago in all varieties of DIY basements, art museums, music festivals, and loft galleries, with an evolving cast of band members. They have released several recordings in recent years, but the full ONO experience lives in the live show, which is tightly orchestrated, with a narrative arc and several costume changes. travis spits out words that weave history with personal pain, moving in and out of the crowd as he adds or subtracts …

Interpreting Faye Driscoll’s “Play”: The Art of Audio Description and ASL Interpretation

None of the typical rules of a play apply here. Then again, when you come to a performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, you aren’t really expecting typical, are you? Play is the second performance in a series called Thank You For Coming, created by Bessie Award–winning director and choreographer, Faye Driscoll. This performance “uses the ritual of storytelling to explore our reliance on stories to relate to one another and form identities as individuals and citizens.” What begins as a communal audience-participation on stage quickly delves into a parody of an absurd theater act. Employing multiple meanings of the term “play,” the cast performs a drama but an allowance for improvisation leaves room for the actors to engage in the more fanciful version of “play” as well. Play is also atypical in its breaking of the fourth wall. Not only does a sound engineer remain on stage, occasionally being called into the action, but Driscoll herself joins the cast. At times she is grabbing props or directing the actors, as if it were a rehearsal …

Build, Break, Repeat: An Interview with HOGG

To experience a live HOGG set is mesmerizing and terrifying. Over bass lines that pulsate, H and E* growl, howl, crawl, laugh, scream, and slam their bodies onto unsuspecting instruments. And then they stand still—so still, for so long. These movements are methodical and choreographed as they swap instruments that include bass, guitar, a floor tom, electronic samplers and drum machines. When I think of HOGG I think of my best friend. Around the time when we first saw HOGG play, we were also making music together, and we cared deeply about ecstatic, physical performances. It was moving then, and almost a relief, to see another pair of musicians dedicating their whole selves and bodies to that end. HOGG has three studio records to date (“Solar Phallic Lion,” Scrapes, 2016; “Carnal Lust & Carnivorous Eating,” Rotted Tooth Recordings, 2016; “Bury the Dog Deeper,” Nihilist Records, 2015), with a fourth album set to be released this spring. Like the live performances, their lyrics evoke embodiment, horror, sensuality, and psychology. HOGG occasionally collaborates with other artists, such as the dancer Eryka Dellenbach and …

Intimate Justice: Lauren Steinberg

“Intimate Justice” looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. For this installment, we talked to Lauren Steinberg in the grass of Lincoln Park about a queer future, pop culture, and rolling around online.  S. Nicole Lane: We can begin with your background. You’re from New York City.  Lauren Steinberg: Yeah. I grew up in New York City. Manhattan. My dad, he’s 75, he’s an older dad. He grew up there too, and he never left. He refuses to leave. He kind of tried to instill that in me. It worked for a while, I ended up going to undergrad at Pratt in Brooklyn. I think I wanted to punish myself a little bit for being an artist. Not that I didn’t love Pratt, Pratt was amazing, but it was definitely the most rigid school that I got into at the time. I was like, “If I’m really going to do this and suffer, because everyone tells …

The Neo-Futurists and Accessibility: A Conversation with Kurt Chiang and Lily Mooney

Kurt Chiang, artistic director of The Neo-Futurists, calls their space in Andersonville “a labyrinth,” and when you go see their signature show, Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, entering the building can feel like entering another world. Your experience begins in a long line of people outside the building. There, you are given a token to reserve your seat. You enter the building and trek up two flights of stairs. To the left are the bathrooms. To the right is “The Hall of Presidents,” a long hallway lined with portraits of every US president to date, rendered in a variety of artistic styles. Go down this hallway, and you are in a kitchen. There is a candy counter manned by a volunteer, and behind the volunteer is a sink, some cabinets, a stove. It’s a kitchen. Past the candy counter, past the antique photo booth, past a typewriter station, through two double doors, and down a step into “The State Park,” a gymnasium-like space with a player piano at one end, and a …

Movement Matters: Mary Wu

Movement Matters is a column that investigates work at the intersection of dance, performance, politics, policy and issues related to the body as the locus of these and related socio-cultural dialogues on race, gender, ability and more. For this installment, we sit down with dancer, collaboration and performance artist Mary Wu to discuss her at times alarming audience interactions, the ethics of art-making and new aesthetics of the body arising out of the disability arts movement. Michael Workman: Thanks for taking some time to sit down with me discuss your work. Mary Wu: I haven’t made my own work in a long time, I have to say. I want to make work that I feel like I need to make. It was years ago that I made a solo work now, I showed it at Research Project, this very small work-in-progress showing curated by friends. It was very much making art for art’s sake based on years of solo practice for myself. I wanted to have something to show and then I did it and …

Race Abstracted: Thelma Golden and New Global Black Aesthetics

On a warm Thursday evening, Thelma Golden sauntered across the carpeted stage of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Rubloff Auditorium with an elegant stride. Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum of Harlem, moderated the panel “New Paradigms 2016: An Evening of Art and Conversation.” It showcased seminal artists of color in today’s art world from diverse parts of the globe. Glenn Ligon, Lynette Yiadom Boakye, and Cauleen Smith collaboratively examined how their work reveals the intricacies of the individual and collective histories of the global Black diaspora. Golden asked concise and complex questions that lead the artists to unpack the phenomena of a global Black presence in art making, moving beyond colonial labels such as “African American.” Despite their different aesthetic approaches, all three artists shared the similarity of vouching for the silenced voices in the canon of art history. Their cultural perspectives in art making seamlessly united as they talked about navigating the identity politics of the modern world through their artistic process. This mutual goal shared between the artists revealed …

EXPO CHICAGO // An Interview with Tony Karman

This week, the art world’s glitterati will descend upon Chicago for a new contemporary art fair: Expo Chicago, The International Exposition of Contemporary/Modern Art & Design. Occupying Navy Pier’s colossal Festival Hall, the fair showcases a selection of top tier galleries—capped at 100—from around the globe. Also included are EXPOSURE, a section comprising younger galleries; IN/SITU, a presentation of large-scale installations and site-specific and performative works; the conclusion of /Dialogues, a series of panel discussions and conversations; and a VIP Program. Designed by the architecture studio of luminary Jeanne Gang, the fair’s floor plan mimics Chicago’s grid system, boasting gallery-lined streets that allow visitors to view everything in sequence without losing their way, as well as a diagonal avenue on which visitors can view select exhibits and installations. Hanging from the hall’s high ceilings are mammoth mirrored cones. While many may be curious as to whether Chicago can live up to the challenge of hosting such an event, some involved in the lively local art scene have a separate concern: Can the fair get out-of-town …

People Don’t Like to Read Art || [and they’re missing out]

Honestly, people don’t like to read in general. Art, specifically? From Jenny Holzer’s aphorisms projected throughout New York City to Kay Rosen’s recent Go Do Good installations in Chicago’s Loop, text-based art tends to grab viewers’ attention due to its relatively brazen nature. Contemporary art that is purely image-based is often met with objections of “I don’t get it,” or “Well, maybe the artist statement will explain this.” For those in search of a quick answer, text can provide that instant gratification. The written word, however, doesn’t always make things simpler, as Western Exhibitions’ latest show illustrates. With pieces that extend beyond the short phrases pervasive in contemporary art—guests are invited to peruse full-length novels, among other items—People Don’t Like to Read Art stretches the function of the gallery space and explores ways in which one can establish a more intimate connection with art. After attending the exhibition’s opening reception on July 9, I spoke with gallery director Scott Speh about the show and asked the artists for further insight into their works. People Don’t Like to …