Saturday, June 3, 2017

Rapid Pulse 17: Day Two

Rapid Pulse 17: Day Two

Sara Grabner's essays on Ayana Evans and Industry of the Ordinary can be viewed by clicking on the names of the artists.

Jeffrey Byrd
Francisco-Fernando Granados
Jon John
Lechedevirgen Trimegisto 

Today's blog post on Rapid Pulse 17 starts backwards with the end, rather than the beginning of the festivities at 7 p.m. because up until now the artists responsible for stŬ, the vegetarian soup/stew served at the end of evening to encourage the exchange of ideas and conversations between attendees as they sit together at large trestle tables. Last night's  stŬ, created by John Burkholder and Jessica Bortman was particularly good: a broccoli soup poured over a generous amount of quinoa and flavored with Parmesan cheese, lemon, and toasted pine nuts. I shared some of my ideas about an article I am in the process of writing with my table mates and in return received some terrific suggestions about affinities and correspondences that I plan to incorporate. I don't know if I was able to do the same for my companions, but their input was appreciated. 
 stŬ was served in a ceramic bowl that set off the lovely green color of the broccoli. I was so anxious to eat my portion that I forgot to photograph it. So I have provided a photograph of broccoli instead. 

Ayana Evans: Operation Catsuit (Be Careful Drinking the Kool Aid)

Ayana Evans knows how to entertain an audience and her performance didn't disappoint. A combination of hip hop, southern revivalism, and Kool Aid, it started with a bang, or at least a mini explosion. At approximately 7:30, a striped white, black, and yellow truck, playing Kanye West as loud as the speakers would permit, pulled up to the front of the gallery with Evans in the back. Garbed in her trademark fluorescent yellow zebra (?) striped catsuit and sparkly high heeled gold sandals, make up and hair just so with a white flower as an accent, Evans handed out water balloons and, at the count of 3, had everyone throw them as hard as they could at the ground. 

Beginning of Ayana Evans' performance

Once in the gallery, Evans quickly organized the audience members onto four benches that made two rows of people facing each other with knees touching and hands clasped. After donning a pair of soft socks, Evans dove fearlessly into each of the human hand chutes and slithered her way from one end to the other while a soundtrack of Kanye and Grandmaster Flash played in the background (not loud enough for Evans's taste, but as loud as the techs could manage).

Recovering quickly, Evans reorganized the audience and the benches/pews so that they surrounded her as she began to mix Kool Aid with abandon and generous portions of sugar poured directly from the bag. Cups were passed around and filled, and Evans prepared for her final tableaux. Calling for volunteers to help, Evans moved the table on which the Kool Aid had been made, plugged in some Christmas tree lights, wrapped them around her hands and arms, and then attempted a handstand/wall climb against the interactive wall installation by Diaz Lewis (more on that below). By this time the floor was slippery with spilled Kool Aid and the fuzzy socks were creating traction problems. More volunteers came forward, and Evans was finally able to balance successfully against the wall. On the count of three, the audience drank their Kool Aid. 

Photos and Videos taken by the author. For better photos, see Evans' website:

Sarah Grabner on Ayana Evans

Industry of the Ordinary: Plato's Man Cave

Note: There will be a separate essay on Industry of the Ordinary by Sarah Grabner posted in about two weeks. Please check back.

Plato's Man Cave--Clothes by Men's Warehouse. Photo taken from Industry of the Ordinary Facebook Page.

Industry of the Ordinary is a collaborative team of Adam Brook and Matthew Wilson. The following is an excerpt from the statement provided for Rapid Pulse 17. The entire statement can be found here.

Through sculpture, text, photography, video and performance, Industry of the Ordinary (IOTO) are dedicated to an exploration and celebration of the customary, the everyday, and the usual. Their emphasis is on challenging pejorative notions of the ordinary and, in doing so, moving beyond the quotidian.

For Rapid Pulse 17, Industry of the Ordinary set up a bar in the garage behind the gallery--a perfect location for a man cave. Garbed in matching tuxes from Men's Warehouse (the bags were hanging on the wall opposite), Brook and Wilson required that everyone wishing to partake of a cup of beer (India Pale Ale, a keg of which was donated to the Festival) receive an arm stamp (the stamp could go anywhere but fit best on the arm). The choices were EVERYBODY HATES and A TOURIST. Most people opted for both stamps.

An eclectic mix of music could be heard playing softly in the background. Periodically Industry of the Ordinary would announce the name of a president--it turned out that the music was the Presidential Playlist of the last 11presidents by Spotify. The performance, a disturbing mixture of high brow and low brow that suggested the same contradictory appeal of most of the U.S. Presidents, ended with Industry of the Ordinary taking down the Men's Warehouse bags and exiting the space, as debonaire at the end as they were at the beginning. They left behind the question, stamped on on many participants bodies, as to who was a tourist, who was hated, and who was not. We will never know.

Sarah Grabner on Industry of the Ordinary

Díaz Lewis

34,000 Pillows. Image taken from
Díaz Lewis is a collaborative team of Alejandro Figueredo Díaz-Perera and Cara Megan Lewis. Partners in life as well as art, the couple met in 2012, he from Cuba and she from the U.S./Chicago. Their work has always been concerned with negotiating the divide between their two respective countries. For Rapid Pulse 14, their performance The Other's Voice addressed this separation, with Díaz-Perera literally flying into Chicago and traveling straight to the gallery space for the performance, in which the two faced each other across the gallery entrance and washed their respective flags until the colors faded. In the current political climate, the issue of borders, immigration, who has the right to be in the U.S. and who does not has taken on new urgency. In 2016, Díaz Lewis launched 34,000 Pillows. Inspired by the "bed quota," the mandate the U.S. Customs and Immigration maintain of 34,000 detained immigrants a day in its 250 facilities passed by Congress, Díaz Lewis created an installation/performance in which pillows are created daily from clothing that belonged to undocumented immigrants, poor detainees, and their allies. The pillows go for $159 apiece--the daily cost of detaining one undocumented immigrant. 10% of all profits goes to organizations that help immigrants. While the charitable aspect of the performance installation is certainly laudable, the power of the piece comes from the piles of pillows, made from clothing that has clearly seen better times. The pillows are very individual--like the people who once wore them as clothing. They remind us that the undocumented immigrants are human too. And these pillows, the making of which requires a lot of volunteer labor, take up a lot of gallery space. And yet even if they were to fill the gallery, there would not be 34,000 of them--an almost inconceivable number.

Díaz Lewis's performance installation for Rapid Pulse 17 was equally subtle, aesthetically beautiful and conceptually powerful. A moveable wall, painted so that it matched the gallery wall and anchored in the center by an axis/pole around which it spun was installed prior to the festival. The wall, which started out looking very pristine, recalled minimal and post-minimal art, particularly work that interfaces or interrupts the flow of traffic within the space, such as Sarah Oppenheimer's S-337433 installed in 2017 in the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio, which also spins on two axis.

And of course, given the events of the past few months, it also recalled the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, a wall that the current President has promised to reinforce and build up. 

For the performance portion of the event, the artists conscripted people of many different nationalities to push the wall in a circle, all the while attempting to negotiate this movement in their native language. The result was that by the evening's end the pristine grey wall had become cracked and broken, leaning drunkenly around the axis/pole that supported it. The wall might not be perfect anymore, but on the other hand, large groups of people who came from different countries, cultures, and in some cases ethnic affiliations were about to cause the wall to orbit around the gallery many times. The performance installation turned out to be a deceptively simple plan for how we (as humans living on this world) might proceed into the future.

The Video Program: Metaphor With or Without Recourse

The video program curated by Giana Gambino was incredibly powerful. Dedicated to Jon John, whose final performance/video made before he succumbed to cancer was included in the program, the content was heavy without a loss of levity. Jon John's video was filled with love, and he ended the piece smiling and laughing as he greeted the audience. Jeffery Byrd's contribution, which shows him walking slowly across the salt flats in Utah, garbed in a football uniform and holding a bunch of balloons was transcendent. The most powerful piece for me at least, was Lechedevirgen Trimegisto's/ Felipe Orsonio's The Blood Tree, which deals with his kidney failure and need for dialysis. In excruciating detail, the video show Orsonio being hooked up to dialysis so that his blood can be purified. In the second part of the video, framed as though he is a tree he reads a poem in which he compares himself to a bleeding tree of life, a popular motif in Mexico. The video is really hard to watch (or at least it was for me) but it was really powerful. Giana Gambino's excellent essay on these videos is available here. If you click on the image of the Tree of Life below, you can access Lechedevirgen Trimegisto's The Blood Tree

 The Blood Tree

No comments:

Post a Comment