The Arthropologist

When paintings perform: Art becomes more and more theatrical — a little menace included

When paintings perform: Art becomes more and more theatrical — a little menace included

Nancy, The Performance Impulse, October 2012, Jane Alexander, Frontier with ghost, 2007
Jane Alexander, Frontier with Ghost, 2007 Photo courtesy of Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Nancy, The Performance Impulse, October 2012, Stacey Steer's Night Hunter
Stacey Steer's Night Hunter Photo courtesy of Night House Hunter
Nancy, The Performance Impulse, October 2012, Still from Marina Abramovic- The Artist is Present
Still from Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present Photo courtesy of Music Box Films
Nancy, The Performance Impulse, October 2012, Dario Robleto, Defiant Gardens
Dario Robleto, Defiant Gardens, (detail), Courtesy of Inman Gallery and Collection of the Mint Museum, Charlotte, N.C. Photo by Robert Wedemeyer
Nancy, The Performance Impulse, October 2012, Jane Alexander- Surveys (from the Cape of Good Hope) at the CAMH
Maureen Nelson and Lisa Burrell, violin, Rene Salazar, viola, and Richard Belcher, cello, performing as part of Musiqa's Surveys Loft Concert in the midst of Jane Alexander: Surveys (from the Cape of Good Hope) at the CAMH Photo by Jonathan Mitchell
Nancy, The Performance Impulse, October 2012, Jane Alexander, Frontier with ghost, 2007
Nancy, The Performance Impulse, October 2012, Stacey Steer's Night Hunter
Nancy, The Performance Impulse, October 2012, Still from Marina Abramovic- The Artist is Present
Nancy, The Performance Impulse, October 2012, Dario Robleto, Defiant Gardens
Nancy, The Performance Impulse, October 2012, Jane Alexander- Surveys (from the Cape of Good Hope) at the CAMH

I pressed a button and a painting performed for me.

Gregorio Vardanega's painting Espaces Chromatiques Carrées en Spirale, part of the Constructed Dialogues: Concrete, Geometric, and Kinetic Art from the Latin American Art Collection, is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston until Jan. 6.

It doesn't take much to mix the disciplines. Too many artists over blend, leaving a hodgepodge of layering that ends up feeling like a ball of gray Play-Doh. Even the word "multidisciplinary" makes me yawn. Been there, done that, enough already.

 The musicians were placed among Alexander's eerie animal/ humans. Her hybrid mutants seemed to guard the space, one even from above.  

I prefer subtler concoctions, where an event crosses a fine line to become something else. My home is in the performing arts, so I tend to turn everything into a performance.

As a byproduct of my dance training, I come equipped with motion detector. As an experimental theater lover, I look for the smallest whiff of theatricality. And, as someone continually perplexed by performance art, I seek every opportunity to understand its history and lineage.

The artist is indeed present

The roots of performance are probably on my mind because Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present  is screening at MFAH on Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. All Abramovic needs to do is lift her gaze to see the person sitting across from her, a two-inch movement of her head, and . . . boom, it's some of the most powerful theater I've ever seen.

  Too many artists over blend, leaving a hodgepodge of layering that ends up feeling like a ball of gray Play-Doh. 

It should be said that Abramovic is the grandmother of performance art. Directed by Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre, The Arist is Present chronicles the months leading up to Abramovic's MOMA retrospective. In a Skype Q&A after a prior screening, Dupre revealed that yes, her life is a performance.

This film is required watching for anyone who hovers anywhere near performance art. There's much to learn in witnessing the restraint present in her work. She makes so much from so little. Lessons to learn here fellow art makers.

Musiqa at the CAMH

Last week, I witnessed Musiqa in Surveys, featuring music from South African composers amidst the CAMH exhibit Jane Alexander: Surveys (From the Cape of Good Hope). The musicians were placed among Alexander's eerie animal/ humans. Her hybrid mutants seemed to guard the space, one even from above.

They let us watch. It's menacing, a quality later reflected in the musical selections. CAMH chief Bill Arning sat at full attention, while Musiqa artistic director Anthony Brandt sat on the floor to the side in repose. It was pure theater.

 "Our next concert will be also be very theatrical, since it's accompanying a performance art piece that features an unscripted Greco-Roman wrestling match." 

"I also found it very theatrical, with the anthropomorphic figures surveying the musicians, and the barbed wire enclosure right beside the performance space," Brandt says. "It certainly changed the way one listened to the music, by placing it within such a strong and confrontational environment.

"Our next concert will be also be very theatrical, since it's accompanying a performance art piece that features an unscripted Greco-Roman wrestling match."

A Greco-Roman wrestling match? Brandt is referring to Musiqa's Radical Presence on Dec. 8,  featuring performance artist Shaun Leonardo, in conjunction with the CAMH exhibition Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, which will run from Nov 17 to Feb. 15, and is a must see exhibit for anyone interested in this topic.

Dario Robleto 

The first time I heard Dario Robleto speak at the Systems for Sustainablilty conference at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts it felt like a monologue. At first glance, we could look at the event as a visual artist giving a talk about his work with memory, science and time, yet there was something about his delivery that was out of the typical ordinary lecture style.

He seemed more of a storyteller, unearthing the seeds of his work in such syncopated detail, the event even had musical qualities.

So I wasn't surprised to see his next Mitchell Center event, The Boundary of Life is Quietly Crossed, set for 6 p.m. Oct. 25 at the University of Houston's Dudley Performance Hall, billed as a "part artist talk, part performance." The artist will source sound, story and image to examine loss and creativity in his idea of  "deep time."

Robleto's talk is presented in conjunction with The Art of Death and Dying symposium, organized by the University of Houston Libraries.

Cinema Arts Festival Houston

Every year, Cinema Arts Festival Houston (CAFH) takes one step closer to becoming a cinema and performing arts festival. From live documentaries to artists performing in their films, there's already been a bounty of healthy play between the arts.

This year, Cinema on the Verge aims to take a step further with six media installations at 4411 Montrose, which also houses CINEMA 16, a special screening room for experimental films. Expect performative elements in installations by Phil Solomon, Vanessa Renwick, Stacey Steers, George Griffin, Joanna Priestley and The Light Surgeons (who will also be performing SuperEverything* at the Asia Society on Nov. 9 & 10). 

I'm looking forward to Eve Sussman's WHITEONWHITE:ALGORITHMICNOIR on Nov. 9 at Aurora Picture Show, a part of Cinema on the Verge's satellite exhibitions. Edited live in real time by a custom programmed computer called the “serendipity machine," Sussman's film is a narrative in flux, created from 3,000 clips, 80 voice-overs and 150 pieces of music. It runs forever and never the same way twice. 

The Cinema Arts Festival runs Nov. 7 to Nov. 11 at several venues. More details will be rolling out soon. 

CINEMA 16 kicks off on Nov. 8 at 4:45 p.m. with a Warhol Walk from Rob Pruitt's The Andy Monument at the CAMH to a Rare Warhol program at 5: 30 p.m.

So there you have it, we will all be performing!

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