Curating Performance Art Night is always wild and rewarding. It was especially so in September. While perhaps the most palpable memory of the evening was the small riot which resulted in Notsuoh telling me that Clockpole is no longer welcome to perform in future Performance Art Nights, the evening included many other thought provoking moments complete with poetic tacos, stylish sculptures, casting couches, meditative movements, gentle nudging and a progressive session of gesture drawing.
The night kicked off with Cris Skelton's "Tacos and Shakespeare," in which he quoted Shakespeare while eating tacos. I imagine Chris intended for it to be funny but no one laughed much, which honestly made it more funny to me. The tension in the room emerged from the audience's awkwardness as they did not seem to know how to react or what to expect. I was uncomfortable but in an enjoyable way. My main contemplation during the piece was how a performer could interact with the audience's tension. Perhaps the intentional creation of a tension like this is impossible but it seems like a rich place to create powerful experiences.
Next came Tracy Hamblin, a new performer, exploring the power dynamic of the job interview. There was strength in the concept. Mike Ambramowitz, a somewhat notorious unruly local creative character has an upcoming job interview. Tracy engaged the crowd to help him prepare by conducting mock interviews. Three people volunteered. On stage, Tracy trained them on the interview process including the use of power poses. After each mock interview, the interviewer critiqued Mike, telling him how to be more like the interviewer and less like himself. It was a thought provoking critique of this common social practice. Asking for volunteers to participate in a somewhat complex performance was a big request, and i sensed some unease in the crowd and also in the artists -- but this unease is inherent to interviews in general so it was a very useful conjuring of the feeling in relation to the topic at hand. This perhaps unintentional uneasy dynamic highlighted the "posing" and often skewed judgment that happens in the traditional job interview.
Dana Suleymanova (Dana pronounced like “Donna”, FYI), a charming new addition to Performance Art Night, took the stage next. Studying under Mike Smith in Austin like Houston faves Ryan Hawk (Now a core fellow!) and Emily Whittemore, I was curious to see what Dana would bring. Dana placed a large, hot pink, zebra bag in the middle of the stage and then zipped herself into it. Then she popped out of a it modeling an assortment of hat-like sculptural pieces. The words cute, quirky and solemn come to mind when remembering the performance— a collection of words that holds an interesting tension. Perhaps tension was the unsuspected theme of the night? This performance was unusual for PAN because Houston artists do not generally make their performance work around self-created objects. However, this piece, like Robert Catalusci’s recent Alien God, had “sculptures” or “props” that were as integral to the performance. Perhaps this will serve as a new inspiration for Houston? Dana’s work definitely reminded me of the fashion shows by B. Anele (currently showing at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft) that have been occurring at Mystic Stylez events in Houston. When contemplated together, they create a bridge between “fashion”, “sculpture”and “performance” that I hope will continue to be explored in Houston.
Following Suleymanova's soft sculpture performance, Bobby Levy performed a Butoh-inspired dance. His slow movements and bodily contortions completely enraptured the crowd. The tension in the room melted. His meditative movements lulled the crowd into a state of connected presence. Whil