Out of the vast array of arts happenings in Chicago I find myself predominately attending three types of events: opening and closing receptions, performances, and artist talks and lectures. The first is an opportunity to meet and greet those embedded in the art scene; but rarely an opportunity to truly look at the art; the second is (dare I use the word typically?) an art event with some sort of viewing structure, a set time for observation and contemplation; and the third is a time for stretching, flexing, and feeding the mind.
The June 2012 Rapid Pulse International Performance Festival offered a smorgasbord of the arts experiences explained above. On the evening of June 8, 2012 I had the opportunity to see Sallie Smith’s (Chicago) project, Cycle. Smith, clad in re-appropriated athletic wear, that covered very little of her body, rode a bicycle atop two cinder blocks for a grueling amount of time. Straddling a line of torture and comedy she grunted her way through her “ride” and finished with a climactic, messy, eruptive bang. The performance was sexually charged, strenuous, and explosively shocking. Later that evening Loo Zihan (Singapore) shared his performance, Cane, which is a re-enactment of Josef Ng’s controversial 1993 performance, Brother Cane from 1993. Ng’s Brother Cane sparked a debate in Singapore about obscenity in art. In his stirring version Loo educated the audience about Ng’s original performance by re-enacting and poignantly appropriating the original piece.
The following day I attended the artist talk, “Body/Absences/Liveness,” with Arthur Elsenaar, Julie Laffin, and Jane Jerardi, moderated by executive director of Defibrillator, Joseph Ravens. Each artist presented his or her artwork, and afterwards a multi-faceted discussion about the categorization of performance art ensued.
Next year’s Rapid Pulse International Performance Festival is scheduled for June 1—12, 2013. Follow the updates on the event here.