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Art Wed Jun 06 2012

Body Works: The Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival


Image of Saiko Kase courtesy of the artist

Chicago is a city historically-rich in the practice of performance art. But like many artistic practices that were once prominent in the city, it is only now that this history is being recognized on a grander scale. Featuring a mix of 29 local, national, and international performing artists, the first Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival aims to address both the city's emerging practitioners of performance art as well as the eclectic array of seasoned performers across the globe. The festival runs through June 10 at various venues across the city.

Joseph Ravens, director and founder of the DEFIBRILLATOR performance art gallery (1135 N. Milwaukee Ave), created the festival as a means of celebrating performance art as well as revitalizing Chicago performance artists. The initial ideas for the festival began during the birth of DEFIBRILLATOR in December 2010.

"I knew right from the beginning that I always wanted to have a festival. Maybe there's a little bit of pride involved," Ravens said. Chicago went through an extensive period of appreciation for and incubation of performance art, but it's popularity both from audiences and performers declined during the 1990s. New performers -- as well as a degree program at the School of the Art Institute Chicago -- have reinvigorated the medium, making now a prime moment for exploration in the city. "I have a focus for supporting international artists, while at the same time, with DEFIBRILLATOR, revitalizing Chicago's performance art scene by bringing in these international artists," he said.


Cristiane Bouger by Roger Regner

The call for performers went out in January and more than 150 applicants submitted proposals. The curatorial team (Giana Gambino, Julie Laffin, Steven Bridges, and Ravens) was chosen to help manage the process and ensure that a diversity of performers were chosen. "I tend to look for a style or type of performance that is not regularly represented," Ravens said. The proposals featured a wide array of performance art practices ranging from body-modification - a style that fell in popularity during the last two decades, but has seen a recent resurgence in popularity (perhaps influenced by Marina Abramovic's retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York) - to intervention work and relational art. The latter garnered a significant number of proposals, with many artists aiming to explore ideas of bartering, negotiating, and commodity with art.

Chosen performers include Saiko T. Kase, who's work explores issues such as time, body and material as it relates to our finite existence; Igor Josifov of Macedonia, who expresses his views toward contemporary issues through the use and manipulation of the physicality of his body; and Chicago-based artist Sallie Smith, who examines the conflicting traumas inflicted on peoples, and women in particular, through media absorption.

Besides performances from individual artists, the festival also includes a number of extra components to create a more well-rounded festival. Electrodes, a series of performance installations, typically durational in nature, is currently visible in the windows of DEFIBRILLATOR. Additional local spaces such as Happy Collaborationists, Nightingale, and The Hub feature curated performances and programs to compliment. A selection of performances for video and performance documentation is also available for view at DEFIBRILLATOR, Nightingale, and the Hub. Triage, a smaller performance series curated by Happy Collaborationists, includes artists such as Arthur Elsenaar and Sarah and Joseph Belknap. Panel discussions, artist talks, and roundtables include pertinent subjects ranging from the intersection of performance art with other mediums to the idea of a Chicago aesthetic.


Image of Helmut Heiss courtesy of the artist

The audience also plays a role in the performances. Meridith Weber and Anna Trier created Circulation, an arrangement of audience migration between venues and interventions, that stands as an audience-participatory social sculpture. Throughout the scale of the festival, Ravens hopes that festival can foster change in the performance styles and aesthetics of Chicago artists. "A lot of the younger artists tend to work in form that is emulated or reflects the pedagogy. That's natural, but I also found that it was in-breeding the style of the Chicago aesthetic. It was a little stagnant," he said.

This same thinking applies to the audiences as well. Chicagoans have had less exposure to performance art and it has only been recently through festivals such as the MCA's Here/Not There that local, contemporary performance art practices have been visible to such large audiences. "People are interested in images and imagery," Ravens said. "They're interested in fearless and a sense of fun."

Check out the rest of the schedule for Rapid Pulse here. A $10 donation is requested for all performances.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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