Bushwick’s Best Performers Show Off During SITE Fest
Two-Day Festival Focuses On Performance Art
At 3rd Ward (195 Morgan Ave.), one of six “hubs” for SITE Fest, one room was used to show various short films in a loop. Some of the more notable ones screened Saturday included documentation of Flag, in which Gavin Campbell attempts to show the influence of his childhood on the border between two Irelands by doggedly and unsuccessfully attempting to stuff the flag of the Republic of Ireland down his gullet; Shahar Marcus’ Soak, where a game of speed chess is played with a human hourglass; and ...stacking...stacking...stacking... by Sarah Buckius, who turns something as mundane as the stacking of crates into a work of art.
On Sunday, the artist known only as liuba (spelled correctly) premiered “Performance Virus,” a series of guerrilla performance videos where the reactions of those around her become part of the performance itself. In one video, she prays in a Vatican City square dressed in something evoking a nun’s garb.
Just a few short blocks away, a different kind of performance was on display at 230 Boerum St., where a vacant lot was transformed into a zoo of sorts. “Real Live Animals” featured two men in panda masks fighting and begging for attention. The setup came complete with “feeding times,” where passersby could feed the “animals” Snickers Minis.
Last Saturday, several events were going on simultaneously, including a “Frankenstein Sweater Party,” where passersby were invited to pick up pieces of old sweaters and use their imagination to stitch them into something new, and “Dr. Lisa,” a improv comedy experience in which “Dr.” Lisa Levy invites people to lie on her inflatable couch and share their issues. (This reporter was cajoled by the audience at Grace to lie down and participate. The diagnosis? Mama’s boy.)
The third hub, Chez Bushwick— a well-kept, intimate loft space inside 304 Boerum St.—featured a regular schedule of multidisciplinary modern art performances. One of the highlights of the entire festival was “Still Life With Seven Stonesstill,” a Sunday solo performance by Michal Samana which maximized the shape, weight and size of the aforementioned seven stones to express emotion. With only the rain hitting the windows outside providing an aural accompaniment, the sparse space seemed to maximize every move. Also on Sunday, “Cirque Surreal,” a modern dance performance by a group called The Hoover Dam Collective, explored the shifting realities of a group of circus performers.
Yet another, somewhat more traditional type of live performance took place at Goodbye Blue Monday, a bar on 1087 Broadway, where music acts that call Bushwick home performed at the bar as part of SITE Fest’s IonSound Music Festival on Saturday and Sunday. Among the more interesting acts was Vienna Boa, a young lady who performed on Saturday. She started signing opera in a costume straight out of Amadeus, but seamlessy segued to pop music by the end of her set.
No Arts In Bushwick event would be complete without a roundtable discussion of the state of the neighborhood, and Sunday’s session with AIB’s Laura Braslow and Chloe Bass at 3rd Ward provided an insight not only into the aims of AIB and SITE Fest but also in the more practical matters of the area’s art scene.
An example of the latter was 3rd Ward itself. While technically in East Williamsburg, 3rd Ward is wellknown as a place for artists to learn from other artists and a home for those working in just about every artistic endeavor imaginable. Such spaces are valuable, according to Arts in Bushwick organizers, especially to performance artists; as Braslow put it, performance art is “very resource- intensive, space-intensive.”
The space is also a veteran of AIB events, having participated in the group’s two other showcase events, BETA Spaces and Bushwick Open Studios; the latter featured 325 different events in 125 different spaces stretching from East Williamsburg all the way into Ridgewood.
All this is done with very little infrastructure; Arts In Bushwick is not a 501(c)3 nonprofit, it doesn’t have an office or a space of its own, and it relies almost exclusively on donations and volunteer labor. This, Bass noted, allows the organization to pour any financial resources directly into their events. “When we need something,” Bass said, “we don’t hire someone to do it.”
However, the organization has another, concurrent mission: to create a greater sense of community and belonging among artists living in the area, and to bridge the gap between the artist community and longtime residents and community stakeholders.
Part of that outreach involves multilingual marketing aimed at the area’s Hispanic community. In addition, AIB has held meetings with City Council Member Diana Reyna and Rep. Nydia Velásquez as well as El Puente, a Brooklyn-based community organization. Braslow also now sits on Brooklyn Community Board 4, where she chairs its Arts and Culture Committee, which she claimed was the first such committee in any community board in new York City.
“The idea that we’re labeling this neighborhood an arts neighborhood, there’s a lot of hubris in that,” Braslow admitted, adding later that Bushwick’s arts community gets attention that is not necessarily commensurate with its size compared to the larger area population. However, Braslow believes that AIB can use that voice to the community’s benefit.
Braslow and Bass know that their mission is still incomplete. A man loudly voiced his feelings on the matter to this reporter, who was walking along Broadway to Grace Exhibition Space with camera in hand Saturday afternoon.
“You want to take pictures?” he shouted. “Go to Williamsburg. Take pictures in Williamsburg.”
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