Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Best of Pan: Green Blob saves Cello Fury from Naked Tutus (NSFW)

[Dean Liscum had been blogging for Pan for a while when he wrote this post. He had even started blogging about performance.  But his humorous appraisal of this anarchic show seemed to prefigure his later writing on performance art in Houston. He was an eager participant, willing to allow himself to be moved by what he was seeing and experiencing, but also willing to have a laugh. Dean's performance posts have been some of the most popular in the history of the blog--possibly because of all the nudity in them, but I hope all those people searching for naked performance artists took the time to read Dean's great writing.]

Dean Liscum

In the dead center of summer in Houston, Tuesday's are dead. Monday's are even more livelier because it's industry night and you can buy drinks for you favorite bartender and s/he can remind you what a lousy tipper you are and how lame your game looks to the rest of the bar.

In the art world, they're even deader. So, when one of the members of Continuum forwarded a FB invite to Southmorehouse's event Naked Tu-Tu Tuesday #27. I glanced over the invite (excerpted below), reviewed my desolate social calendar, and clicked Join.
This is a ballet themed NT so bring your naked self and your Tutus to Notsuoh on Tuesday July 31st for an evening of ballet, music, and audience participatory performance art featuring Cello Fury from Pittsburg, PA (that does not mean "Prince Albert", folks) and Continuum, a local Houston performance art troupe (who will also lead a movement workshop).
To get such a sweet spot we have already volunteered to do an exhibitionist improv and definitely goofy dance routine while they play. Just kidding - maybe...
The phrase that caught my attention (and inspired my attendance) was "audience participatory performance art featuring Cello Fury." What the hell, I thought. I like Cello Fury's music, and even though I've never participated in a performance art piece before, I figured that I could undulate to the rhythm in a way that would make my white boy ancestors proud or at least play the equivalent of a performance art landscape prop.

I also discounted the theme spelled out in the title due to three facts:
  1. The invitation included the following disclaimer: "...There will be lots of people wearing clothes. Please, no pressure on them. The idea of NT is to make everyone comfortable with whatever their choice of attire."
  2. Although we're not technically in the Bible Belt, we are below it. Even though the dirty south may be on the down low, we don't admit those kind of things or show them in public.
  3. And finally, I took the line "PA (that does not mean 'Prince Albert'...), as an implicit guarantee that come what may, I wouldn't have my frenulum staple-gunned to my thigh. (At a place like Notsuoh, it's a good guarantee to have.)
Tuesday arrived and so did I. The show was on the second floor of Notsouh. I opened the door and raced up the stairs into a re-enactment of Marina Abramović and Ulay's Imponderabilia by two Continuum members. The performance art piece involved a naked (except for a stocking cap) male and a naked female on opposite sides of an entrance. Anyone who wanted to pass through the threshold had to walk between the two naked figures. Because of their presence, the entrant had to turn sideways and face (and come in contact with) either the naked male or the naked female.

Members of Continuum re-enacting "Imponderabilia"

This performance greeted everyone who showed up to the audience participation training. I was perplexed by the choice before. I was also fully aware of the political-social-sexual implications that I was forced to ponder. So rather than make a decision, I made multiple decisions and passed between the performers sometimes facing the male, sometimes facing the female until, like a over indulgent child at a free carnival ride, I was asked to let someone else take a turn.

I was mostly worried about stepping on their toes with my boots.

I could have ridden that ride all night but someone threatened to get out the staple gun.

On the second floor, it was a pretty sparse crowd. Maybe 20 people, half of them naked Southmorehouse regulars wearing more smiles than tutus.

The remnants of the first performance was being cleaned up. It featured Christine Cook fully experiencing her cake and ending in what any foodie (or your id) would enviously label a "foodgasm."

Have your cake and wear it too (photo copied from southmorehouse FaceBook page)

photo by Hilary Scullane

Next on the agenda, Continuum members, Sway Youngston and Jonatan Lopez re-enacted another Abramovic\Ulay performance piece, Light/Dark. This work started with the two artists sitting cross-legged across from each other staring into each other's eyes.

boy sees girl Abramovic-style

They then took turns slapping each other, tit-for-tat or rather whap! for wham! as the blows resonated in the space.

slap and ...

(tongue) tickle

The exchange evolved or devolved into a wrestling embrace. Both performers remained seated, but managed to lock arms and hold-grapple-pull-twist each other climaxing in an embrace-kiss. For the denouement, they then re-established the separation and the slapping until the piece simply ended.

Continuum members varying interpretations of the naked tutu

After pondering that painful performance (a metaphor for relationships? romantic love? the life of an artist? Continuum dues?), the audience drank beer, took photos, and lamented the fact that Texas has 367 miles of coastline and one clothing optional beach, which is Hippie Hollow in Austin. (At this gathering, I observed that naked people talk about being naked and nakedness issues as opposed to the geopolitics such as the war in Syria or the economic crisis in Spain.)

Rosario and Rosalinda plead with artistically inept

Around 9 p.m. instructions for BalletSutra began. I was excited. After all, this piece inspired me to show. Not because it was entirely new (Lopez had previously performed YogaSutra), but because it aspired to make the inartistic (namely the inartistic me), artistic. I figured if they could turn me into a performance artist, who knows what other transformative powers their art might possess.

The piece began with an introduction of our teachers, Rosario and Rosalinda, who apparently hailed from some undisclosed latin american country or a Jorge Luis Borge short story. Rosario explained that we would perform this sutra in front of the band Cello Fury as they played one of their sets. Rosalinda explained that the philosophy of BalletSutra involves a "dominate" and a "submissive," which seemed a more accurate description than just having a lead and a whatever that other person is.

The R's then walked the participants through the 5 movements of BalletSutra. There was twirling, flapping, kneeling, and something like a pirouette. It felt like a cross between tango, two-step, and ballet, but mainly it was slow and deliberate and the intentionality gave it gravitas. We performed the 5 movements until it appeared that either we had mastered it or that if nothing else we were more likely to injury ourselves on an out-of-control spin than a member of Cello Fury.

Beware: BalletSutra in progress

Our instructors congratulated and dismissed us. Then we waited for the band and their fans to arrive. Neither of whom knew that a group of naked tutu-ists, newly schooled in the art of BalletSutra and eager to show off our mad skills, was awaiting them.

They arrived and their presence inspired some to frolic frenetically on stage and ...

all around it. The roadies looked a little flustered. Cello Fury's fans did some jaw dropping, but the stayed and everyone settled in. The opening act started playing and everyone relaxed...or at least relaxed as much as they could if you were at a family gathering and uncle Leo refused to put his pants on.

Then Cello Fury took the stage and began to play. BalletSutra did not commence. Turns out that Notsuoh's upstairs stage is not quite as big as the members of Continuum thought. So out of safety concerns and\or in deference to Cello Fury (who wasn't warned of\invited to\ approved of, or collaborate in the whole BalletSutra thang), Continuum called off the performance leaving several of its supporters dressed in tutus, primed for dominance and/or submission, and without an expressive or creative outlet for their 5 new dance moves.

So Cello Fury jammed on (in a similar fashion to the video but this is not the performance), encouraging audience members to dance, and some did. But, no one BalletSutra'd as they boogied.

Meanwhile, 4 members of Continuum regrouped in a space next to the crowd and performed the "Green Blob." This performance consisted of a constantly moving, changing amorphous mass of green humanity.

Faces, feet, hands, and haunches protruded and then receded from the giant green organism as it slithered, shivered, and undulated across the floor. I was mesmerized as my mind tried to identify the creative anatomies that were limned in green. How could a thumb-nose-hip be in that configuration? And before I could puzzle out the pose another emerged.

The piece lasted for several minutes until the exhausted members emerged to applause. The consensus among those who'd seen it performed at the Texas Contemporary Art Fair and Bar Boheme during Continuum's turn at Cultured Cocktails was that this performance was a 'great' Green Blob.

Continuum members and their supporters. What you looking at Willis?

I left the evening tutu'd, artistically un-transformed, but better for the experience.

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