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In this week’s issue, artists and curators Sheldon Scott and Eames Armstrong talked to Washington City Paper about the recent explosion of performance art culminating in SuperNOVA, a sweeping performance art festival taking place in Rosslyn—-of all places—-this weekend. For the first time in recent D.C. memory, there’s more performance than even the sternest fan of durational art could hope to take in. Here’s a list of a few of the stars worth watching at SuperNOVA.
J.J. McCracken, “the still point,” at Dark Star Park 5 p.m. Friday to 5 p.m. Saturday
Not many locals know that artist Nancy Holt created one of the great sculpture parks in the D.C. metro area in Rosslyn more than 30 years ago, a work of art and landscape architecture completed in 1984. One of the many harmonious features of Dark Star Park is the convergence of various shadows on the site that happens every August 1 (in honor of the day, in 1860, when founder William Ross staked his claim in Rosslyn). J.J. McCracken might make the best piece of contemporary art Rosslyn’s seen in decades with her 24-hour performance in Holt’s park. McCracken’s primary materials—clay, endurance, anthropology—suit Holt’s harmonies just fine. (Above: McCracken’s “Thirst, and the Martyr.”)
Jeffry Cudlin, “Rosslyn Redpoint,” throughout Rosslyn 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday
Sure, performance artists take themselves too seriously—they often work like actors, trying to erect and preserve a fourth wall in the face of suspicious, even hostile audiences. Cudlin goes about it another way, though. With his durational performances, he grinds his audiences down by laughing with them at his own efforts. For “Rosslyn Redpoint”—-previewed on Arts Desk earlier this week—-he intends to essentially mountain-climb Rosslyn, treating its sidewalks and streets as if they were vertical faces he must cross. It’s weird. It’s kind of funny. It will be exhausting to watch how exhausted he gets, draining to see how he drains himself. And for what—for a laugh? Not quite. (Above: Cudlin’s “Ian and Jan.”)
Patrick McDonough, “White Turf Action Painting,” at Gateway Park Originally scheduled to begin 7 a.m. Friday; postponed to Saturday at 7 a.m. due to rain
One of the best examples of minimalist art in the public sphere in recent years was Ellsworth Kelly’s proposal for a 9/11 memorial: He suggested planting a park on the former site of the World Trade Center, and he did so by painting a green trapezoid onto a newsprint picture of the site and mailing it to the New York Times architecture critic. Needless to say, it didn’t get built, but it was a provocative gesture—one that D.C. artist Patrick McDonough appears to be taking literally. Using white sport-field paint, McDonough will be painting a stretch of Rosslyn yard white as the first of several performances in the area. The piece fits his own lo-fi, high-minded conceptual works while also blurring the lines between performance, installation, minimalist painting, and land art. (Above: McDonough’s “reck room.”)
Hayley Morgenstern, “Fantazy,” at Freedom Park 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday
Morgenstern most closely resembles the nightmare scenario that people who hate performance art like to dwell on: a woman, provocatively dressed (or not), making a mess in the name of queering culture. Drawing from Janine Antoni and Karen Finley in equal measure, Morgenstern employs her body to talk about her beauty and various normative assumptions that people make about women. She has for past performances dressed like a Disney princess and devoured a cake without using her hands; for “Fantazy,” she will be dressing like Mariah Carey and singing one of her singles (“Fantasy”) while making her way through a stack of melting chocolate bars. Sounds bratty and righteous. (Above: Morgenstern’s “And Eat It Too.”)
Laure Drogoul, “What Your Nose Knows,” at Central Space Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday
There’s no way to expect anything in particular from Laure Drogoul’s work—-except that you’ll probably be going into something. Of Baltimore performance artists who have made a name for themselves, Drogoul is the most architectural: Her work frequently combines pavilions or enclosures with sensory stimulation. The work is performance in the sense that the viewer does the performing: listening to earthworms whose squishy sounds are being amplified and played over headphones, for example, or examining smells in a scentorium. Another way to say it might be that Drogoul’s performances involve tweaking the public and private expectations a viewer has about a space—a different kind of theatricality. (Above: Drogoul’s “Apparatus for Orchestral Knitting.”)
Rachel Hrbek, “Positive Affirmations,” at Gateway Park 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday
For all the strengths of the Corcoran College of Art + Design, it’s never been known for producing a ton of performance artists. Rachel Hrbek made a splash at the school’s “Next” exhibit this year by eating sushi off a naked man’s body—flipping the stereotypical configuration. (One that was only ever popular in 1980s movies about Japanese gangsters, but anyway.) In another performance, she and a man drink wine rather messily during a Corcoran reception, spilling bottles but without losing their composure. Vanessa Beecroft appears to be an influence on Hrbek’s staging, which is formal and composed but still personal. Hrbek’s only just getting started, so it’s hard to say for now whether she’s working from personal drama or making a broader point about the dynamics between men and women. (Above: Hrbek’s “Easy Consumption.”)