Friday night at Spacetaker's Artist Recource Center Gallery (ARC), the performance collective Continuum presented a showcase of their playful and peculiar works, a medley of exhibitions wherein each performer commanded attention in turn. Julia Wallace brought iPerform to order with a guided meditation, no different than exactly what you'd imagine, with calming words and benedictions to gratitude and kind thoughts.
The troupe laughingly called themselves a cult, what with the odd costumes and the summons to confess your sins for a beer, but after just a few minutes' acclimation, and not a few wary laughing predictions, the audience came to feel at ease. The audience and performers shared the same space continually, threading through conversations and encounters and drinks-getting. During performances, the doors were shut and the lights went off, and the audience sometimes recognized that something was going on worth paying attention to.
In the between-times when the garage door went back up and the lights came on, members of the audience participated in several self-directed activities: photocopying parts (and do I mean parts) of their bodies behind a privacy-scrim, the results of which were then wheat-pasted up on a wall; writing memorials for a beloved pair of shoes to be deposited in a "shoeology"; folding origami cranes; depositing pennies in a jar and thinking kind thoughts.
Bryce Galbraith invited all in attendance to incorporate objects and costumes from a caboodle that he'd heaped on a table into a living picture, a tableau vivant, which in the eighteenth century was a popular entertainment for well-heeled salon-dwellers. In a tableau, costumed human figures stand perfectly still in allegorical poses for the audience's appreciative contemplation.
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At Spacetaker, directed by Galbraith to enact a "personal mythology," the actors felt an irrepressible impulse to move, so they moved in slow motion. People with cameras obligingly took photographs. A woman in a wolf-mask brought a railroad spike down upon the throat of a man wearing bunny ears and an apron. Someone shouted, "Don't do it!"
On one wall of the space was a collage of photographs and captions that documented Continuum's past performances, some of which would be repeated this evening, and all of them fairly lightweight and informal. Here we see how life and art intersect all day in ordinary social contexts for the members of Continuum, who can whip up ordinary activities into lustrous performance: "Eric Ling ate a sandwich. Everyone watched and took pictures." "We sang 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary 25 times on her 25th birthday. We ate birthday cake."
When the lights went out and sexy Jonatan Lopez came through blindfolded, carrying what looked like a sacred text, wearing a red lightbulb (the only illumination) and making sonorous pronouncements, we could tell we were in the presence of some powerful juju. When a charismatic shaman like Jonatan gets you to circle around him and follow his lead, you have to remember to hang on to your ego.
For the next three weeks, Continuum will be holding free performance workshops in which participants can explore performance strategies to develop their own works. Who knows, you might just found your own religion or become a YouTube sensation. Workshop participants will then showcase their performances in the final evening of the Continuum series on September 16. For information, visit Spacetaker.org