A local friend asked me this morning why a MARGINAL Arts Fest is called “marginal”. Well, it IS a low budget affair where “freedom of expression” is more highly valued than the kind of committee approved events organized and funded by institutions, and aside from a couple parties with free food there were no other gratuities such as subsidies for motels… as we were lucky to have gotten one year in the past when we participated. We mostly go for the camaraderie and creative exchanges/collaborations in any case, and this year were WOWED by SO MANY energetic edgy performances! The weather was bad for driving through the mountains so we were delayed a day and missed a full day of MAF. One we missed included the word “Snakes” in the event name and may have involved Brad Chriss’ meat eating stint, Rebecca Weeks, and Tif Robinette. It’s all hearsay, so don’t take my word for it! But I’m sorry we missed it. Also, some MAF events happened simultaneously in different locations, so the following report is in no way complete. It could be puffed out with more facts and actual participant names, but hey, I’m not getting paid for this, right? So sue me. Still, here’s a link to the official schedule (even this has some info missing and changes occurred since it came out): http://www.marginalarts.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/MAFGuide2014.pdf
Early Thursday morning we arrived at the building which Olchar Lindsann and Warren Frye had christened “Akademgorod”, where most of the action we were involved in that day would take place. In the building’s front room gallery was the photography exhibit “Curb” by Christine Carr focusing on cigarette butt litter and a signage project that was meant to curb that bad habit. Our friend, Sue Leftwich, had seen people throw their cigarette butts in defiance directly at the sign. Still, our friends who later stepped outside to smoke certainly did not leave their butts out on the sidewalk. Stenciled graphics of smoking cigarettes did appear on the sidewalks during that evening’s opening reception for the exhibit, however.
I brought a box ‘o junk for wall or small standing assemblages and had a blast installing and connecting bits and pieces with the help of fellow long-time mail artist & writer, Jim Leftwich, and others were invited to participate as well.
A couple installations had already been set up in the building, one by Megan Blafas-Chriss (by the way, we didn’t meet Brad once during MAF this year!) was a defined “picnic area” with a fake grass carpet heaped with cushions and knitted pillows. A couple little girls liked the knitted strawberry and were totally relaxed with their mothers in this homey colorful environment while the adults listened to “experimental performances”. We were to run into Megan again at the after-after party Saturday (where Tomislav provided his homemade wine and “real food” was served vs. the 1st after party’s appetizers and desserts – and Jack Wright finally filled up!) where Megan and her mom chanted “UP TABLE UP TABLE etc.” with hands placed on a card table, invoking the spirits to tap the table legs on the floor in attempts to communicate with us mere mortals. Unfortunately, John asked me to go back to the motel before any table tapping action began. But I digress…
First up on Thursday morning, Reid Wood presented a powerpoint talk about the “Eternal (mailart) Network”, which was full of historical observations that I’d not been aware of (but will I remember?), and an excellent overview for the high school students, with a discussion about how online networking still proliferates the network via blogs, Facebook, and other social media. John & I followed with an hour long “hands-on” class with high school students called “Experimental, Avant, and Collaborative Poetry”. Afterwards I hung up the collaged and hand written results on a line on the wall. That afternoon Reid Wood and I each did fluxus performances (I included Jennifer Wiegel’s “Blossom” and “Menú” 2005 by Bartolomé Ferrando). The audience included a few local people who had happened by and just walked in, and subsequently got involved in many of my participatory fluxus events, and really seemed to enjoy themselves! Warren Fry and Olchar Lindsann performed some scores that Reed Altemus sent them and they and Tomislav Butković read/performed their neo-absurdist writings. Some of the high school students performed readings and a couple of them also took part in The Be Blank Consort which John directed, and I helped perform in it too, along with other volunteer voices. A representative for the Republicans working in the space next door came over and told Warren that the noise “has got to stop”, but their efforts were futile. In fact, I think they spurred us on!
On Thursday evening we went straight off to meet up with our friend, Billy Bob Beamer, and also met his co-exhibitor, Amy Hertzel, at their reception at the Shenandoah Gallery (also called “The Green Room”) and we loved their drawing exhibit- aptly named “Meditations”. At Roanoke’s Taubman Art Museum we enjoyed video by Japanese born artist Motomichi Nakamura, who had dropped by Akademgorod during the a break when everyone but Joe Abel and I were out to lunch. I invited him to help with my junk assemblage project but am unsure if he did, as I was busy hanging student work from our morning class. Even more than Nakamura’s video (though I didn’t stay for his free presentation for which a ton of people showed up!), I enjoyed the Taubman’s exhibit of “The Art of Martin Johnson”. Find out more about Johnson at his website: www.martinbjohnson.com
Also that evening, using a gallery that was exhibiting a typographical art exhibit as their home base (with the public gathered around the street outside as it was closed off for MAF use) The Trash Couture fashionistas modeled the results of Claudia de Franko’s multi-day MAF workshop. I was cheering them on, excited about the use of paper, plastic, and mscl. throw away media. Unfortunately I did not have my camera, but if photos appear online be sure to post a link here! The same guy who took my name and photographed my junk assemblage parade hat was photographing the students modeling so hopefully…
I was pretty much worn out by the end of Thursday. It’s a good thing that Olchar had organized high school students to man a camera taping many of events at Akademgorod, and the students continued to energize us all the next afternoon as well.
Friday morning was set aside for a special skype exchange at the Luminal gallery, where Olchar had installed an exhibit of visual poetry by contemporary Russian and post-Soviet avant-garde writers/artists, and examples of SLOVA publications and other info were laid out on a table. Though we started out with technical difficulties connecting, we ended up with satisfying performance exchanges with three Russian visual poets/ experimental writers, including Gleb Kolomiets, the publisher of SLOVA and Olchar’s main man who pulled together works for the exhibit, and Oleg Razumovsky, who read a great piece he had written in English. He also reads some of his prose in one of the videos that was shown in the gallery.
VIEW ABOVE for the YouTube playlist of the videos shown! Am not positive of the woman’s name who performed so wonderfully a sound poem with Gleb, but it may have been Inna Kirillova. I was able to read one of my own poems I’d brought along and also performed a short vispo poem I’d only just written. Many of us performed these improvisational readings of vispo written just that morning at the gallery on special “forms” created for the occasion (and available to anyone who wanders into the gallery during MAF) which are promised for publication somewhere, sometime. After the skype session, I felt really good – “opened up” somehow.
Back at Akademgorod Friday afternoon, John did a reading (I requested time to read “Nothing Wavering” before him as well) and three high school students did a comedic play/reading in costume of VIM VOM VIM with the obligatory gargantuan “pause” for which I finally gave up holding my camera/ taking video. They also did a SMASHING OF THE GRAPEFRUIT action which involved a long break for clean-up time afterwards, but was it crazy fun while it lasted! Also, Joe Abel from the UK, who had been busy writing his script during a performance in the window of the building, engaged others to help him perform – Lots of worshiping of the lobster squirted with ketchup, mustard, and thousand-island dressing, and lots people talking at once… most whilst reading Joe’s fugue script in an attempt to distract him from his own discourse about experiences working with mental patients. It was a beautiful pandemic, comedic, colophony of noise/actions… which really sounds like the ultimate goal of Akademgorod, when you think about it. http://joblejabel.wordpress.com/ explains & has photos of fugue script.
During the above commotion, off to one side of the room, Aaron Andrews (of our home town of Columbus OH) had been stealthily laying out a two toned, multi-outlined star on the floor made of orange and cranberry nerds that was nearly five feet in diameter. After I’d packed up my props and junk assemblage materials and John had gone off for our car (oops! I left my bowler hat there, but it promised to behave) luckily I caught his nerd crushing performance in this video which I call NERD STAR.
Aaron dedicated his action to Odorous Agrundous, a curious figure which I’ll have to learn more about! His GREEN suit and outrageously colorful shoes were in good form for this task, and some of us were offered a mouthful of (uncrushed) nerds afterwards. (See final photo in above gallery)
Yet, STILL TO FOLLOW (I mean, how do you follow NERD STAR?) on stage at the high school was an incredible vocal/percussive performance of URSONATE, the classic noise poem score by Kurt Schwitters, performed by Olchar Lindsann and his younger brother, Chris Lennard. We vastly hope to someday procure a recording of that performance on DVD if Tomislav Butković is able to pull it off. I cannot hope to come close to describing how wonderfully in synch they performed as a team & as individual masters of their chosen media of expertise, and what an excellent contemporary (yet informed by previous masters like Jaap Blonk and Christian Bök and Schwitter’s own performance notes, of course!) interpretation of URSONATE resulted from their efforts!
Amazingly enough, there was STILL MORE to come that evening back at Akademgorod, where the space had been cleared away for a performance art piece by Rebecca Weeks and her partner, Ian Whitford (both UK artists) called “A Wing and a Prayer”. I managed to upload an amateurish video to YouTube (which limited me to 15 mins. of footage) that has bits and pieces of that hour long performance. There was only ambient light from one door and some candles on the floor, so my video results are far from perfect, though that lighting was just what the performance required.
I am just so happy to have witnessed it: the slow and entrancing audio, and contrasting but complementary performance techniques by each individual, and real in-depth feelings expressed by the interactions & the built up construction of “A Wing & a Prayer”. We had met Rebecca Weeks and enjoyed her performances in previous years at MAF, and we spoke more with both of them the next day as they were decompressing at Jim and Sue Leftwich’s home.
Saturday’s MAF parade was a real people’s parade with a fun percussion beat provided by T.J. Anderson, a local poet/musician/teacher. It began & ended at the community arts & academic high school though rain drops lightly misted over us. I made myself a plastic see-through cape for my shoulders and braved the rest for the sake of my junk assemblage hat. The regularly scheduled after-carnival was moved inside the high school due to this weather – and I was able to set up my “doctor gig/ foot in mouth certificate” routine for a quick examination of half a dozen or so patients, before and after the belly dancers performed in the high school art gallery. One patient, Julián Mathews, even paid me with a serving of vanilla ice cream! In the auditorium on stage was a lively rock band with singers and dancers as well- I think the high school principal was the lead guitarist, though my favorite was the drummer. We had some down time afterwards at Jim’s house to just sit and talk, but we also wrote half a dozen collaborative cinquains, and before we left for Ohio we’d written two more cinquains with our buddies who had assembled for breakfast as early as 8:30 a.m. Sunday just for a final chance to talk & hug (well, and eat too!). All eight cinquains are listed at the end of this blog.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though, as we still had a full night of fun on Saturday night with two after parties! The first one was at Roanoke Art Works (RAW) with offerings of appetizers, desserts, and entertainment by the 2014 MAF version of ROTTY WHAT: Jack Wright on saxophone, John M. Bennett synchronizing his poetry performance with the music, Andrew Drury on percussion, and Claire Elizabeth Barratt improvising energetically and RIGHT ON with dance and a GREEN umbrella solo. (I’m told that last year’s entertainment in this venue was Id M Theft Able.) Claire had also done window performance “It’s a Sign” at Akademgorod earlier in the festival. Her bright orange plastic fence grid dress, with black belt and gloves, was riveting and well accessorized by the window decor of various public signage and mscl. post-it notes Claire put on the window during her performance …. heck, just take a look at my photos here at Flickr from Akademgorod and RAW gallery, and see the video playlist below for Claire’s performance with ROTTY WHAT. She also did a workshop the next day, Sunday, the day we drove back to Ohio. But back to the after party hosted at RAW by artist Max Mitchell… Max had baked and frosted a cake, topped with MAF in sprinkles, and surprisingly John tried a piece. He doesn’t normally like cake, but he praised THIS cake. So, Roanoke, you did good!
Below is a YouTube playlist of all five of my MAF videos:
2014 MAF CINQUAINS:
in the pancake
battered like a wombat
floating in your sandfilled coffee
Slap that meaty drum part
Ed chair swollen in water pipes
Above cinquains are by
Evan Damerow (New Zealan), Joe Abel (UK), raBBit, Olchar Lindsann, Tomislav Butković, John M. Bennett, and C. Mehrl Bennett.
The following cinquains are by C. Mehrl Bennett, Jim Leftwich, and John M. Bennett:
Lake sunk blue tooth
Loot like bunk blank lute late
Foaming was will suited door slam
Silly like the foot show
Rocketer baby Rocketer’s
Network a seed
Sandy was footless hymn
Billy was a radio man
More feet and tooth
More or less eye mouth nose
Lapping at the fly shirt’s stone sleeve
Swoll with dust rain
Make noise with pots and pans
Rakate Rakate bee bee
і Rabey !
Inuit in it Inuit
NOTE: “Kitchen” was added by Jim, who may have been thinking of
Evan Damerow (N. Zealand), of whom Jim Leftwich speaks of in this video: