Sunday, April 28, 2013

The six month Continuum Live Art Series is coming to a close on Friday, May 3rd at Avant Garden. It has been a truly heartwarming and inspiring experience, and I am thrilled to have experienced every single one of the events and workshops that were a part of it. There were more than one "virgin" performers and we connected with some truly talented artists that we never even knew existed. We peed in buckets, crushed spirit animals, defended dirt, became pain maps, slathered ourselves in ice cream, stuck our dicks through holes, played games with duct tape, told the future, expressed the color blue, and so so so much more. I think it is fair to say that there are very few places in the world with such a vibrant collection of performance artists, and CLAS truly put that on display while fanning the flame. I am proud to have been a part of it. 

I put together an interview with some of the brave new voices we connected with through this experience as well as Jonatan Lopez, a founding member, and the current facilitator of Continuum. CHECK IT!!! 

What has the Continuum Live Art Series meant for you personally?

Jonatan Lopez: CLAS has helped me learn so much about performance art, which it is itself a constant growing process, and about life in general. I learned that some of the most powerful work comes from within. Developing a performance out of our personal struggles, failures and triumphs, no matter how self-indulgent that might seem, always forms a strong connection with someone in the audience. There is always someone that will connect deeply with your work, and others take it home and interpret it in their own terms. I used performance as a cleansing and healing ritual, as a way to confront my fears, as a way to confront death. I feel so much older now, lol, as far as wisdom goes.
As one of the founders of Continuum, I am very happy that this project was successful at attracting new artists and providing a safe space, free of censorship to show their work, which has always been part of our mission. And all this is proof that sooner or later, The Universe always gives us what we ask for.
Joshua Yates: My name is Josh and I’ve been addicted to performance art for two years now. (*Hi Josh*) The first time I tried it, I reached my physical limits in front of 11 strangers and the rush that came from that moment of pure failure has become a drug. Only within performance have I found the most efficient means to connect directly to both the audience and my own subconscious simultaneously. It is the only method of art making that takes place outside the protective shelter of the studio and asks me to simply do and not over think. CLAS has given me the opportunity to present work alongside a wonderful community of like minded artists and for me that is invaluable. 
Neil Ellis Orts: CLAS has been an amazing opportunity for me. I have a great deal of gratitude for the organizers of this series and their willingness to let me play in their sandbox. I've only so far been able to show work at two evenings, but those two evenings opened my eyes to my own work.
David Collins: I am trying to be a writer. I want to have more of the performance aspect in my writing. Thirteen years ago I completed and published a book that has some performance artists as characters. I tested that book by reading chunks of it at notsuoH open-mike nights. Back in 1999, I did not know performance from the inside the way I do now (though I did know the Houston art scene in general) and it's gratifying to see that I got much of it right!

Jessie Noel: Continuum exists as a platform for local artists in Houston to explore performative art in front of a live audience. I am blessed to be amongst such encouraging and gifted artists in Houston. I am left with a longing for exploration and heightened senses by the end of each series that positively embeds in the desires for my next art piece.

Manola Maldonado: Continuum Live Series has been a journey a search for the simultaneous experience. How do we all fit into this equation and how can we share our experiences vs competing for our turn to experience?

What was one of your favorite pieces presented at a CLAS event?

Jonatan Lopez: There were so many favorite pieces, its hard to pick just one. Everybody took a very unique and personal approach to performance. David B. Collin's pieces were always so cheerful, yet with a sense of doom. Unna Betties's were so intricate and mind-blowing. Tina McPherson's struggles at performing long distance via social media always took her pieces into unexpected realms of interaction. I really enjoyed some of the pieces done in the back patio were most of the audience wasn't even aware of our event. Daniel Bertalot fought several drunks out of his plot of land for hours in a performance called "Mine," which became a very agitated game by the end of the night. Ryan Hawk submitted himself to humiliation by bar goers by simply laying on the floor with a cold drop of water slowly dripping on his back. The back patio became our guerrilla performance space, were the reaction of a naive audience was extremely interesting and hard to predict.
Joshua Yates: It’s really hard to narrow down but on the second night of CLAS, Daniel Bertalot performed a work entitled “Mine” where he physically protected a patch of dirt on the back patio from the audience members. I thought this was a beautiful way to dissect so many facets of human history in a very simple action. I am always attracted to the simple pieces because they give the audience the most room to breathe. 

Neil Ellis Orts: At the 4th night, Joshua Yates did this piece that has haunted me and I'm stopped in my tracks every time I see a picture from it. I've found the title of the piece is "In Remembrance of Me.," but I don't think I knew that when I watched his time-based performance, and I'm kind of glad. As a practicing Christian, that phrase has a lot of content and the performance was stoked with religion and myth without it. Thoughts of Sisyphus and Atlas passed through my head as he collected broken bits of cinder block into a bag. The blocks were arranged in circles around Joshua and each circle had larger pieces to collect. After each circle was collected in his bag, he lifted it to a single light directly overhead. Obviously, each circle became more difficult to lift, the time the bag was held aloft shorter and the space was full of his labored breathing. The circles themselves held echoes of Stonehenge and cemeteries. The lifting of the rocks to the light suggested something about offering, sacrifice, and the relative efficacy of worship. These few disjointed words don't begin to engage all the conflicting feelings I had during this performance. I found it hopeful and sad. It was impossible and necessary. I want to see it again.

David Collins:One favorite? That's difficult. I'm sure I'm not the only one who says so. Freshest in my mind is Koomah's piece from CLAS #5 (title escapes me) about the dictatorship of corn, its effect on people and animals, and being force-fed silage. Darkly hilarious and very poignant.

Jessie Noel: I do not play favorites when so many delightful artists stimulated me with their live expressions, although i remember one of Jonatan Lopez 's beautiful pieces that made me feel at ease. It was a tranquil and pure experience that made a lasting impression on me.

Manola Maldonado:  I would have to say my favorite piece presented was Nikki Thornton's. I loved the juxtaposition of the nails on her body. It really made me reflect on what it means to be trapped in the female body and the chains that we have to be bear for being objects of desire. Wrapped in inviting packages, vs threatening.

Any other potent memories from the CLAS series?

Jonatan Lopez:   I experienced one of the most potent moments recently while videotaping Julia Wallace in her piece "Intercession," for which she sat in the small entryway at the bottom of the stairs, with her eyes closed, in some sort of a trance. There was small offering by her feet of what seemed like dead flowers, and white paint was dripping out of her mouth. It was such a simple piece yet so strong. I knew something was happening, it scared me at first but then I knew it was something beautiful, as if a spell, as if she was controlling the pace of our environment for a few moments. I felt that piece through my bones.

Joshua Yates: On the third night Neil Ellis Orts performed a work entitled “Tell me where it hurts”. He wore a blue full body suit and asked the audience to draw the specific locations of their pain onto his body. It was as if he was attempting to alleviate part our pain and carry it with him simply through our act of identification. I still have yet to thank him for taking my scoliosis. 

Neil Ellis Orts:One of the most useful bits of information I ever got from a "talk back" after a performance was when I heard Bill T. Jones tell an audience member that the best way to look at contemporary art is to look at yourself looking at it. There is much about performance art, despite holding a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts, that puzzles me and even occasionally repels me. That I'm attracted to, even called to it is a mystery I'm letting myself enter into. I will admit that my aesthetics are sometimes at odds with what else is going on. I often sense an anger underlying some work that feels so deep and dangerous. But then I liken it to Flannery O'Connor's notion that you sometimes shout so the metaphorically hard of hearing will hear. So without specifics, I think the most potent part of attending the CLAS evenings is looking at what I may not, on the surface, "like," but which I need to pay attention to and see what it has to say to me. The first piece I presented at CLAS, Watch How you Watch, was indeed an instruction for myself. What do I see when I see myself seeing work I'm puzzled by, offended by, challenged by? What do I see when I see myself seeing work that touches my soul in more positive ways? I've found the most potent memories emerge months and years after the fact.
David Collins:Julia Wallace magically got several women and men to urinate into a communal bucket as an offering ("A Woman Like That"). This was one of those test cases proving that certain performances with audience participation work best when the audience has had a few drinks.

Jessie Noel:  The every first CLAS night Malice performed as the oracle on the third floor (admitting only one at a time). That piece stayed mysterious to me for most of the show until i finally got to walk up the stairs and was engulfed by magic and empowerment when she asked me what my one question would be.

What can we look forward to at the closing night?

Jonatan Lopez: I am really excited to see Manola Maldonado perform her final piece, I almost feel like I have lived it already in another life in a parallel universe, but I won't spoil the future for you. And I am just thrilled to experience every one's fresh new work one more time at this awesome venue. Other than that, you can expect the unexpected.
Joshua Yates: I’m a sucker for the element of surprise so my answer will be super ambiguous. I plan to achieve an intimate connection with every individual who attends the final show.
Neil Ellis Orts: I haven't foggiest idea. I'm currently recovering from a major surgery just now and am not even sure if I'll have the energy to participate. Snippets of ideas come to me, but not yet sure if I'll be able to use them . . .
David Collins:  I have been appointed MC for closing night Sway Youngston might say, "There Will Be Nudity."

Jessie Noel: For sure I know Unna Bettie will be performing a cathartic piece that reflects her grieving process brought on from the recent dying of her close friend Robert Franklin who was an artist, a muse and an inspiration.

Manola Maldonado:  I am hoping for this to close on a positive note so that I can send the message that we have the power to be free and to stop wasting our lives in fear and miscommunication.

What do you think CLAS has accomplished?

Jonatan Lopez: It has given many of us the opportunity to have a space to share our performances frequently, to build our body of work. It has attracted new artists and many new friendships have sprouted from it. And of course, the workshops and pre-show meetings were very helpful to me. I let every single workshop guide me in the development of a new piece, and I cherish so much the feedback I get from friends in Continuum.
Joshua Yates:CLAS has accomplished so many wonderful things. It has given numerous artists the opportunity to perform and grow together all while bringing this wonderful medium to the public on a monthly basis. I feel that there is a stigma attached to performance art that aids in the public’s misunderstanding (oh you mean like the “Blue Man Group” right?). Having a show that revolves solely around performance allows the audience to see how vital this medium is to any artists practice and perhaps will spur them to research it further.
Neil Ellis OrtsA series like this accomplishes several things. For artists: It creates an outlet for work that doesn't always have an outlet. It forces artists to work on deadline, which is a bane and blessing for an artist. It serves as a compact moment of time, where a lot of energy has to be expended and in some ways clears out cobwebs of ideas that needed to be addressed. It's a hosing down of the dusty walls of our creativity. For audiences: It offers another way of seeing art, that art is not just song and painting and dance, but also offers a way of seeing how all those media might inform this hybrid thing we simply call "performance." It invites puzzlement from an audience that is too often fed entertainment without subtext or deeper investigation. A series like this asks audiences to see a lot in a relatively short span of time, some of it "simple," and let the images soak into their lives until it becomes something complex—and hopefully revelatory.
David Collins:Hundreds of people are now aware that there is an active, local performance art collaborative, and that performance art does not have to be dangerous and alienating. Everything that someone can do to shock audiences has already been done, so we are living post-that, and it's quite liberating. Hundreds of others are just that much more bewildered about what constitutes art, but if these performances got them thinking, huzzah!

Jessie Noel: CLAS has brought artists together by providing a once of month artists are coming out of the wood works!

Manola Maldonado: Class has brought people together to create a simultaneous experience.

What do you have to say about Continuum after experiencing CLAS?

Jonatan Lopez: I would like to invite our new artists to stay involved with Continuum and take the initiative at facilitating new projects and events, so as Continuum enters its third year, they help us guide it into exciting new directions. I also hope they are all able to walk with us into the "Promised Land" ( More info about Continuum's Second Performance Art Retreat "Promised Land" coming soon).
I would like to thank Mariana Lemesoff and the bartenders of AvantGarden for providing the amazing space, never censoring us and letting me crawl naked up the walls, and many thanks the handy man for cleaning our performance residues at times. We are so lucky to have people like Mariana in Houston that support Performance Art at any cost. Will also like to thank Ted Viens for saving us from lack of documentation, he has come and videotaped so many of our pieces just out of love. Continuum Loves YOU!!!

Joshua Yates:CLAS is my first experience with Continuum and I have to thank Julia Claire, Hillary Scullane and Nikki Thornton for bringing me in to this amazing group of artists. Performance is central in my artistic practice and having a community of performance artists to interact with has helped me grow more than I could have imagined. Since I commute from Huntsville, I am looking forward to graduating in May so I can become more involved with everything that Continuum does. Those who perform together are forever tethered through a bond of vulnerability and I consider myself blessed to be a part of such a beautiful group.
Neil Ellis Orts: It's been great to be a part of CLAS and I am so happy Continuum formed to make it happen. There are ways that I feel I will be on the edge of Continuum, not fully a part of their energy and aesthetics and values, but I also have great gratitude in having worked with them and being in conversation (whether actual conversation or via our art works) with them. I hope it is a relationship that will continue even as I continue to build my own company, Breath & Bone/Orts Performance.
David Collins: CLAS and the associated workshops have made me a more open person, more willing and able to delve into feelings I may not have acknowledged previously. It has been performance therapy. Also, the more time I spend with the Continuum regulars, the more I realize how lucky I am to know them and count them as friends. We have ventured to the same depths, exposed our imperfections, learned from each other, and come out better friends.

Jessie Noel: Continuum keep doing what you do! (Visit Jessie Noel's Unna Bettie Facebook by clicking here!)

Manola Maldonado:Continuum is a group of free thinking individuals that promote the most honest form of self expression in it's performers.

CLICK HERE to see the facebook invite to the final show this Friday, which will be featuring the following artists: Unna Bettie, Joshua Yates, Evan McCarley, Jana Whatley, Salvador Macias, Emmanuel Nuño Arámbula, David B. Collins, Kelly Alison, Tina McPherson, Raindawg, Jade, Koomah, Julia Wallace, Jonatan Lopez and more.

All for free, can you believe it?


collages by Jonatan Lopez, Pictures by Hilary Sculane, Pieces by fabulous members and collaborators of Continuum and the CLAS Series. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review of the 4th night of the Continuum Live Art Series

I believe art always has mysteries to reveal to us, pleasant or distasteful it all exists exactly as it should be and should be seen and respected for what it is...  Yes, it can provide lessons on how to create different results in the future, but every experience has a gift for us if we are open to accept what IS and receive it.

So I have thought all this for years, but I have never actually attempted to write about a show. So here I am going to really put my money where my mouth is and try to write about Continuum's Live Art Series Fourth Night embracing exactly what happened, with a respect for my own honest experience, and a respect and admiration for each artist who was brave enough to express themselves that night. Let's see how possible it is to put my ideals at work. 

I will begin with Tina McPherson's tweeting piece. Tina had a list of questions available and was inviting people to tweet their answers to the twitter account. Like many performance pieces, this piece did not seem to go as planned. This threw me off a bit, I'll be honest. No one seemed to have a twitter account. I was determined to participate though, so I spent fifteen minutes downloading the twitter app and trying to remember my password. Then hashtags or at signs confused me again... I tried... I was a bit sad to see the the twitter feed so stagnant, but then I went outside and saw a big group of people pouring over Tina's questions and sharing their answers verbally to each other. This was the beautiful surprise of the tweet piece... people moved past the difficulties of the technology and used the piece to create their own unique experience... Answering personal questions is absolutely one of my favorite things to do in a group, the answers always change your understanding of the other people in lasting and dramatic ways. So here was a piece that unexpectedly inspired feelings of confusion, frustration, and insurmountable distance, but in the end, it was redeemed by the creativity of participants and their willingness to make it their own. It is interesting to me too that participants taking that responsibility and being creative with the piece would have been much less likely in a stage piece or a piece where the artist was present... The distance made it possible for the participants to have a private enough moment for them to be willing to take those liberties. This is really interesting to me... I would love to explore the idea of participants reforming a piece themselves, if you think about it, it is truly a brilliant outcome. The piece inspired participants to create their own experience. Wow!
 photo by me

I encountered Raindawg at the bottom of the stairs, wrapped in a white sheet and looking so, so sad. It was a palpable experience. His placement at the bottom of the stairs held a beautiful tension. Was he sad at the uphill journey before him? Or was he stuck, existing in a space that was in the middle, a place of transition. Stuck between the upstairs and the the downstairs area, with no will to get to either destination? It was a beautiful and admirable use of space. He energetically radiated an extreme sadness that, seemed to me, impossible to ignore. It was simple, yet it strongly evoked an all too familiar feeling of intense hopelessness. The inspiration I draw from this piece is definitely in regards to use of space, what a simple way to create a strong narrative.

photo by me

Neil Orts was downstairs in a full body, blue suit. He was creating a map of the pain of the audience by asking them to place an X and a number corresponding to the intensity of the pain on the area in which we feel pain. This was a beautiful way of making the invisible visible. This piece created awareness, which is such an important step towards healing. He became the entire audience, which is a thrilling feat, in my opinion. I believe there was a feeling of connectedness created through this feat. It also inspired compassion for each other and a deeper compassion for our own pains that we may not honor and acknowledge readily. I had never thought about the secrecy of pain, it was jarring to me, that when I wrote on his body, he made a verbal comment about what my ailment could be, and I was surprised at the way I bristled, I honestly did not want to share about the issue that caused me pain. This was revealing to me, I did not realize that I guarded my pain and treated it as a secret, but as he spoke briefly about his own issues, I began to think of so many different examples of this secrecy. I am a huge fan of bringing secrets to light.

photo by Hilary Sculane

Jonatan Lopez did a striking piece. For me it was heavily influenced by an extremely uncomfortable young woman sitting next to me in the audience. When he started painting his balls black I thought she was going to choke and laugh and die at the same time. There was a dark humor about the piece, an uncomfortable urge to laugh at the same time not being able to because it was obviously not funny to the artist. It obviously wasn't funny. For me this speaks volumes to the way sexuality is treated and perceived in our culture. A joke that isn't funny. At all. We were laughing because we were uncomfortable, a beautiful revelation about the way our society so often deals with sexuality. But more about the content of the piece... Jonatan walked as if he were on a catwalk, then he undressed himself, laying his clothes out in front of him. Jonatan painted his mouth black (around the lips so it was a kind of anti or inverted black face) then he painted his penis and balls black. A strangely peculiar sight for me (Since I am not used to seeing limp dick. Ha. No, but seriously, i don't usually see dicks pulled and squished around like that.) He then placed a sign around his neck that said Take My Picture, the sign had a hole in it that he stuck his cock and balls through. The crowd applauded loudly at the sight. He left and walked around the space in his sign and left behind a kind of portrait created by the paint and clothing he left behind. He left a shell of himself behind. This was beautifully metaphoric. A shedding of a false and contrived self. A new vulnerability revealed. Taking on his fear and vulnerability and owning it by proudly walking through the crowd. In the way that Neil was creating a new awareness of the hidden pains of the audience, Jonatan was revealing his hidden fears, literally leaving his old "skin behind" which included a pair of sunglasses, strengthening the metaphor, because now Jonatan can receive even more light into his eyes, when formerly they were shaded by sunglasses, the universal symbol for COOL. And yes, it was uncomfortably "funny" but I don't think anyone in the room felt as if that was a light piece, which is a feat when you are sticking your dick through a hole in a sign that says 'take my picture'. His presence and honesty grounded the piece and made into something sacred and honest. Beautifully done.

photo by me

Joshua Yates did a visually stunning piece upstairs. He surrounded himself with concrete pieces, placed in concentric circles around his body. His use of light was brilliant. One bright light was directly above him. One at a time, he collected each circle of rocks and attempted to hold them up to the light as long as he could, before gathering another circle of rocks and then lifting them again to the light. He whispered to each rock as he collected them into a large bag. This was another piece (like Raindawg's) where the feeling depicted was palpable and familiar. Watching him gather more and more and more felt so much like the overloading of ourselves that we each do in life. His lifting of the bag up to the light became, for me, failed attempts to get help from the divine. Over and over he seemed to try and receive some sort of relief from the light but each time it was a fruitless effort. It embodied struggle, anxiety, self abuse, desperation... It was very effective at tapping into universal emotions. I was inspired by his use of light, it almost became another 'character' in the piece. I loved how the concrete dust filled the air and created a smell to accompany the piece, I love the way the bag made marks on the floor as he dragged it.

photos by me

Manola Maldonado performed upstairs in the attic. I loved this space for this piece, it added so much to the eerie energy of the piece. Manola was having a child's tea party. She hummed a sad and haunting tune as she poured blood like? tea for herself and her blonde baby doll. She was dressed as a child, she had flowers on her dress and her face had small designs painted onto it. On the couch behind her was a small iphone screen displaying a pornographic image of a woman with her legs spread wide, perhaps she was bound? Eventually, childlike Manola covered all of her and her doll's tea and cupcakes with powdered sugar. I think this piece effectively tapped into the strange straddling role of being a girl and a woman. The sweet playfulness that is lost when you are expected to make a guy cum, inspire a guy to cum, or let a guy cum in your body while you stare at the ceiling. It is a traumatic shift that isn't usually gently facilitated by boys with raging hard ons. It did raise an awareness in me of a kind of split nature that occurs due to these very different female roles. The sprinkling sugar felt like a judgement of the child like scene, in one way it felt like it was a motion to dismiss the play as something overly sweet and of little 'nutritional' value, but in another way it felt like a burial in white, perhaps whiting out the childlike playful dream... with sugar... this could even be a reference to the food issues revealed in Manola's last piece at CLAS night 3 where she covered herself in ice cream. There was definitely a sense of insanity and ominousness that made me feel like porn girl was in charge here.... despite her tinyness, she was a strong force in the piece. The dischord of the scene definitely resonated with my experience of being a woman. I could recognize myself in this scene. It left me with an overwhelming feeling of loss.

 photo by Hilary Scullane

Nikki's piece. Nikki was skimpily clad in bra and panties with giant nails protruding from her sexy attire. She walked around the bar rubbing her spiky ass against anyone she could as well as the walls and really anything at all. The noise that her nails created against the walls was really beautiful. There were a couple of things that were really interesting to me about this piece... watching her from afar it seemed almost like a one liner.... but as I looked closer and experienced the piece more thoroughly, it gave more and more. As she came to me and rubbed against my body, I was very surprised at the pleasant feeling of the nails rubbing against me. It also became apparent how powerful the nails made her. I had to be passive, because any aggressive move on my part would result in pain, and her body was obviously something to be respected and acquiesced to... She had the power here. At the same time, Nikki was visible uncomfortable and obviously a bit uncomfortable in her role, she was clearly not a confidant stripper... and was not doing these things out of pure enjoyment... not to mention her bottoms kept slipping down a bit, and she would quickly pull them up, making this clearly not a case of exhibitionism... To me this turned the piece into a picture of unhealthy sexuality... intimacy issues... the dangers that are created when sex is misused... the dangerous nature of broken people seducing each other and then fucking each other up... It connects to Manola's piece beautifully, Nikki is a self conscious girl playing a sexual role, promising pain to anyone who makes a wrong move, while Manola is holding onto the dreams of her childhood while that sexual role ominously watches in the background, not only nullifying the innocence of the scene, but turning it into a nightmare. Nikki is the Girl in a Sex Costume, and Manola is Sex in the Girl costume. Both are in states of discord and the result is a quiet, implied violence.

video still from footage by Jonatan Lopez

Then there was my piece. I have to speak from inside this piece, since it was mine. I laid on the floor, covered in dirt, with a sign asking for massages. I was buried alive. I was covered in the protective blanket which allows little seedlings to grow, i was covered in the definition of dirty, dirt, gross, the opposite of clean. I asked for massages. Participants were required to get dirty in order to fulfill my "true" need. I was surprised at how painful the dirt was when rubbed against my skin. It hurt, even when it was gentle. It rubbed away my skin. There was an amazing feeling of pleasure as well, don't get me wrong... but it was a painful pleasure. A burning pleasure. And not all of it felt good. Certain people did things that really hurt and I couldn't bring myself to ask them to stop. I just took it. My temple is bruised. Then there were people with amazing skills, I was truly impressed and filled with gratitude. The earth pouring down my skin was also an amazing sensation, a very pleasant one. I thought this piece was about asking people to wade through my issues in order to please me, to get dirty in order to please me... My filth creating a painful barrier between me and the people who try and help me and try and pleasure me and try and fulfill my needs. I thought the earth was burying me because I was dead. But perhaps the earth was covering me because I am growing and still need protection. Perhaps the earth was painful because it was exfoliating... removing layers and exposing fresh, raw new skin... Perhaps this is pleasurable and painful at the same time. Perhaps I am not dirty, filthy, gross.... perhaps I am natural, of the earth, the catalyst for growth.

I just have to say, it seems hardest of all to let go of the "shoulds" for my piece and accept the beauty of what actually happened. I want to harshly criticize myself the most. I held my harsh tongue and opened my eyes wider, and I feel richly rewarded for doing so....

I wanted to write about every single piece of art at this show. There are pieces that I loved that I did not write about. But alas, I did the best I could with the limited time I have. I am so grateful to have experienced CLAS, and I hope you go the the final CLAS performance art event on May 3rd. Obviously, interesting shit happens at these things. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Continuum' Live Art Series at Avant Garden THIS FRIDAY!

WOAH! Lonestar Explosion, the first International Performance Art Festival in Houston was an amazing success, it brought together  the older performance scene of Houston with the young performance art scene. It also brought some high quality, professional performance artists from around the globe, giving Houston artists inspiration and new perspective.  Continuum, a local performance art collective with the purpose of encouraging performance art, has begun collaborating and blurring in various ways with Counter Crawl, an underground Houston art movement full of creativity and rebelling against the commercialization and hierarchy of the art world. 

All of this blurring, all of this new energy mixing and fluctuating is coming to a head this Friday Night at Avant Garden. 22 Performance artists will be showcased at the Continuum Live Art Series Grand Opening Night. I am still aghast that there are 22 Houston Performance Artists! There are, and there are many more set to be a part of this six month series of workshops and art events which are happening at Avant Garden as a part of Continuum's art residency at the beautiful bar on Westheimer. Performers include classic members of Continuum including Jonatan Lopez who is currently facilitating the group, some Counter Crawlers such as Evan McCarley and Unna Berre aka Jessie Noel, and even some members of the classic scene such as Nestor Topchy. Plus tons of fresh blood, YUM!  I think it is fair to say that Houston is becoming an exceptionally exciting place for performance art right now. The growth and freshness of the scene is evolving fast, and the free monthly workshops being offered by Continuum as a part of this series is sure to add some strength to the current artists and an exciting introduction to anyone new. ITS ONLY GETTIN' BETTER, Y'ALL!

Continuum's Live Art Series Opening Night is happening at Avant Garden (411 Westheimer, Houston, Tx 77079) on Nov. 30th from 7-2AM and will also feature live music from Say Girl Say. Artists include:  Jonatan Lopez, Unna Bet
tie, Hilary Scullane, Koomah, Nestor Topchy, Evan McCarley, Raindawg, Zubi Puente & Y.E. Torres, Sway Youngston, Christine Cook, Tina McPherson, Black Magic Marker, Militia “Malice” Tiamat, Jana Whatley, Jessica Mendez, Chuz Martinez, Marisa R. Miller, Noelle Dunahoe, Julia Wallace, David Tyson Moore and Laurette Canizares.

For more information about Continuum and their Live Art Series please click here

Here is an informative interview with three Continuum members about their group and the Continuum Live Art Series.... 

What is Continuum and what has Continuum done for you? 

Sway Youngston: Continuum is a group of performance artists who agreed to form a supportive community in 2011 for the purpose of creating performance art together and encouraging one another in the medium. It has consistently given me a venue for my performance work.

Tina McPherson: Continuum is a safe space for self-exploration. It is a methodology for me to share and learn from other like-minded creative’s. The nature of Performance Art lends itself to learning, as this genre is a social sculpture – viewed from a myriad of perspectives on the notion that life is a highly complicated mystery that humans must understand with rational thought and intelligence. Continuum allows me to spend time on my art and spend time with special friends. Even though all approach Performance Art from different methodologies and experiences we often find common-threads in our work. This unity has made me a better performer and person.

Raindawg: Continuum is a consciousness that more or less resides within the art of the core members, along with the communities in which we live, perform, and otherwise participate. Continuum is the body/spirit dialectic that has transformed my life and my art into a vision, wherein the imaginable becomes possible.

What is your intention behind your personal involvement with the upcoming CLAS? 
Sway Youngston: I intend to help facilitate these events, create my own performances for workshop and performance nights, and to teach a workshop on being a greener artist, combining my background in sustainability with my passion for performance art.
Tina McPherson: My intention in my involvement in CLAS is to explore, engage and spark dialogue in order to help one discover and achieve understanding. I tend to have more questions than answers and hope to achieve personal understanding and help others do the same.
Raindawg: My intention is to perform three or four well-conceived ideas that have been work-shopped with the group. In my role as a co-facilitator, I intend to help provide a safe, supporting environment where fellow travelers can relax and grow toward their potential through performance art. I intend to treat my fellow artists, audience and associated persons with maximum compassion and to be mindful of the moment I am in so that I can interact with others at the highest level of consciousness that is available.

Would you like to share any teasing details about performances you will be sharing during Clas? 
Sway Youngston: Might get naked. Might not.
Tina McPherson: I am a historical fiction buff and my current focus is threading many historical locations into my contemporary interests. Perhaps there will be tough-n-cheek in parts, which is new for me, perhaps get me out of my comfort zone – all explored with LOVE. Love is still a common-thread in my body of work. Love is timeless…
-Whale Song
-The Tao Dialectic

How do you see the Houston Performance Art Scene and how do you think CLAS will effect it? 
Sway Youngston: The performance art scene has grown tremendously in the last couple of years. I believe Continuum has contributed to that, exposing communities like those involved in CounterCrawl to local artists in the medium and welcoming them in to create their own performances. CLAS is a unique opportunity to not only showcase new and experienced performers, but also to workshop as a community and literally shape the direction of performance art in Houston.

Tina McPherson: The Houston Performance Art Scene is on fire. Do to the efforts of groups as Continuum this almost dead genre has been ignited. The audiences have grown greatly over the past year or so. Often I am at unrelated events or grocery shopping and someone will stop me and tell me how my performance touched them – many shared it brought tears to their eyes. This emotional connection is the power of Performance Art. It amazes me how I tend to bond with the audience, which leads to friendship. I would argue the bonding is birthed due to the participatory aspect of this genre. Meaning, performance artists explore extremely personal themes, which complete strangers experience voiding distance – the viewer and performer are no longer strangers.
CLAS will increase interest in the genre since it explores common-threads in all humans. Performance Art is relatable as in any art the viewer is as much part of the performance as the performer.
Raindawg: The Houston performance art scene seems to be getting redefined by the Lonestar Performance Art Explosion, by Continuum, and by new artists, such as Jessie Noel and Uriel Landeros, who are emerging on their own terms. This is not to say that the establishment has become irrelevant but they have become--the establishment. I think CLAS has the potential to bring some unity to this diversity, in part through its location at Avant Garden, which is an establishment venue. Furthermore, the residency aspect of CLAS has the potential to lend legitimacy to artists who might otherwise be marginalized in Houston’s performance art scene.
Tell me about your fellow artists that will be performing at CLAS, what are you most excited to see?
Sway Youngston: Jonatan Lopez, who has been a part of Continuum since the beginning, is one of my favorite collaborators. At the moment, we have no collaborations planned for the event, but that doesn't say much. I always look forward to seeing anything by the enigmatic Julia Wallace, a woman I consider my mentor in the medium. She got me started in 2009, maybe earlier. Jessie Noel is a strong performer and has been extremely prolific recently. Raindawg's teaching abilities make him a sure thing to teach a workshop, and I'm also hopeful that he will share some of his unique performances involving sound and the body. There really isn't anyone I'm not looking forward to seeing perform.

Tina McPherson: I always enjoy and learn something from my fellow artists. Often, they are sharing something they are going through that I wasn’t aware of – this bonds me even tighter to all of them. I have great respect for their creativity and they are caring human beings.
It is hard to pick whom I am most excited to see since all of the performances are interesting and dynamic. But if I have to pick, I am always excited to see what Jonatan Lopez will spark. He is a keen person who works long hours preparing for each performance. His good looks coupled with his exploration of areas of interest are always captivating. Often, he makes a mess by use of liquids or other messy materials – visually it is unexpected and curious. I adore his performances and him.
Raindawg: Jessica Mendez is a very sweet, intelligent young woman who lives in artistic isolation amid the insanity of a nuclear suburban household on Lake Conroe. Josiah Gabriel and Jessie Noel were at Taft St. Coffee with me four years ago, when we were all three discovering new voices and new identities for ourselves. You might say they attended Raindawg’s artistic birth. I could not be more pleased and excited about the artists they have become and how Continuum is enabling us to collaborate on performance art projects. It is a great joy to work with artists, with whom I am so deeply in love.
What do you hope to see happen from the CLAS Performance Art Workshops? 

Tina McPherson: As a Librarian I am interested in education foremost and hope to see participants and instructors learn and grow together. Even if everyone takes away one methodology, thought, question, answer, or other – it is a success. Performance Art is a great tool to explore in hope of finding understanding just as reading, classes, meetings, mind-dumps, think-tanks, and all of the other buzz methodologies out there. There are no rules to Performance Art, which makes it a safe, creative, non-judgmental space to express and explore oneself and others.
Sway Youngston: I hope this performance art community just grows and grows and that the medium will take a bigger role in Houston's art scene. 
Raindawg: I would like to have some help adding depth to my own ideas and developing them into more solid performances; but mostly I would like to help guide new artists through the process of developing an idea or action into a performance.
What are some of your wildest hopes for CLAS?
Tina McPherson: My wildest hopes for CLAS are that it will find the recognition it deserves. Meaning, it is a misunderstood genre, which tend to attract and help those who have opened minds. I hope it reaches those who have not given it a chance. I hope it opens minds to eliminate prejudice and judgment; after all we are all humans of this beautiful world and are in it together. It’s time humans exude tolerance for things they don’t understand. It’s time that humans love each other, find understanding, and show decency to each other. I hope this love and light is a result of CLAS.
Sway Youngston: Wild? It would be great if some artists came from out of town or country to perform at the shows and to share their experience with us. I'd love to have a workshop by long distance artists.
Raindawg: My wildest hopes are that class could become a traveling village of performance art; that there might be a place I could go and hang out, to feel safe and loved, and have coffee to drink; that I might become a new person.

Friday, April 20, 2012


FACE, Performance by M. R. Miller

The 4th installment of Countercrawl is right around the corner, and it comes packed with performance art, interactive visual art and as usual, many local bands. If you have not heard of Countercrawl yet, either by word of mouth, or through intentionally limited press outings, this is your chance to witness what might be defined as a multi-venue community building bike-ride, (similar yet somewhat rebellious to the execution and concept of Artcrawl) or by all biking means, make your definition of it through empirical observation.

So invite your friends,  pimp out your bikes, get your backpacks ready with bottles of water, brownies and a camera, and countercrawl  through the many exciting stops on Saturday  April the 28th.  The following is a tentative schedule posted by countercrawlers on Facebook:


Bands: The Pete Jazz Trio, Pinky Lieder, The Weird Weeds and Papaya

There will be:

a bone marrow registry performance
swap (almost anything)
watergun fight
The Green Blob by Hillary Scullane (may/will continue throughout the day)
Bring a coffee cup and color it nice!

1:00 AM - 3:00 PM:


Bands: Shotgun Funeral, Julie Rogers, Klezmer Band, David Dove

There will be:

Performance: Laughter Box by The McCords
‘bubbles’ by Jesse Noel

Thien’s Drawing Class:
Draw the symbol and/or caricature of the zodiac constellations:
Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Ophiuchus, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, and Cetus.
(Thien will collect all drawings and accept any drawings already drawn at Remarket).


Bands: Adam & The Ancient Gods MC Homeless Sakkred

There will be:

A Seed Swap,
Food Not Bombs will be providing sustenance!

Performance: Uprooted II by Sway Youngston

 3:30 PM - 6:30 PM: 

Bands: William & James Band, Female Demand, Rusted Shut

Performance: Raindawg, “Where We Live” - collaborative twitter performance with CC attendants,
Projection by Jonathan Jindra

 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM: 

7:00-7:30 Performance downstairs by Kevin Rue (Music)
7:40-8:25 Continuum performance upstairs (ESQUE), with Jesse Noel, Jonathan Jindra and many countercrawlers, with live music by John Zambrano and Voidfuck
8:25-9:15 open SWIM (free time, people do their thang)
9:15-9:25 Max Xandaux
9:30-10:00 Performance: FACE by M. R. Miller
9:30-10:00 Fiskadoro (Music)

Lovology, a durational performance by Tina McPherson will be happening through out the whole event.

Visual Art upstairs: Sculpture by UH students.
James Hickey and Patrick Bochard's interactive projection piece
Pinata by Hilary Scullane


 11:30 PM - ???  

Bands: Lengua, Daphne, Lazer Cuntzzz, Twilight Dub Sound System

Gallery Space: Collected collective collage and drawings by Thien.

To find the exact location of these venues, do a little bit of googling, or seek countercrawlers through the social media interwebs. 

Hope to see you there.  


The Green Blob by Hilary Scullane will be swallowing people, and you can not defeat this blob with ice.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Houston is about to experience one of the largest performance art events it has ever seen. That is right; artists from ALL OVER THE WORLD are currently flying into our flat little city, preparing to blow our minds with the weirdness that is Performance Art.

The whole festival will kick off with a symposium at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, this Wednesday. A panel of local and international artists will all be weighing in on the fabulous question, "Why Performance?" I am proud to say I have been invited to give my two cents.

Thursday night will begin the three performance events at DiverseWorks. So far the most buzzz I have heard is about Rodney Dickson's piece and Non Grata. I was privy to seeing Rodney's list of needs for his piece, and h.o.l.y.s.h.i.t.... Let's just say, my mind has already been blown by the way his brain works. It is the best list of demands I have ever seen (and by the way they were 'demanded' very, very politely). I would give you a couple of items from the list, but I don't wanna spoil it... Okay, I will give one little clue for the super curious... click here.

Our dear, beloved Ryan Hawk (Houston performance artist turned New York's Grace Exhibition Space's intern) gave me a run down of Non Grata's recent piece in New York. They are performing something different here, but I wanna see anyone who inspired sweet Ryan to shove a glowing lightbulb into his butt area. Yes, Non Grata did that. Yes, you can experience Non Grata too. This Thursday. Ready to buy your tickets yet??

Friday night will be happening at AvantGarden. The main thing I know about Friday is that Jonatan Lopez created an indiegogo campaign in order to buy ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS worth of chocolate. How could you pass up a performance art piece that requires that?

Then Saturday night will bring it all to a head at Notsuoh. Get ready for some Houston classics including one of my favorite characters: Jim Pirtle. He gave me a description of his piece at 4am last Saturday and I couldn't begin to repeat what he told me, but it embodied that wonderful drunk dirty magic that makes Notsuoh glow. And of course, Emily Sloan's Hatchetation. It is already been buzzing all over the facebook. Hide your beerz!

Nancy Douthey will be performing Saturday night as well, and her work is always, always amazing AND I WILL BE PERFORMING TOO, WAHOO!!

Listen all of you, and listen carefully. A group of people was carefully chosen from around the globe based on skills and reputation for creating strange and meaningful experiences. These people have ALL been brought to your city in order to create an amazing festival for you. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. These people are known WORLD WIDE for their SKILLZ, y’all. This kind of thing does not usually happen within Houston, within Texas, within the bottom half of the US of A. BE THERE OR BE EXTREMELY, PAINFULLY SQUARE! Get your wallet out right now and buy your tickets already.

I had a few of the local artists answer some questions for me about the upcoming show... ENJOY!!!!

What are you looking forward to MOST about this festival?

Emily Sloan: The unexpected! I am very excited about meeting the other artists, seeing their work, and witnessing the reactions and responses of myself and others. In fact, I think we should have a follow-up interview after the festival.

Jonatan Lopez: I am excited about experiencing so many diverse and intense performances by so many artists. We have artists coming from all over the world, I can't wait to see the current social issues they will be addressing and the new ways they will be engaging the audience. I am especially, super excited in Rodney Dickson's elaborate performance happening at DiverseWorks and the Viagra-enhanced performance happening the same night.

What do people have to gain from experiencing performance art first hand?

Emily Sloan: Experiencing performance first hand is more memorable. Your senses are engaged, you are sharing the moment with others, and you are experiencing the entire environment..

Jonatan Lopez: People get to experience conceptual art at a much deeper level than they would with visual or performing arts. Most likely, the audience will become part of the performances via optional or mandatory participation; thus, they will leave with a concept engraved in their memories rather than a material object to hang on their walls. And that, to me, is more valuable and durable.

Why should people come to Lone Star Explosion?

Emily Sloan: Seriously, something will happen that you will be glad you didn't miss.

Jonatan Lopez: Why should people not come to Lonestar Performance Explosion? Cause of the rodeo? I am sure that all performance art lovers out there have the event marked in their calendars. This is 'a can't miss' event. More than 30 international and local artist presenting their newest works, if Lady Gaga was coming this weekend and I had tickets to go see her, I would give them away on Craigslist. Plus, this event is highlighting the recent revival of performance art that Houston is experiencing, you’ll get to experience the works of not only international artists but of a group of young new artist in Houston that are bringing new and fresh ideas to the realm of performance art.

Brian and Stevie McCord- The festival is an awesome opportunity for Houstonians to gain exposure to and to form dialogue with the national and international performance performance art community.

Can you share some information about the artists coming to Houston that will entice people to come experience this event?

Jonatan Lopez: Check out Marcus Vinicius work online, it will blow your mind. The performance art group Non-Grata also creates extremely interesting and, rebellious performances that at times involve destroying or blowing up objects such as cars, which in a way reflect current public attitudes towards the constrains of society, specially now with the whole Occupy movement.

Would you like to tell us anything about the piece you will be presenting?

Emily Sloan: Sure. My performance will involve a new direction inspired by some experiences I had working with a cause close to my heart, the Southern Naptist Convention, a specialty performance project with a focus on napping. The Southern Naptists offer free services and are open to all faiths. Basically, if you like Sunday naps or have ever fallen asleep during church, you are welcome to join...

During an outing to share the benefits of napping with some lost souls not familiar with the Southern Naptists, some of the audience became angry. They accused us of condemning people to hell and thinking we are the only "saved" people. Some of the other onlookers heard the actual message of offering rest and began to argue with this group, thus stirring a conflict within the crowd. On another occasion while sharing about this group, I received a message stating that we were just another church that has strayed too far from the bible and is out to get money like so many others. On yet another occasion, a writer wrote an article asking if napping was a “good” answer for the apocalypse. The Southern Naptists do not utilize an "inspired text," are not making or taking any money, and have yet to take any stance regarding the apocalypse (though I suppose you may be lucky if you did manage to sleep through such).
These experiences of being assumed into an antagonistic position have left me wanting more! My response for the festival involves an anachronistic role intentionally seeking to put a "turd in the punch bowl" while also being an invited guest and expected performer. I'm doing my best to withhold expectations...

The (unnamed here) role I will be co splaying incidentally reminds me of my mother!

Brian and Stevie McCord: "Soyrizo", is about food and disparity, presented as absurdity, through humor.

Jonatan Lopez: We are all shades of BROWN.

What IS performance art, ANYWAY?

Emily Sloan: Performance art is medium-specific art with the medium being the body.

Jonatan Lopez: The definition of performance art can be as broad as the definition of art itself. It keeps reinventing it self. I see it as much stronger way of communicating a concept, it can also serve as personal and social transformation, for example, some of my performances become social experiments through which the audience is confronted with current political and moral issues worthy of debate. Through the dialogue that my pieces open, I get to learn valuable things from people's opinions and express my own. That helps me grow in a personal level and hopefully it opens people minds to new ideas as well. Performance is real, performance is rebellion, confrontation, positive transformation, liberation, experimentation. Some young performance artists focus on extremely mundane actions of our daily life, such as washing your hair or taking a bath, highlighting them as meaningful rituals, which leads audiences to question. Is this really, really performance art? And I think that’s the beauty of it, any action can be performance art. I give kudos to this new wave of artists for rebelling to previous notions of the definition of this medium. And though theater and performance art at times blend, they are two very distinct entities.

Nestor Topchy: Performance art is the frontier for sharing experience in a direct way via action performed live in real time and space, the last vestige and hold out of ritual, shamanism, absurdity, extreme expression and mystery in an increasingly calcified, contrived and straitjacketed condition forced upon us by contemporary consensus based culture. Performance art may remind us of our most human qualities and often challenges us in unexpected ways. It may even inspire us in ways we never imagined, and as catalyst for self reflection prompt a deeply personal poetry to enjoin the darkest most unexplored recesses of our undiscovered collective mind.

Brian McCord: Performance art for Stevie and Myself is an active integration of ourselves, with our concept, under immediate circumstances, for the observer. Its immediate work... Like crashing a forign concept car into our observers.

Anything else?

Emily Sloan: You won’t find “me” at this festival.

Jonatan Lopez: Sometimes people say that everything we are doing now has been done before and at times that is the case, but we are bring our own modern ideas to it. Society is different now. We give old concepts and ideas a new voice, even if we are just expressing who we are. Performance art just like society is always evolving, becoming more connected, more present and more eager to make sense of it self.

My two cents: I got a little glimpse here and there of the inner workings of this festival and I just want to say: Kelly Alison is the arms and legs of this operation and this festival never would have happened without her, If you see her there, give her a big high five!! She receives the PERFORMANCE ART HOUSTON VOLUNTEER AWARD for 2012.

International artists include Myk Henry (Ireland), Elena Nestorova (Finland), Gim Gwang Cheol (South Korea), Orion Maxted (London), John Boehme and Natali Leduc (Canada), Marcus Vinicius (Brazil), Rodney Dickson (Northern Ireland), Non Grata (Estonia), Ville-Karel (Estonia) and 1KA (France)
National artists include Nyugen E. Smith (New Jersey), Jamie McMurry (Los Angeles), Jill Pangallo (New York), Patrick Lichty (Chicago) and a diverse collection of local artists including The Art Guys, Jim Pirtle, Nestor Topchy, Julia Wallace, Jonatan Lopez, Rahul Mitra, Emily Sloan, Daniel Adame, Nancy Douthey, Brian and Stevie McCord and Daniel-Kayne.

Event dates and locations:
Symposium at CAMH. Wednesday March 7, 2-4pm. Cullen Educational Resource Center, Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston 5216 Montrose Blvd. 77006.
Performances at DiverseWorks. Thursday, March 8, 7-11pm. 1117 E. Freeway 77022.
Performances at AvantGarden. Friday, March 9, 7-11pm. 411 Westheimer, 77006.
Artist Reception at AvantGarden. Friday, March 9, 11pm-2am. 411 Westheimer, 77006.
Performances at notsuoH. Saturday, March 10, 7-11pm. 314 Main (Downtown)

Tickets are $30 to attend all events, or $12 per performance event.

To purchase tickets and for more information visit

To contribute to the fundraising campaign please visit