Wednesday, August 19, 2009



by Devin Finch

On March 27 the El Rincon Social housed a rowdy crowding of curious Houstonians going toe-to-toe amongst sex, dance and cigarette smoke like a shitfaced Busby Berkeley dance routine gone astray in an abandoned art supply store. Within seconds of entering I drunkenly stumbled upon a guy laying face down and completely nude on the cold cement floor while a photographer squatted next to him and pushed the limits of personal boundaries with his camera. To my sides there was a tent set up with the intended instruction of meditating on a blank canvas and another for taking pictures of your own genitalia (this didn't really pick up steam till after the free whiskey shots, if I remember correctly.)

This is Performance Art Houston, the awesomely weird (and free) performance art fun house put together by Julia Wallace and a host of other ambitious locals who likely made lunch under the staircase awesome in high school. Like an art gallery pinned to a pub wall, Performance Art Houston is as much about social camaraderie over cheap booze and liquor shots as it is a dada playground for the creatively driven and culturally fringe.

Immersed in the laissez-faire recess of Performance Art Houston's avant garde wonderland, you're likely to witness a guy inflating a huge balloon mask baring the emoticon-like visage of an anime character's facial traits with his own breath, a couple engaged in public fucking and a mound of strangers cuddling to a bed time story; not only in one night but at the same (awesome) time. It's surreal and often confusing but always exciting.

Houston's infamous Evil Ke-Steve O, Jacob Calle, provided a video montage of various entertaining and daring stunts including a series of attempted Christmas tree lunges, his friends punching his face into a swollen pulp and the drinking and throwing-up of his own blood; all of which was projected onto the warehouse wall much like the epitomical scene in Problem Child 2 (the one where Junior exhibits the footage of Big Ben Healy beating the shit out of him onto a garage door.) [He actually projects footage of his babysitter getting her groove on with a boyfriend. At no point does Big Ben lay a finger on poor, misunderstood Junior Healy - ed.] Okay, fine. But read between the lines; just because they didn't show it DOESN'T MEAN IT DIDN'T HAPPEN!

Julia Wallace spanked her own ass at great length for the crowd before whipping pocket change into a large cup filled with hers and other daring (read: drunk) audience participant's urine while the 1981 billboard hit "Jessie's Girl" boomed over the speakers (an experience many of us who grew up with alcoholic grandfathers can relate to.) Bethany Fort gave out bracelets made from a designer handbag she had quickly sliced apart with a pair of scissors seconds before, a piece that earned her the now infamous nickname "DA KRAZY KUTTA: KINDEST JEWELER IN H-TOWN" and even the lesser known "BETHANY FORT: SIZZORZ MANIAK OF THE INNERLOOP".

Much of the experience started to resemble a particularly high brow haunted house and honestly the shock-an-awe was on par with one. Approaching the dead end of a dark and crowded hallway, one was witness to Nick Teel strolling across an empty room completely naked as a syncopated buzzer and lamp slowly flickered like a strobe light to the laps of his back-and-forth pacing. Nervously peering into the room was like coming upon a Museum of Natural Science exhibit just as the 8 hits of bad acid peak (which is to say, it was mutually engaging and hallucinogenic.)

Outside of this hallway, a cubicle-esque tent assembled with blankets and plastic poles entitled the "Fuk Box" was sheathing an adventurous couple embarking in some light hearted sheets-and-shadow exhibitionism in the name of art. This is likely not the first time the bedroom closet cache of a child's homemade fort has inspired some exuberantly lewd behavior in a warehouse. Even though they were "under the sheets", that didn't stop a series of people from placing their cameras over the box to take multiple snapshots that are worth as many words as they are vibrato fraught yelps. Nor did it stop a generous fellow who politely lifted me on his shoulders to enthusiastically peer over like a kid glancing above the picket fence shielding a raunchy drive-in movie. The make shift curtains accidentally got knocked down moments later, so it wasn't as lecherous as it seems.

Despite this being a back alley pageant show for those who prefer their punch spiked with the soured psycho-activity of acid tabs and psilocybin , I highly recommend it to anyone who is simply up for something new and interesting. Every performer is incredibly down to earth in defiance of the art school stereotype that likely comes bubbling up in the back of many people's minds upon hearing "performance art". The whole affair was not only completely free of pretension; it refreshingly reveled in it's light hearted fuck-off-glee.

With more akin to a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening than a daunting interpretive dance recital, it's a completely awesome way to spend a Saturday night with some drinks and post experience stories. And in my drunken stupor, I failed to not only mention but even see a majority of the great artists involved, so I recommend checking the Performance Art Houston blog to catch the details for this and other upcoming events. On my personal Bill & Ted meter, this is definitely an Excellent Adventure and NOT a Bogus Journey.

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