Last night I attended one of three performance pieces from Out of Site, one of my favorite summer/fall events. Out of Site is a series of public performance art pieces that take place in Wicker Park/West Town area. The tagline is “unexpected encounters of public performance.” It started as a collaboration of Carron Little and Whitney Tassle and is currently in its 4th year. The performances are Fridays from pm to 7pm, right after work. I consider it my little treat to myself during the summer. I rush home from work so I can catch some awesome work on the streets of Chicago. Sometimes I have to hunt the performances down, which adds to the fun.
I think this series is an extremely important project for the city of Chicago. The Out of Site panel brings in artists from all over Chicago, the US, and even overseas to present their pieces to the public. The series is tied to the public sphere. It’s about engaging the public; many pieces are interactive. It reduces the divide between the “art world” and the people on the street. We get to learn about art and rethink some part of our everyday lives. I also think that it’s done a lot to reclaim public sphere for people and artists. Finally, it’s about bringing a little joy and wonder into the world. I didn’t know a lot about performance art before I began going regularly but I feel that I have learned a little bit more about it. And that fact alone makes me happy.
The pieces are quite diverse in emotion. Some of the pieces are hilarious; some are very serious; others are sad. One of my favorite pieces was a series of mini parades from 2013. Andrew Barco and Sabri Reed put “We’ll Meet You There” together. There were several groups of individuals who marched around with a single object. My fiancé and I wandered around with a cantaloupe. Others had string, some large wooden panels, etc. After wandering around Wicker Park for a while, we ended up in a central location to assemble various pieces from all the materials. The piece referred to the tradition of having parades for extraordinary events like sports victories. This piece was celebrating the ordinary and the everyday. It was celebrating ourselves. It was a lot of fun. Another piece by Detektiv Bureau had people “laundering” money. They were literally scrubbing dollar bills and change, and exchanging clean ones to the public. Hilarious!
Other pieces draw their inspiration from the public itself during the pieces. Another one of my favorite pieces was Joshua Kent’s “The Distance Between Two Oceans.” The artist stood on a pedestal in front of a bed in the middle of the Polish triangle. People were invited to lie down on the bed and do whatever. The artist responded to the actions of the person on the bed, mimicking (to a degree) their body language and motions. I spent about five minutes lying on this mattress on this triangle with streets of three sides. It was wonderfully surreal. The piece examined the distance between two people in terms of understanding and emotion. We think that we know someone but it’s from our point of view. We want to understand one another but there is an ocean of experiences that we each have between us. It’s truly a lovely and sweet piece about trying to bridge that divide.
I feel that I always learn something more about the world and art with each performance. And the unexpected moments are amazing. During the Joshua Kent piece, one person sat down on the bed and started eating! In one piece by Elena and Kate called “Transient Material,” the artists pushed a box of drawers from the Damen Blue line to the Division Blue line. The furniture didn’t have wheels so it was truly a physical feat to push this piece on the sidewalk. At one point, a group of men wandered by, I think they were Spaniards, asked if they could help. The artists responded “no” so the men wandered on. One of them said in Spanish: “The cabinet is going to break!” About three minutes later, the box of drawers did in fact fall apart.
For 2014, I’ve unfortunately missed two nights of performances out of the three nights. Instead of one performance each Friday for 10 weeks, there were three performances on the first Friday of the month. Sadly I was out of town in August and September.
So I was absolutely committed to seeing a least one performance in the October piece. I was really pleased to catch Ginger Krebs and Sara Zalek’s “Emergency Response Team” at the Polish Triangle. This piece had six people in bright orange and yellow emergency vests. They performed a series of actions that were signaled by a drill captain by whistle. They ran around the triangle, performed calisthenics, crouched, and posed in teams at the corners. At one point, they all huddled next to the Blue Line entrance, crouched over like the tornado drills in my youth. The piece was examining notions of emergency response. It made me think about how emergency response is a bit a show, almost a ballet. How much of it is effective and how much of it is for show. Fascinating.
So this is the last regular Out of Site performance for the year. Check it out next summer. It’s well worth it.The website of prior performances is : http://outofsitechicago.org/