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Last night proved to be more of an endurance event (six and a half hours) than I had originally bargained for, but that’s not to say that it wasn’t very worthwhile and fascinating for me as a critic and blogger.

Going into the event my biggest concern was that my reactions would be incoherent and fragmented (which they were somewhat) but what resulted was a post that careened through the event and captured some of the energy of a performance evening that was nonlinear and overwhelming.

The performances ranged from the whimsical [Nate Hill’s “Free Bouncy Rides” (2009)] to the emotionally intense [Jodie Lun Kee Chow and Zachary Fabri, “Walk better than sidong” (2009)]. Some elicited aggression from the audience, like Myk Henry’s “White Power” (2009), which asked the audience to SMS him what he should include in the performance and read aloud, while others were soothing and atmospheric, the best example is Holly Farout + Sarah H. Paulson’s “Untitled” (2009) though Ryan Brown’s “Untitled” (2009) also qualifies.

Unlike the events at Performa I attended, Maximum Perception felt less theatrical but that may have been more impacted by the space than the performances. My iPhone and the Autostitch app proved invaluable and allowed me to easily collage photos in a “live and on the scene” manner that also integrated time in a way traditional photography could not have done. These time lapse panorama’s may in fact be the most accurate record of the experience I produced and you can see them all here.

When I spoke to one of the evening’s curators, Peter Dobill, he admitted that while he’d love to be able to take credit for the strong pacing of performances (a good mix of musical works and austere pieces) the result was partially due to chance — many of the performers wouldn’t be specific before hand about what their performances would be.

There was a palpable energy in the room and that didn’t dissipate and as the evening progressed the audience was lulled into what seemed like a deep trance (the beer probably helped).

The next day I still have a few of the performances on my mind, particularly Chow and Fabri’s densely packed piece. Their work engaged me in a way that made blogging it difficult. The audience during this work was quiet and attentive. There was a tension that made me believe anything could happen. When Fabri began to hurl a basketball at the walls until it was destroyed, the room seemed to shake and I felt alert and curious. When the female performer cut her hand as she shattered a beer bottle on the floor of the gallery, I was shocked and concerned. If these moments were momentary “kicks in the head,” the piece as a whole came together in a small narrative about relationships that was far from cliche and anything but straightforward. It was fresh, powerful and provocative. Someone told me that I kept using the word intense while I blogged last night for this piece, but that intensity didn’t come through very well, which I understand since I guess liveblogging has its limitations.

The following are photos taken with my digital SLR from last night. They reveal more nuanced colors than my iPhone could possibly produce. If you’d like to see all 97 high-resolution photographs I shot last night here is a slideshow.

Marni Kotak, “Catholic School” (2009)

Ryan Brown, “Untitled” (2009)

Mark Lawrence Stafford, “Don’t Trust Anyone with a Long Nose” (2009)

Nate Hill, “Free Bouncy Rides” (2009)

Myk Henry, “White Power” (2009)

Philip Fryer, “Untitled” (2009)

Sandrine Schaefer, “Untitled” (2009)

Jodie Lyn Kee Chow and Zachary Fabri, “Untitled” (2009)

The Controversy (with Lech Szporer, Matthew Blair and Marissa Mickleberg)

Holly Farout and Sarah H. Paulson, “Truck Pusher: What I Used to Be” (2009)

Naoki Iwakawa, “Untitled” (2009)

Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

13 replies on “Reflecting on “Maximum Perception” & Tons of Photos”

  1. Two comments I’m sure will displease, but I feel compelled to make them:

    1) I’m going to be honest: I feel that liveblogging is a development art criticism can live without.

    2) I know this event aimed to be a more purist alternative to Performa, but you know there’s a reason apart from hype that Performa is popular; it includes an astonishingly high-quality (overall) roster of artists … whereas Maximum Perception tended to manifest like an obscure group of awkward Performa rejects.

    1. You’re entitled to your opinion but big production values doesn’t mean better art. Regarding art criticism, everyone can read what they wish but others are more positive. To each their own … thanks for voicing your opinion though.

  2. 1) Liveblogging is not a desireable replacement for critical writing, but is a kind of performance itself. In this case, I think Hrag was attempting an unscheduled performance that added another dimension to the official performances. I am sure neither Mr. Vartanian nor Mr. Munk think spontaneous fly-on-the-wall commentary can take the place of criticism.
    2) I think New York has room for more than one performance festival, and New York art snobs need “obscure” artists more than they need a high quality roster of “popular” favorites.

  3. I agree with Lawrence Swan. Thanks for the write up btw….keep up the great job!
    Writing you from my working hand. Performa could be overrated at this point. I enjoyed this underground atmosphere. It seems to lend a hand to the raw guts of performance.
    Performance artist who just performs,
    Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow

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