Wandering in and out of artists’ spaces — looking at paintings, sculptures, more paintings, some photographs — is a lovely way to spend a day at Bushwick Open Studios (BOS). But after hours of trekking through three different buildings crammed with both studios and people, I was relieved to find myself under a sun and clear blue sky, my hair whipped around by the wind. And I was happy to make my way to 16 Harrison Place, where Detroit’s Spread Art has turned an empty lot filled with gravel into a makeshift community space and stage.
The artist-run nonprofit has actually taken over two spaces on the occasion of this year’s BOS: the lot on Harrison and the nearby bar Pine Box Rock Shop. At both it has programmed a variety of time-based arts (sonic, spoken word, film, performance, etc.) by a long list of creators, as well as two talks at Harrison (one on art and real estate), all under the header of Spread’s annual summer group show, this year titled (appropriately) Transplant.
When I stopped by the empty lot, artists Laura Quattrocchi and Tzveta Kassabova had taken to the gravel. Dressed in matching red outfits, they carried gardening tools: Kassabova a shovel, Quattrocchi a hoe (the subtitle of the Harrison Place portion of Transplant is “Own Your Dirt”). The two performed a kind of tandem ritualistic dance, moving along a wall and bouncing, running over the gravel and striking poses, moving outside the gates to jump on the chain-link fence, making shapes with their tools, lying against a mound of gravel and tossing rocks at each other. All the while, speakers blared the sounds of a Spanish-language radio station, and passersby came, paused to shoot photos and videos, and went on their way.
It was, for me, a somewhat cryptic performance, but the women seemed tied to their tools and each other in a way that felt affirmative — as if they were preparing to turn the lot into an abundant garden and initiating their work with an elaborate rite or prayer. Their faces, especially Kassabova’s, betrayed total immersion, and they seemed so enraptured by their movements that I found myself unable to leave, hooked and hovering, waiting to see what they would do next.
Bushwick Open Studios 2015 continues at various locations around Bushwick, Brooklyn, through June 7. Performances will take place at Spread Art‘s Transplant: Own Your Dirt from 1 to 5pm tomorrow. See the Facebook page for more information.