Bessings trough a funnel_promopic_©saskya.germann2

Topology of Space, 07.16.19
(OoS Performance 2019)
by Carron Little

I recently wrote a line in a poem that read “The distance of horizons” thinking about perception and our lived experience. When we are able to stand on top of a high mountain and see the valleys and villages below, it gives us different perspective on the world in that moment. It gives us a sense of scale in a relation to the earth, in a literal sense, but in the act of climbing the mountain it connects us to the infinite. It connects us to nature and how we are part of a larger world and this in itself holds possibility.

When I first moved to Chicago in the late nineties I remember walking around the loop and feeling dizzy by the scale of the skyscrapers. I made a plan to come the next day with my camera and take photos to overcome the dizziness. It worked and that year my friends came to celebrate my first birthday in Chicago on the 99th Floor of the John Hancock building. The most unique view is from the Women’s bathroom that is like a shot from the film, Blade Runner.

The Swiss Artists, Patric Gehrig and Saskya Germann have devised a performance for this year’s Out of Site festival that explores the topology of space, and how this is linked to the boundaries and borders of our neighborhoods. The artists state; “Where we see mountains, Chicagoers see a skyline. At home, Alp borders Alp. In Chicago, district borders district. But neighborhood bonds are just as important in a big city as anywhere else.” It is a stark reminder how perception is linked to movement, to the ebb and flow of a city at work. When we travel beyond the borders of our neighborhoods it heightens perception and gives us a wider understanding of community.

In adapting an ancient Swiss tradition of singing blessings into the city, the artists are sending their wishes into the city, connecting border with border, connecting neighborhoods crossing beyond divisions. In their words; “The urban prayer call will strengthen neighborly bonds and protect the residents from all “big city dangers”. The idea of sending the public’s blessings into the city as a form of protection, a sacred act, is one created in this neighborhood for this one moment in time, yet we hope it reaches beyond the neighborhood limits.

In the words of Hal Foster, he talks about auratic traces and I’ve been recently writing about this in relation to performance and how public performance specifically has the capacity to transform urban space when it breaks down the fourth wall, by engaging the public directly. Public performance creates memories in space that over time have the power to transform the ‘no go zones’ into spaces that offer wonder, joy and awe through profound dialogue. Yet, it is not about putting up a ‘nice’ performance in public, a ‘nice’ dance piece, a ‘nice’ theater piece, it is in the methodology of the approach and how the public are engaged in dialogue about the work that is key to leaving an auratic trace where profound exchange occurs between the artist and the public in an equally mutual exchange.

Out of Site Image

Image by Erin Evans Delaney
(OoS performance 2019)

One of the exciting performances that we have commissioned this year is by the performance artist, Erin Evans Delaney. I first saw her perform as an undergraduate at SAIC where she was one of a group of research artist scholars investigating how to create a biodegradable plastic bags. In Wicker Park one of our missions as a neighborhood is to think about sustainability and the environment.

In creating this year’s line up of artists I was thinking about ecologies of care and how interactive public performance can contribute to expanding the discourse around issues of care. What do we consume? How do we consume and what commodities are essential to our everyday lives? How can we eradicate plastic for instance? The artist, Hanh Pham who we commissioned in 2011 to create an OoS performance called Pretty Dirty is a committed eco-activist and has an instagram page where she discusses her environment saving methods. Her constant posts and reminders through social media have inspired me to do a better job in my own life about eradicating plastic which is so hard when shopping at a supermarket. The quest to be plastic free is much easier when I shop at the local farmer’s market. The plight of the plastic island that some say is the size of Texas and other’s say is the size of North America is detrimental in so many ways for our environment and the food we eat.

In Erin’s proposal she writes that her performance: ‘references the contemporary ecological phenomenon of the Plastiglomerate, a naturally formed ball of sticky clay that collects tidal detritus on beaches. In recent history, these glomerates have been found to include plastic, integrating this human-made material into an organic ecological process of rock decomposition and decay. My interest is to create an organic assemblage on the body, portraying the inevitability of the plastic/body relationship, but instead, using a bioplastic that is environmentally safe. Using the biodegradable plastic as representative of the sticky organic clay body, I will point to our contemporary and problematic relationship to plastic while presenting a future fusion of the plastic body that is not harmful to our ecosystem.’

We are at a critical point in terms of addressing environmental concerns, in fact some people believe it is too late believing that 2050 will be the end of planet earth as we know it but this cannot be an excuse to sit back and do nothing. We have to live with hope and be proactive about creating a caring society. We continually need to thrive and strive for a better world and we all at OoS hope that the work we do in the local community is raising these questions that we need to collectively address. Thinking about ecologies of care for the environment will be a key question that we will be talking about this year with the performances for Out of Site, 2019 at Wicker Park Fest.

By Carron Little