By Rod Bastanmehr & Carley Stavis
Art is loud, especially the kind that rethinks conventionality. The Intervene! Interrupt! Rethinking Art as Social Practice Festival does just that, taking art performance out of the gallery and into alternative social and public spaces to explore politics and everyday life.
Artists around the Bay Area will convene at UC Santa Cruz to display their art from today through Saturday. Lindsay Kelley and Natalie Loveless brought the festival into existence a few years ago.
“The International Congress of Performance Art comes together annually and basically provides a context for performance art,” Kelley said. “You see the same people every time, converse, and eventually after seeing people enough, and talking enough, [Natalie and I] had acquired enough support in the performance art world to put this festival on.”
Kelley, a graduate student in the digital art and new media and the history of consciousness programs at UCSC, attributes her studies as a primary influence on her desire to create the festival.
“This project kind of grew out of my work at UCSC,” Kelley said. “Both of us are very interested in ‘sight-responsive’ art, which is often performance art that takes up the space, and considers the space first. It often involves endurance, whether it be art that requires one day of dedication, seven days, a year, seven years. We wanted to bring that type of art to Santa Cruz somehow.”
The festival breaks down into three distinct themes: life and art, interruption of hierarchies, and subversive complicity. The three themes, each adapted to fit the mold of the participating artists, test the boundaries between the real world and the art world. From a “Green Wedding,” in which any attendee is asked to wear green, to the video game “Dead In Iraq,” Intervene! Interrupt! breaks down the boundary by involving the viewer in the art.
Shelby Graham, director and curator of the Sesnon Gallery at Porter College, described some of the artwork.
“Martha Rossler’s work, ‘Bringing the War Home,’ features flush penthouse suites overlooking the New York skyline, with the Iraq war going on in the background,” Graham said. “She makes us see war in our living room. It shows intervention at a very everyday level, watching war while you’re sitting on a pristine white couch.”
The Sesnon exhibit focuses on the idea of interrupting hierarchies, and Graham hopes that creating a gallery environment that caters to that theme will change the student perception of the gallery.
“We tried to create a different art gallery experience here,” Graham said. “There is a bar where instead of sitting and watching sports or something, you can look at the art, start discussions. There are big red couches, a lounge and wireless Internet. We are trying to disrupt the common notion about what art galleries are.”
The general effect the festival organizers hope to achieve is to “disrupt the common notion.” Beyond the changing views of the art world, the Intervene! Interrupt! Festival hopes to alter the student perspective on the university’s art realm, said E.G. Crichton, a UCSC professor of the arts and co-coordinator of the Subversive Complicity section of the festival.
“Students should really understand that the university hasn’t had something like this before,” Crichton said. “This festival is very unique in terms of the artistic genre as well as the opportunity the festival offers for firsthand learning … it’s very fresh, it’s very experimental and it’s very exciting.”
It’s a risky event — one that tests the boundaries of conventional art experiences. But Crichton would have it no other way.
“This variety of public art can act as a catalyst for social interaction and activism and it can provoke thought, spawn discussion, in a very meaningful way,” Crichton said. “It can really engage people and provoke them. There is a mutual exchange that happens with it that’s great… this is art that extends beyond the gallery, beyond the classroom. It’s art that crosses into the real world.”
_Intervene! Interrupt! runs in Santa Cruz May 15 through 17 at different locations in town and on campus. For event schedules and locations, visit may2008.artintervention.org/schedule._