Experimenting with Durational Performance at The Hedreen

Jeremy Buben
Posted on July 03, 2013, 9:00 am
9 mins

Ben Beres in his relaxed environment at Hedreen Gallery

As curator of the Hedreen, Amanda Manitach loves playing the ‘yes man.’ To Manitach, this means giving artists the room to experiment and evolve, a chance to push their practices a little further and in new directions, and test out concepts with an active audience.

Currently the Hedreen is the site for three area artists to push their ideas of performance art in new directions. Experimenting with the concept of duration is the focus of three unique 14-day residencies, each with a new look at how time affects work and how the community can be engaged. Artists Ben Beres, Alice Gosti and D.K. Pan each bring a different view to the subject and the proposed concepts are vastly different, united only by the theme of art engaging or remaining on view to the public. Manitach states that the “Hedreen is the perfect environment—as a type of test site, if you will—for experimental projects. It’s an unusual physical space (not a white cube!), which presents all kinds of challenges right off the bat. And the academic backdrop of Seattle University is an ideal setting for conceptual play and the cross-pollination of ideas.”

The series of residencies began about 2 weeks ago when Ben Beres transported his living room into the gallery. The artist neatly placed his couch (which folds out into a bed), two armchairs and a bookcase filled with sketchbooks in the center of the gallery surrounded by hanging plants. During the residency, Beres watched the TV series LOST, at least six consecutive episodes in each gallery sitting, while the public came and went, some staying for multiple episodes and others stopping in just to greet the artist and have a quick bite of the complimentary lunches that were provided. Throughout the process, and between catching up new viewers on the bizarre and outrageous plot twists of the series, Beres methodically scratched away on a copper plate for a future intaglio print that will be based on the artist’s consumption of the series, a chronicle of pop culture as viewed through the TV show.

Feeling Lost at Hedreen Gallery

The free lunches that I mentioned are in the words of Manitach “an homage to and continuation of the Free Lunch and Face Time events Whitney Ford-Terry and Jessica Powers [previous curators of the space] hosted during their curatorial stint.” Manitach plans to keep the gallery as a space that will continue to have participation-focused, event-driven programming, as this residency already has proven.

Ongoing at the gallery from July 1 through July 15 is a vastly different take on the durational performance. Under Alice Gosti’s direction the Hedreen won’t be the comfortable social setting of Beres’ living room, but will be transformed into a venue for cutting edge performance art. Gosti’s previous performances are an arts writer’s dream, full of spectacular events that make sensational headlines, like spaghetti fights, shattered champagne bottles and communal dental flossing. Over the course of the 14-day residency, Gosti will provide space for talented performers such as Eric Aguilar, Tyler P. Wardwell, Reilly Sinanan (WOOD), Devin McDermott, Shannon Stewart, Spike Friedman (the Satori Group), Sean Tomerlin, Ryan Law, Vanessa DeWolf and Taka Yamamoto to play out performances in durations that are rarely seen in public. Gosti has performances from a minimum of 1 hour to a maximum of 48 hours planned.  There won’t be 48 hours of continuous dancing, but the performances will certainly be engaging throughout.

When I asked Manitach if this string of residencies was in response to a lack of opportunities in our area of this variety, she responded, “In the case of Gosti’s program, it certainly is. Early on, we discussed the lack of opportunities for performers to experiment with formats that extend beyond the 20-minute (give or take a little) time frame. She [Gosti] envisions this project evolving into an annual festival, a counterpoint to [On the Board’s] 12 Minutes Max, for instance.”

Manitach states that, “Gosti will be asking visitors to contribute to the documentation of the events she facilitates. She admits that many of her favorite performance pieces are things she’s never actually witnessed firsthand. Rather, she’s only encountered them by means of documentation, in history books, photos, video, etc. So she’s actively soliciting documentation from the public.”

It is my belief that The Hedreen will come alive in ways that galleries rarely do over the course of this residency, and with the audience’s participation and documentation we as a city could find ourselves at the center of a very relevant performance art scene.

To round out the summer residencies, Manitach has invited artist D.K. Pan into the space for something a bit more solemn and structured. Manitach writes, “Pan’s performance will emphasize formalism and ritual. He’s asking visitors to endure something with him, but in a way that will probably elicit a more introspective experience rather than a social one.’

Pan is a mysterious artist who works in many forms throughout the city, from established, theatrical acts like Degenerate Art Ensemble to temporary, public installations like the Sound Transit Capitol Hill Red Wall, for which he is curating. Pan will certainly challenge conceptions of engagement between artists and the public as he explores presence, holding space, and mindfulness with an audience for extended periods of time in a setting inspired by his interest in Butoh dance, meditation and ceremony stripped of religious connotation.

Opportunities like these three residencies are fantastic ways to not only push artists in new directions, but build a stronger community around the arts. Beres had several instances when passersby came into the gallery and became active participants in the event through discussion, both informing his work as well as making connections with the artists and the gallery. Gosti’s performances will certainly draw in spectators previously unaware of the experimental performing arts, and D.K. Pan might just become slightly less mysterious to a wider audience through his residency. I look forward to the chance to see a wide array of art from some of our most talented performers. Also, I enjoyed the free lunches.

Photos courtesy of Timothy Rysdyke.

Jeremy Buben goes to art galleries, museums, performance dance shows and the best gumbo restaurants in Seattle. All of the time. You can read more of his suggested events and short subject posts at his blog Le Dandysme.

Jeremy Buben
Jeremy Buben goes to art galleries, museums, performance dance shows and the best gumbo restaurants in Seattle. All of the time. You can read more of his suggested events and short subject posts at his blog Le Dandysme.

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