Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

AiOP 2017: SENSE- Thinker in Residence Matthew Morowitz’s Last Call

About 3 months ago was the Art in Odd Places 2017 festival, SENSE. I first became involved with AiOP during the 2012 festival, MODEL, when I joined the staff as a blog intern. While I was excited by the opportunity to write for this quirky-sounding event, I didn’t expect that this festival would be where I first felt like I really came alive in my post-collegiate professional and personal life. Having been as impressed as I was by the experience, I made a promise to the founder and director, Ed, that I would never end my participation with AiOP. However, a lot can and has changed in these past five years and I’ve learned to not make any more promises without foresight. Though I am thankful for all the memories I made, connections I fostered, and experiences I had being a part of this wonderful yearly phenomenon, it is time for me to move on. This is last call…

scan003
I had not intended to return to AiOP for SENSE, as RACE seemed to have taken a toll on many of the people involved, but I knew I didn’t want to end my run with the festival on such a lackluster note. I agreed to come back on the condition that I would also be a Thinker in Residence, a condition I first thought would be dismissed but was surprised, and elated, that Ed and the curators agreed to uphold. When I attended my first meeting with this year’s festival staff in April, I was surprised and delighted by the open communication and strong sense of camaraderie that existed between everyone.

AiOP Sense Banner

Though I had been part of past festivals as a staff member, this year was a new experience for me. As a Thinker in Residence, this festival became a chance for me to explore the works and the street on my own terms, not just be there to document for the blog or assist the artists. The festival’s opening night was not only a familiar scene, but also an entre into what SENSE had to offer. When I first joined and during 2013’s NUMBER festival, the opening had taken place in Campos Plaza between Avenues B&C. Unfortunately, from 2014 onwards I both had not been able to attend any of the openings and the plaza no longer became a welcome space for that event. The south side of 14th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues was the epicenter of the opening night, with a collection of works installed and many performances taking place along that stretch of block.

The "bar" at the SENSE opening.

The “bar” at the SENSE opening.

The interplay of the pieces and performances made for a unique opening scene: LuLu LoLo as Mother Cabrini blessing passersby, ART&COM’s Collective Bargain rallying the masses, Billy X. Curmano’s Expeditionary Art Adventure Team engaging pedestrians to discuss the waterways, not to mention all the black footprints on paper plates from Jan Baracz’s Cosmic Error.

LuLu LoLo as Mother Cabrini at the SENSE opening.

LuLu LoLo as Mother Cabrini at the SENSE opening.

Billy X. Curmano’s "Expeditionary Art Adventure Team" at the SENSE opening.

Billy X. Curmano’s “Expeditionary Art Adventure Team” at the SENSE opening.

Jan Baracz’s "Cosmic Error" at the SENSE opening.

Jan Baracz’s “Cosmic Error” at the SENSE opening.

For me though, the most memorable moment was probably the most unexpected: when the incense sticks on Eliza Swann & Golden Dome School’s She Has Risen processional altar burst into flames. In that moment I was reminded of one of the first things I learned about public performance: the work’s impact doesn’t stem from the original intention, but from when the piece is presented and the viewer observes/interacts with it. For me, this accident only served to boost the intensity and celebratory power of the performance.

The moment when Eliza Swann & Golden Dome School’s "She Has Risen" processional altar burst into flames at the SENSE opening.

The moment when Eliza Swann & Golden Dome School’s “She Has Risen” processional altar burst into flames at the SENSE opening.

The next two days gave me a greater sense of the festival as it stretched along the entirety of 14th Street. 14th Street is an ever-changing beast and, in a way, that makes it the perfect location to host a happening like AiOP: the streetscape is always changing, businesses are coming and going, and, because it is bordered by about 5-6 neighborhoods, no one point on the street has the same feel as another. However, when it came to actually experiencing the work for what they were, my dual status as staff member/Thinker became a bit of a detriment. Because the artists knew me as a staff person, many of them were not fully able to allow me to engage with them as performer. On Saturday I thus tried to stay on the fringes of the performances I came across, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t experience some wonderful sights. I not only witnessed Arantxa Araujo in her shimmering SENSEsoscope outfit traverse the street from west to east, but was even able to capture the moment when she collided with Ayana Evans laying out the red carpet as part of her I Want Some Sugar With My S***.  

Ayana Evans laying out the red carpet as part of her "I Want Some Sugar With My S***" for Arantxa Araujo in her shimmering "SENSEsoscope" performance.

Ayana Evans laying out the red carpet as part of her “I Want Some Sugar With My S***” for Arantxa Araujo in her shimmering “SENSEsoscope” performance.

Yet, what really became the most wonderfully bizarre moment of that day was stumbling across Yasi Alipour’s Think Tanks, Without an Agenda, Without the Self-Confidence, Without Hope in the Meatpacking District stretch of the street. Though I had come across Yasi’s project during the opening when it was in the “Maps” phase, it was now in the “Monopoly” phase. This turned out to be an unexpected treat; I joined in on Yasi’s Cold War-revised game board just as it narrowed down to the Soviet Union vs. the United States. From then on my mind was no longer thinking about the festival, or even 14th Street, but on references to historic events and appropriate puns with every roll of the dice.

Yasi Alipour’s "Think Tanks, Without an Agenda, Without the Self-Confidence, Without Hope" in the Monopoly phase.

Yasi Alipour’s “Think Tanks, Without an Agenda, Without the Self-Confidence, Without Hope” in the Monopoly phase.

Playing Monopoly with Yasi.

Playing Monopoly with Yasi.

On the last day of the festival, I was able to approach the artists and their works in a more natural way, as I ended up making a friend who walked the festival route with me. I met A at the end of 14th Street on Avenue C while waiting for Denise Treizman’s Rel(a)y performance to begin. As the Rel(a)y sculpture began rolling west, so too did we. A became the stand-in I needed to really engage with the festival; I was able to get a greater sense of how the artists were presenting their works by observing how they interacted with her.

Denise Treizman’s "Rel(a)y."

Denise Treizman’s “Rel(a)y.”

Along the way, I saw A blessed by Mother Cabrini, take Antonia Pérez’s Flowers of Common Sense pledge, and even get offered a talisman by Charley Friedman’s Adenoid’s Adenoid. What I saw in these interactions was heartfelt and engaging, and at some points even a little cheeky. While I was hoping to connect with the works over the course of this festival, I wasn’t expecting to connect with a new person.

A being blessed by Mother Cabrini.

A being blessed by Mother Cabrini.

A taking Antonia Pérez’s "Flowers of Common Sense" pledge.

A taking Antonia Pérez’s “Flowers of Common Sense” pledge.

A being offered a talisman by Charley Friedman’s "Adenoid’s Adenoid."

A being offered a talisman by Charley Friedman’s “Adenoid’s Adenoid.”

In every AiOP festival I participated, I always felt like I was at a different crossroad in my life: on the verge of starting or ending a job, a relationship, in the midst of school, or some other life milestone. SENSE became the perfect point to end my time with AiOP; I was able to recapture some of the same magic I felt when I first joined in 2012, as well as offer my own experiences and insight to aid this year’s curators and staff. AiOP gave me some of my fist work experience, helped start paying attention to my surroundings, and became the place where I started to come into my own. I look forward to seeing how the festival develops and what directions the next curators, artists, and dedicated staff members take it.

SHARE THIS ON:
Share Button

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*