“Boiling Point” was an apt title for Saturday night’s performance salon hosted by Fire Drill at Fresh Oysters Performance Research in south Minneapolis. Most every artist brought a form of fury to the tiny venue, prompting thoughts of Metallica raging on a much grander stage just blocks away. The evening was cathartic, challenging and sometimes disturbing, but overall a celebration of extremes.
Chicago-based performer and noise artist Jill Flanagan (Forced into Femininity) used vocals – punk rock sneer and heavy metal bellow – to bolster her tumultuous presence. Dressed in a frayed sequined gown, her face made-up with horror-style blemishes, Flanagan threw her body, paced about, and climbed over audience members. She confronted injustices, including the outsider experience of living as a transgender woman, using shouted words and dark humor. Flanagan’s provocative approach dared audience members to either welcome or reject the volatile energy she injected into the room. Whatever the individual response, Flanagan undeniably shifted the atmosphere in a palpable way, giving a vital reminder of how art can disrupt.
Pedro Pablo Lander took a subtler approach. Joined by dancer Paula Mann, Lander explored the struggle of living one’s true self. He wore a dress while applying make-up, only to have Mann grab at his face and dunk his head into a water bucket. The dancing evolved into a belligerent postmodern tango of sorts and then came a ritual-like change into masculine-identified clothing. By the work’s end, Lander showed us loss, not only of a person but also potential.
The performance duo Hijack (Arwen Wilder and Kristin Van Loon) offered a calmer interlude. As is often the case in Hijack’s work, no movement or prop went unconsidered. Of particular interest was the use a costume jewelry pile and the distinct clicking sound made as each piece knocked against the other. These small reverberations, paired with the deliberate choreography, became something more important than expected, a hallmark of Hijack’s style.
Lazer Vortex took over, channeling the spirit of Wendy O. Williams in a no-holds-barred twerk-filled burlesque. Vortex delved into the intersection of sexuality and violence – hence the appearance of a real axe midway and the destruction of a children’s toy, with plastic shrapnel flying. Vortex also took on the tricky territory of celebrating the body while mocking sexual stereotypes, but they (Vortex's preferred pronoun) stayed mostly in control of the messaging thanks to an eye glint hinting at more subversive purposes.
New York City-based performer Lorene Bouboushian brought the evening full-circle with a work featuring a different type of vocalizing than Flanagan’s. She rambled with ironic and humorous observations, at times echoing Stephen Wright’s deadpan comedic delivery. While Bouboushian likely had a plan, her approach felt spontaneous, including a crowd-surfing moment while wearing crotch-less underwear. Many in the audience expressed concern about an invasive touch as they passed her aloft. It was a thought-provoking commentary on social limits for an audience that had already experienced an evening full of limit-defying work.
To learn more about Fresh Oysters Performance Research visit www.skewedvisions.org.