Performance Art Now! Highlights Play, Experimentation at Biennial Pavilion

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It's not easy to find venues around town that support untested and new forms of expression, and the avenues for experimental and performance art are dwindling. "The art scene was more round in recent years. It's not so round now," says Justin Beard, who earned a BFA in sculpture from Rocky Mountain College of Arts and Design 2004. Instead, he adds, the market favors “high-end, trendy and sellable stuff.” Theresa Anderson, who received a BFA in painting from the University of Colorado in 2007, echoes these thoughts. “I don’t think there’s a real understanding of how a lot of artists depend on process and experimentation to develop and present work,” she says, noting that the outlets available for artists — galleries, museums and schools — may favor tidier art forms.

But the two have a great venue for their current project, Performance Art Now!, which will take place in the Biennial Pavilion at 1550 Wewatta Street on Saturday, July 13, and feature the work of over a dozen local performance artists, including Beard and Anderson. Co-sponsored by RedLine and the Biennial of the Americas, Performance Art Now! will “encourage artists to be playful,” the two artist/organizers say. 

Beard, a former resident artist at RedLine, has worked with the organization in the past to stage Performance Art Night Denver aaaaaa, a precursor of sorts to PAN! that featured some of the same artists who will make an appearance at the Pavilion. As Anderson, a current RedLine resident, notes, “There’s a wide variety of practice that happens at RedLine, with a lot of possibilities for community.”

At the living exhibit of PAN!, the artists will explore a range of themes, everything from biographical re-imagining to parental fatigue, while all employing employ different methods in their approach to their surroundings and the audience. 

“Performance art slows down my process," Anderson says. "Something happens that I can’t predict, swaying the piece towards something fabulous.” Her contribution will incorporate a seven-person harness that includes pouches that sift flour onto the ground; as people pull and push on each other, the sifting flour generates a design on the ground, one that depends on who wears the harness.

Beard, designing a work even more openly playful, compares his piece to those “extreme practical jokes where the elevator floor falls out or something.” He plans on setting up a tent on a movable platform and staying in it; during PAN!, others will relocate the tent and Beard will emerge, perplexed by his new surroundings. The work is meant to reflect the fact that he’s “been moving a lot,” in part due to Denver’s increasing rent prices, he says.

Though both Beard and Anderson say they hope people will come to PAN! “without expectations, without preconceived ideas,” spectators can definitely expect a diverse ecology of actions and concepts to unfold there. Performance Art Now! runs noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 18, at the Biennial Pavilion, 1550 Wewatta. To learn more about this free event, RedLine's website.

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