One of the fun parts of my job being a critic and all is getting to follow artists over the years around the country (and to a lesser degree, the world) as they present their work and develop. Fusebox 2016 is great in that it gives me the chance to meet some artists whose work I’ve followed for years but never met, catch shows I’ve missed, or catch up with artists in Austin whose work I wish I had the chance to see more often. Based on all that, here’s a quick break-down of thoughts and impressions on the artists showing in 2016, based on a non-exhaustive review of the artists and my own prior coverage of them.
Deborah Pearson. I am absolutely stoked to finally meet Pearson IRL. A theater artist of no small accomplishment herself, I really first became aware of her work as one of the organizers of the Forest Fringe, a programming series of experimental contemporary performance that emerged under Pearson’s direction in 2007, and quickly became one of the most exciting parts of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Forest Fringe has toured shows internationally–including to Fusebox in 2013, and New York in 2014, when I interviewed Andy Field, Pearson’s collaborator and co-curator. But Pearson I never met nor spoke to, our only communication having been back in 2011 when she wrote an essay for Exeunt on narrative, its uses and the traps it catches artists in. Isaac Butler here in the US took issue with some of her arguments, which I endorsed, and anyway we emailed a few times on the topic. Her show this year at Fusebox, Like You Were Before, is a reprise of her first solo piece, an exploration of her experience leaving Canada. You’ve only got one chance to see it, though: Thursday, April 7 at 5 p.m. Also be sure to check out Fusebox’s artist profile on her.
My Barbarian. Formerly LA (now New York) based, I first caught this visual art performance group at the Whitney Biennial in 2014. Their practice as art makers is a fascinating example of how different arts ecologies, funding structures, and critical discourses influence the work. Having emerged from various experimental performance fields, the company began exploring theatrical forms as a sort of material for visual art exploration. At least that’s how I first encountered them, doing a Brechtian production of Brecht’s The Mother, the didacticism of which became the subject of their exploration of political engagement. It was re-presented a couple months later in New York as part of the 2015 American Realness festival, where I interviewed one part of the trio, Alexandro Segade. Anyway, I had always wanted to see their experiments in Post-Living Ante Action Theater (PoLAAT), which Fusebox is presenting this year. More on the Austin project here, also I recommend checking out the BOMB interview they did a few years ago, and finally Andy Horwitz’s ever-popular essay on the white cube vs. black box.
Big Dance Theater. When I first moved to New York, I made the pilgrimage to see as many of the “big” downtown performance companies and artists as quickly as I could, the ones from which so many other artist genealogies trace. The Wooster Group. Richard Foreman. Anne Bogart/SITI Company. Mac Wellman. Of all of them, to be quite bluntly honest, it was Big Dance–the 25-year-old dance theater company co-founded by Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar–that most decided didn’t disappoint. Quite the opposite, of all those groups (whose work has certainly amazed and informed me), it’s Big Dance that’s always been the most consistently and remarkably creative, from the first show I saw–from Supernatural Wife way back in 2011, through the Sibyl Kempson-penned brilliance of Ich Kürbisgeist, the bizarre genius of Allan Smithee Directed This Play and now Short Form, a collection of short choreographies by Parson. Not to be missed.