MR Festival 2008: Distractions at Dusk: Populous by AUNTS by Lana Wilson

by Lana Wilson
MR Festival Spring 2008: Somewhere Out There

On Sunday night, well over a hundred people gathered on a rooftop in Bushwick to witness the new performance/party/installation by freewheeling curatorial project AUNTS. The concept underlying the latest iteration of AUNTS was nine simultaneous performances spread across a roof, with the audience wandering, drinking, or picnicking somewhere in the middle. Yes—the timing made it impossible to watch all of the performances in their entirety. Yes—the physical arrangement meant that the audience interfered with each other’s sightlines, and that the performances each distracted from one another. And yes—in this kind of environment, it is difficult for any of the work being shown to get anyone’s full attention, or even seem very serious. But this is part of the charm of AUNTS events—unlike the sit down/keep still/be quiet attitude of most concert dance performances, AUNTS events are more about creating an atmosphere, presenting an open range of possibilities, and building a sense of fluidity between the artistic and the social.

In this case, a few of the distractions at Populous actually added to the value of the night. The setting alone was scene-stealer number one. The show began just before dusk, at 8 pm, and within half an hour the dusky gray-blue sky was full of glowing pink clouds. On the corner of the roof that Christine Elmo’s Experiment #1 was performed in, a bundle of pastel pink balloons was tied to a pipe. At about 8:45, a gust of wind ripped the balloons from their anchored position and they floated off into the sky. It was an absurdly beautiful image — the pink of the balloons matching that of the clouds, making several people near me gasp.

A more cutting distraction was provided by a man wearing a portable speaker around his waist like a fanny pack. In an apparent effort to hijack the end of the event, the speaker started blasting a recording of a man’s voice spewing profanities. Gradually, the profanities evolved into somewhat more polite fare, but still spoken in the same spite-filled tones—“You’re a bad person. You’re not a very nice individual,” or “You mother, father, you.” It was surprisingly funny, and an appropriate end to an anything-goes evening.

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