SuttonBeresCuller/To Be Determined. A Constellation of Open-ended Concerns and Possibilities Sep 16, 2011

by Gretchen

Last night my partner Steve Zielke and I attended SuttonBeresCuller/To Be Determined. From the start, the experience was engaging, and just disorienting enough to allow us to construct our own unique experience. The greeters/bouncers, (one of these was gallerist Scott Lawrimore), standing behind a red rope, seemed welcoming and acted as a small barrier at the same time. The low-slung rope recalled a work SBC realized as out-going students at Cornish College of the Arts, in which they constructed a low brick wall across the entrance to the faculty parking lot.  

Once inside the OTB space, we encountered a bank of chandeliers that made us feel at home (but whose home?). As we entered what is normally the seating/stage area, the architecture opened up into an installation on a large scale. The atmosphere was relaxed and we were able to chat. Steve noted that the spatial openness of the installation also leaves a viewer open to choice, free to wander and take in the many elements unfolding at their own pace. This arrangement brings to mind Marc Camille Chaimowicz and his scatter installations. One of the first artists to merge performance and installation art, his 1972 installation Celebration? Realife featured masks and a mirror ball, music by the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and others-and the artist, serving tea and engaging visitors in conversation in an adjacent room. Celebration? Reallife explored the space between public/private, art/design, and recast the artist as an art director and stage designer. A recent reinstallation (Celebration? Realife Revisited 1972/2000), used Chaimowicz's installation to reconstruct that cultural moment in the 1970s when the role of the artist and the relationships of art, design, popular culture, and performance changed. Chaimowicz has referred to this revisiting as a “belt,” where something is retrieved across time, to be recreated in the present. This seems appropriate to the SBC effort, which feels new and also part of an accumulative narrative from them.  

The To Be Determined event does big things, like a constructed wood airplane installed as if it had crashed into the theater seats, upending them into a pile. They also did small things. At some point my partner Steve pointed out a lone chandelier hanging high above the action, like a star. Later, it was lowered almost to the floor, as someone sat in a chair and wrote in a notebook by its light.

This particular OTB presentation allows participants the space to talk over the myriad of elements that make up this event with someone as you experience it. I recommend this.  My partner Steve noted that by providing shifts in architectural space and physical elements, both intimate and vast, To Be Determined allows the viewer to experience emotional shifts on a large and small scale, as well. Dominating the main space is a large nearly-floor-to-ceiling ball of detritus that looks like lashed together stage props from bygone performances, together with whatever theatergoers left under their seats for nights on end. And tucked into these strapped-together stuffed toys, furniture, picture frames and discards is a small convex mirror, like a traffic mirror. At one point this mirror reflected an expert hula-hoop performance taking place in a spotlight that seemed to mirror the height and shape of the giant sphere of discarded theater props. 

The SBC presentation reads like a fiction with multiple endings. With the participant acting as player, a living prop, and viewer, sometimes drifting and sometimes anchored by specific focal points and new pop-up performances. These performances often took place on the bleachers where the seats normally are, giving the feeling of watching opera, bringing to mind the architectural height of Juliet’s balcony.

Traditional aspects of the stage, like the edges and the darkness beyond, were gone. The environment was black, but a black you could navigate, like taking a walk on a starry night, dotted with the occasional streetlight. As we walked, Steve and I stopped to take our photo in front of a scenic backdrop. This prop felt like a viewpoint along a highway on a sightseeing trip.

SuttonBeresCuller at On the Boards

I’ve heard that no two nights will be the same for the run of SuttonBeresCuller /To Be Determined. I can also tell you that on any given night, you can loop back through the theater/installation to find things familiar yet slightly altered

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