Armory Show Loosens Up With Performance Art

By Della Hasselle on March 8, 2012 7:48am 

CHELSEA — Collectors and modern art lovers got more than they bargained for at the Armory Arts Show Wednesday night when they stumbled upon the show's first-ever performance art series.

The series made its way into the floor of the fair with a piece called "Amorphous Assemblage," a collection of dancers sprawled sporadically throughout the show's piers and covered head-to-toe in white cloth, in order to take on shapeless blob or pod-like appearances.

Placed smack in the middle of busy pedestrian walkways and ritzy champagne bars, the avant-garde showcase surprised several well-heeled patrons hoping to get their hands on pieces by the next Andy Warhol or Vincent Van Gogh.

"When I saw it, I got excited," said filmmaker Keith B. Robinson, 45. "It's interesting because there's formations happening, sort of like an interesting pod, like alive. And a head just popped out — it was great."

The piece, which looked more suited to the Armory's 'punk rock sister' Fountain Art Fair than the distinguished atmosphere at piers 92 and 94, fascinated the Harlem resident.

"It looks like they're stuck and trying to expand, like this small balloon — a parachute balloon, kind of," Robinson added.

The cocoons were part of the Nordic focus of the fair, and were described by the program as living sculptures that "emerge through a continuous transformation into various geometrical and amorphous shapes" in order to become part of the site's architecture.

Many of the spectators enjoyed creating their own narrative to the art, conceptualized by artist Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen.

"I think it's marvelous, because I saw a performer working her body on the floor with it, and she was like a ... butterfly, coming out of a cocoon or something," said editor Paul Laster, 60.

Laster, who hails from Brooklyn, was referring to dancers who had emerged from their white costumes to show their faces — a section of the piece that seemed to be an unusual treat.

"And here, the shape is almost like water, from a fountain, coming up from the fair," he added, referring to another pod creature. "I think it's marvelous."

The performance series, aside from the amorphous cocoons, has a new home in Armory's newly developed media lounge, a center that is hosting the performance art series, Armory Performance.

In addition to Armory Performance, the lounge is hosting Open Forum, a discussion by artists and historians. The center is also hosting Armory Film, a program developed last year and curated by the Moving Image fair.

Some New Yorkers seemed thrilled to have a series of moving art accompany the previously static fair.

"I think it's nice to see a change, something different at Armory," said Kitty Clay, an interior designer who lives in Greenwich Village.

She did, however, wonder about the precarious placement of the delicate dancers.

"Unfortunately, I think a lot of people are not noticing what's happening until they get quite close to it," Clay added.

Clay echoed the sentiments of other patrons who seemed to think that the piece was better suited for a stage, for safety reasons — many were concerned about the dancers being trampled on.

But some were impressed by their ability to maneuver the crowded fair.

"I think they would do really well on a subway at peak hour," artist Tara Delagarza joked. "They seem to be able to fit into small spaces."

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