Diary of a Performance Audience

An art lover offers her chronicle of the ambitious Off the Strip art festival

“I don’t expect much from Las Vegas,” a spectator mumbled during the second annual Off the Strip art festival. The three-day event included video installations, performance art and lecture panels. I wonder if it defied that naysayer’s expectations. There was a sense that the Contemporary Arts Center’s festival lacked public interest. It seems that people are more willing to pay $13 for Jackass 3D than $25 for the festival weekend pass. If all those who complain about the local art scene would instead attend the festival, it would’ve been packed. Here’s hoping for next year. Meantime, content yourself with finding out what you missed by reading the highlights from my festival diary:

Friday, Oct. 15

6 p.m., 1217 Main St. San Francisco artist Kerry Laitala’s Glitter Gulch featured an array of neon that she shot on 16-millimeter film. Three big-screen TVs played an eight-minute loop of 3-D images amalgamated from numerous major cities including Las Vegas. Distorted synths and lounge-y vocals resonated in the background. “Glitter Gulch is a critique on the desires of consumer culture, the human desire for acquisition, and how media functions in society,” Laitala explained. “This is the premiere. I’m hoping more people will show up.” It stabbed me in the heart to learn my perplexed friend and I were a good percentage of the Glitter Gulch audience that night.

7:30 p.m., Sci Fi Center. Las Vegas in Jell-O by San Francisco artist Liz Hickok critiqued the suburban growth of Las Vegas. In the video, dollops of Jell-O fill a barren landscape, melt down and are replaced by more grandiose and structured dollops of Jell-O. Zach Rockhill, a New York-based artist, explored the subject of construction and deconstruction in his screenings. The artist filmed himself hammering through walls and rebuilding rooms, including an abandoned Las Vegas home. Rockhill likened the Valley’s economic crisis to The Wizard of Oz.

Florida-based artist Roger Beebe’s The Strip Mall Trilogy, began with myriad distorted but recognizable images, speaking on the monotony of suburbia.

Saturday, Oct. 16

3:30 p.m., The Beat Coffeehouse. The panel discussion on performance and community started with a 20-minute lecture by Ohio University professor Jennie Klein. Although my friend complained that the discussion “felt like going to school,” Klein’s lecture touched on fascinating subjects, such as how artists facilitate community and political performance.

Laura Napier, an artist from New York, invited members of the panel to join in a piece at the Fremont Street Experience where everyone held hands and attempted to barricade the walkway. This performance did not last long but created confusion and sparked interest among bystanders who were previously too busy gawking at the roof animation.

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