CIRCA. . .
The history of art in Las Vegas exists as an enthusiastic, nostalgic oral record, and, more recently, a fragmented web presence. In CIRCA, we begin to rough out a catalogue of the city's art history by conducting local and long-distance interviews and researching virtual and physical archives. The posts will not necessarily be investigated or collated in chronological order. Suggestions, ideas, and information are all welcome via email or in the comments section.
2010 : LAURA NAPIER, PROJECT FOR A STREET CORNER (FREMONT STREET)
After screening her video Project For A Street Corner (WTC PATH) at the first Contemporary Arts Center "Off The Strip: New Genres Festival" (2009), Bronx-based artist Laura Napierreturned to Las Vegas to produce Project For A Street Corner (Fremont Street), a collaborative performance as public intervention and behavioral research, part of CAC's "Off the Strip 2010". She collaborated with CAC and UNLV student volunteers.
"Artists and about thirty Las Vegas residents, recruited through the Contemporary Art Center, formed a snake dance and a conga line on Fremont Street, amidst a crowd of tourists momentarily at a standstill, transfixed by the "Fremont Street Experience" video spectacle. Our real life performance was staged amidst a show, to affect the prevailing zombie-like behavior of the crowd through the insertion of our own different behavior in that space.
Every performance I have produced in this series is unique to each site. Previous interventions include forming a circle in the midst of a stream of rush hour commuters in front of the WTC PATH station in Manhattan, and turning the ordinarily straight queue of tourists waiting to enter the Reichstag in Berlin. The dynamics and source of each group and place are so different. We were traveling more in this piece instead of standing still and holding our ground. Maybe Vegas demands a certain aggression due to the noise.
This project is not supposed to be all about watching the performers. It is more about using regular, usual behavioral cues to change a present public who are not entirely conscious of how we are shifting them in the space. It feels like a misfit to consider our event as a subset of the flash mob meme, and I’m still working out how to make my ideas clearer. I also really enjoyed learning more during the panel [Off the Strip artist panel] about the space of Fremont Street defined as public/private space hybrid and how restrictive rules on behavior were recently successfully contested by hula hooping artists. I subsequently attended a great talk in New York by the artist Mark Tribe who traced the changing ideas about and manifestation of ‘public’ and ‘public space’ through western history into contemporary society. I do not know if we can locate actual public space anymore in this country.
It became clear that in this performance the natives were disturbing the tourists, rather than the usual tourists disturbing the natives. The Fremont Street public caught on during the event, since you cannot hide a conga line. At some point during the performance, a young man who’d been hanging out with a clique of teenagers near the stage came over and began obstructing me at the front of our line, choosing to walk slowly in the way of whichever way I turned with his back turned towards me. It felt strong and like I was losing control, and I faked him out by telling him that I knew what he was up to. You can see him in the video returning to his group and high-fiving his friends afterwards. People in the area definitely joined the conga, either they thought it was part of everything or just perceived as fun by impulsive types. Perhaps one of the few things you can do for free in Las Vegas?"
LAURA NAPIER is an artist and independent curator. She is currently working in Houston on an artistic research project about the social cultures of the petrochemical industries of Texas. Her work explores behavior, sociology, and place through documentation, installation, and participatory and collaborative performance. For more on Napier's public interventions via Project for A Street Corner (scroll down for Fremont Street) visit the artist's website.
Contributed by Wendy Kveck.