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Hallwell's Artists and Models 2010: Highly Relevant to My Interests

Memoir and Review by Porsche Jones

This document promises no journalistic integrity whatsoever. It is rife with my own opinions and subjective experience. If you were at this event and have detailed information that will help me correct names, attributions, technical information (such as information about art mediums), etc., please email me at or get at me on facebook. If you were not at this event, you seriously missed out on one of the greatest parties I have ever seen. Links to photos and videos I took are embedded throughout the text. Words are not enough.

Artists and Models 2010: I certainly didn't expect to see something like this in a semi-abandoned factory-warehouse building, on Tonawanda street in Buffalo. The venue, I have to say, was impeccably selected--it had that perfect, eerie, urban explorer, rusty-musty-rafters and exposed-architectural-decay ambiance. Also, it was the perfect size; huge, and completely packed wall to wall with enormous, confusing, and sensational art. Sure, I was expecting overwhelming and overstimulating, but the sheer size and abundance of wildly interactive and mind-blowing stimuli eviscerated my expectations with lasers. And I LOVE lasers.

My expectations were high to begin with. Over 30 separate artists and art collectives, and half a dozen musical ensembles, plus food, booze, and a huge crowd of eclectic people--some of whom are in deranged costumes and facepaint? Um, yes please. That I expected. But nothing really prepares you for the strong smell of paint, asbestos, incense, raw meat, pine needles, and BBQ, all mixed together and slamming into you along with suddenly sonorous dance music. To add to the underground and industrial atmosphere, the lighting in the place is reminiscent of, I don't know, some kind of horror-movie nightclub--lit up completely by art including vid screens, LEDs, Christmas lights, tube lights, neon, lasers, strobes, projections (flashing and flickering and playing footage of every strange kind), UV, stage lighting, all in every color spectrum and dazzling juxtaposition.

The words "eccentric creative genius" come to mind when describing the individual displays. I'll take them one by one; upon entering, passing the setups of Steel Crazy and Hero Design Studios, the first real revolutionary installation to catch my eye was the theatrical piece by Alice Alexandrescu, Marl Tomko, and Kyle Butler. A room-sized space on the convention floor has been set aside for their re-enactment of "Free Willy" in which they substitute a stuffed Buffalo for Willy. The Buffalo--suspended on cable and with pulleys--was adorable, and the size of a very large dog or small horse. I believe they named him Billy. They used computers to project a video feed of the Niagara (foot-of-ferry) on several walls, creating a little marina for Billy to play in. The dramatic re-enactment stretched out to make 20 or 30 minutes. The moment wherein Buffalo jumped to freedom was grand and cathartic. Alicia Paolucci sold beautiful printed t-shirts with her own design; an image of the Buffalo jumping to freedom. The metaphor was clear...Buffalo's revival and limitless potential was iconized.

Many exhibits were tucked into siderooms and cubicles, but some art dotted the open floor. Christopher Young's enormous piece was a self-lit sculpture of a human face, or a mask, attached somehow to bicycles. Pedaling either of the two bicycles caused the vid scrrens in the eyes of the mask to spin and play footage.

Among the more stationary pieces were this lightbox, easily 15 feet tall and pyramidal, filled with plants and UV light. A newspaper dispenser sheds pamphlets of curious text and message by Evelyn Killaby. A huge arch of yellow squares appears to be a stand-alone scuplture--until mysterious figures in brightly colored spandex sacs proceed to dance erotically underneath. A 10-foot vid screen near the front entrance greets guests with constant footage of an odd person endlessly dancing against a plain backdrop. Couldn't really figure that one out; might have been some kind of motion study. A large-screen projection against an entire wall enraptured passersby; it portrayed some sort of pixelated fire that interacted with the shadow or silhouette of the viewer. For example, running in front of the screen would displace the fire in waves. Many of the installations were similarly interactive, using a computer generated intake/outtake matrix to create imagery or sound based upon the observer. I kept finding myself on the wrong end of these webcams-gone-amok, projected in shadowy orange square pixels or multiplied and colorified. The big brain was especially impressive, as its huge canvas and tube-lighting appearance made one impression, but its functionality made another. It took an image of me, distorted it, then projected it on a large screen. Effectively, it was like a hyper-high tech, acid-trip enhanced fun-house-mirror schematic.

Starting to get the picture? There were dozens of these things. I kept trying to find a place to catch my breath, but something new would invade. At one point, when I got caught in a thick bit of crowd trying to get outside to the barbeque, something REALLY unexpected happened. A bunch of guys dressed like ghostbusters (in pseudo hazmat suits/surgical scurbs/mining gear) pushed into the crowd and informed everyone to get back. They set up a surgical table and proceed to anesthetize and operate on a juice box. They repeated this dramatic stunt again later with a bag of McDonald's and a bottle of Mobile oil. If I had to stab a scalpel at the message, I'd say it might be to re-examine the toxicity of everyday objects and their potential for social and biological harm.

In some of the "rooms" were exhibits that started to get, well, let's say it, REALLY weird. I felt like I was walking on set for a Primus video. My personal favorite was one that featured a huge stack of diapers, christmas decorations, nursery toys, and a clown in a suit singing the score from Disney's Cinderella. He was just singing, Broadway style, for hours. It was unsettling. Another favorite was an ethereal setup of a shredded gauze temple, featuring the artist doing gymastics on the floor of a dark room--herself wrapped in gauze. A picture is worth a thousand words on this one. Possibly the most confusing was a very crowded room where there are people dressed as, I don't know, pilgrims maybe? They were in odd costumes. A woman was kneeling and praying over saint candles and raw meatballs. There were pine needles everywhere. A man in a dress was doing something weird with eggs. Another man was drinking milk and riding a bicycle. I can't really describe all of the things that were going on in that room, but I do have some snapshots from behind the crowd.

One of the things I was really looking forward to about Artists and Models were the photography installations. I had read about Shasti O'Leary Soundant's gender-bending prop photography experiment in the Artvoice and on Buffalo Rising. I was really looking forward to it. I first saw Mrs. Soundant's photographic work at CEPA and was enraptured from the first second. Her project was a fun one, involving a big colorful "wheel of fortune," but I developed a soft spot for a different guerilla-style-photo-studio installation...a project called "Cry School Yearbook." A group of Toronto artists were giving FREE goth makeovers (tempting, right?) and then photographing their subjects as high school graduates for a pseudo-yearbook.

Sound and music was a big part of the Artists and Models experience. It was not a quiet evening. I took a couple quick videos but both the image and sound quality is poor; still, they're linked here. Each act managed to vie with the continuously dark cacophony of sound, while staying dancable, stimulating, rhythmic and most importantly, cohesive to the otherworldy atmosphere. Of the 6 acts, I was definitely impressed by MC Wizzalot & Tip Top Hip Hop Orchestra, which seemed to be a hip hop satire. Their funky jazz/rock infusion was hip hop satire at its highest, I think. At least, I think there was a deliberate comedy aspect. If not, I was laughing anyway. But its dancable satire and hot hot music, the way you love Beck's "Hollywood Freaks" from Midnight Vultures.

The main attraction for me, as always, were my beautiful friends THE STRIPTEASERS. Fresh from lighting up Roxy's on Thursday nights, they graced Artists and Models with the fine fine entertainment of the fine fine art of burlesque. If you're not familiar, its the sassy, classy, old timey art of getting naked. There's a music element too, because the dancing is no joke; unless it is a joke, because there's a comedy element. Mainly, I love it because its like an all-lingerie fashion show--beauty and style at its finest. Oh, and there's boobs. Mistress J hypnotized with a fan dance (times two), and Cat and Fanny did a HOT HOT HOT duo as dom/sub cowgirls. If you're never seen them, head to Roxy's on main street next Thursday around midnight. Do it. You won't regret.

I don't think I can describe the sheer whimsy of this event any further. At one point, an actual marching band came through on the way outside, and most of the crowd practically ignored it because it was one of the less stimulating things to look at. It'd sufficient to say that I walked in at 9pm and walked out at 1:30am and barely noticed a moment passing--as often happens with nonsensical and non-sequitor dreamworlds.

Drunk People Sticking Their Faces In A Box To See Kaleidescopic Video Art.