Commentary
5:00 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Experiencing 'The Bridge Club'

Credit Cary Conover courtesy of the Ulrich Museum of Art

There has been a lot of performance art in Wichita lately: ProjectvRunaway for WSU Shift Space, George Ferrandi with Harvester Arts, and The Bridge Club brought in by the Ulrich Museum.

For those who may not "get" performance art, you are far from alone. But let me offer this brief explanation: Performance artists craft experiences, instead of paintings or sculptures. It is ephemeral, and while there may be photographic documentation, viewing images and experiencing the performance are two separate things.

For The Bridge Club, creating an experience is a powerful way to investigate local histories, stereotypes, expectations and conflicts. The group’s members collaborate to bring projects like "The Trailer" to Wichita.

The collective uses a vintage camping trailer with a Victorian sitting room interior, complete with chandelier, velvet upholstery and a taxidermied cat, as a mobile installation and performance site. The four performers are uniformly costumed with wigs and outfits that recall the American women of the ‘50s and ‘60s - the kind that Betty Friedan wrote about.

They silently perform choreographed actions with minimal props. Their slow, concentrated movements resemble ritual and create a charged space that seems to transcend reality.

But their mystical plane can be broken as audience members are invited to sit in the trailer or meander through the performing space. Audiences can actually become part of the experience, part of the artwork.

When was the last time a painting did that?