A figure outfitted in a tulle, bubblegum pink babydoll dress took to center stage, commanding the full attention of their audience. Strutting against a computer-generated backdrop of floating bills, they expertly lip-synced Madonna’s “Material Girl.” Fittingly, they showered their audience with faux currency from a loaded money gun as a part of their grand finale.
The wielder of this novelty gun was performance artist Clover, and the setting of their mesmerizing act was “Vibe Check,” a performance art event held in the Roski Graduate Fine Arts Building on Nov. 22.
“Vibe Check” brought together 11 performers across years and disciplines to “promote and showcase performance work,” Dulce Soledad Ibarra, one of the event’s organizers, said.
Performances ranged in tone from lighthearted and whimsical to raw and heart-wrenching, with performers commenting on everything from constructs in the art world to social media culture.
Junior fine arts major Panteha Abareshi’s performance, entitled “Relief,” offered audience members a visceral auditory and visual experience, as Abareshi spent the duration of her performance spelling out the phrase “This wound can’t heal” in a blood-like substance while blindfolded.
In “Tough Cake,” MFA student Jiyoon Kim live-streamed the construction of a cake-like object entirely out of painting materials, as a commentary on the rigid constraints found in the fine arts sphere.
“Since I’m in this scene it’s like I’m following these rules, but I also want to interrupt those existing structures that are always bothering me,” said Kim.
Among the more playful pieces was Ben Nicholson’s “Out of Focus Group,” a hybrid of a Ted Talk and comedy show which tackled the difficulty of developing meaningful friendships in the corporate world. In true dating show fashion, Nicholson asked a series of personal, confounding questions to select audience members with the ultimate goal of winning their friendship.
“I was thinking about the relationship between working and being able to have sociality with people, and how the pressure to work all the time can make it very difficult to cultivate friendships,” Nicholson said on his process of developing his performance.
Despite its robust list of performers and three-hour running time, “Vibe Check’s” expert utilization of its gallery space and seamless transitions between performances had audience members hooked from beginning to end.
Viewers seemed to be entirely under the spell of the artists as they followed their every move intently, shifting around the gallery space and even leaving its boundaries to ensure they would catch every second of the performances.
One such performance which got audience members out of their seats was MFA student Carlos Medina-Diaz’s “Walking on Walls,” in which the artist horizontally scaled the walls of the gallery space and surrounding hallways.
“It stood for like, you think that you’re moving up, because you’re walking and you should be going forward, but the reality is, you’re on the same level... it definitely shows the labor of like, the struggle of all of us,” said audience member and student Chi Phifer.
With so many vastly different performances, the connective tissue of “Vibe Check” could be difficult to pinpoint. Audience members seemed to find no issue in this however, as each performance seemed to speak to an aspect of the contemporary human experience.
“I think each one had like a unique special quality to it, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. Each one was intense in its own way,” Loujain Bager, an MA in curatorial practices student said.
Moving forward, the future of “Vibe Check” and similar performance art events in Roski seems to be bright, as the organizers wish to make it a part of a continuing series.
“We really want it to be a thing that is ongoing and can be passed on and organized with undergrads,” said Ibarra.
For Phifer, the significance of “Vibe Check” lies in the importance of expressing and sharing narratives.
“I think that telling stories, all stories, is very important because that’s the only way that we can truly empathize with each other,” he said. “Art is the gateway to building a better future.”