by Rhoni Blankenhorn
(June 27, 2011) Jam packed with video installations, new media projections, animation, and performance art, LUMEN 2011 was definitely the highlight of my weekend. After a glorious sunset ferry ride on the Staten Island Ferry (yes LUMEN was on Staten Island), I made my way to the former US Coastguard Depot near the National Lighthouse Museum. I arrived at the main walkway to the plaza just as it was getting darker, and was greeted by some stunning pieces projected onto the sides of buildings. With all the dramatic lighting, sound and performances, LUMEN was a complete spectacle, and a glowing gem at the edge of a dark harbour (especially because everything on Staten Island seems to close by 8pm). LUMEN was organized by an all-star team - head curator Ginger Shulick, director of strategic initiatives at ACNY, was joined by guest curators Peter Duhon, Natalia Mount, Denise Carvalho, Paul Moakley (of TIME magazine), Jill McDermid, and Erik Hokanson.
Don Porcella gave me a quick rundown on his video “We Are Not Alone,” which features several artists retelling alien encounters. The catch? They are all fake, and the artists (like this guy with the snaggle teeth) are often in costume. Ginger Shulick participated in this one - she recounts the entire story of E.T. as if it happened to her. Though Don is known mainly for his pipe cleaner sculptures, this hilarious mockumentary blurs the lines between authentic, shared, and imagined experiences.
Lisa Dahl’s piece resonated with me – a video of tiny model houses projected onto a simple white house. I’ve been especially into small realities, diorammas and the like after visiting the Otherworldly exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design.
A glowing tangle of white and red in the middle of the plaza by Jason Peters captured the attention of kids and adults alike. The sculpture was constructed of hundreds of buckets (at least), cut and stacked into a continuous looping knot. Slightly alien and very organic, the best part about this piece was that it encouraged people to explore physical space in a playful new way.
Jill and Hoke of Grace Exhibition Space curated a slew of international performance artists along the pier. Grace always ensures a bizarre, poignant, beautiful, and occasionally gruesome set of performances. As I walked further out onto the water I found someone giving a very dramatically staged haircut, a creepy lady singing about The Rapture in a tent (you were invited to join her and sit on the “Vacancy” sign), and an artist arranging scientific-like samples on a projector. Marni Kotak figured out how to beam a small video onto her pregnant belly, and was wandering throughout the festival. I loved the interactive pieces like letting loose some thoughts in sharpie across a performer’s bare back, and writing in a notebook with a pen attached by string to a tattoo pen via cluster of high-flying balloons. I believe that last performer was actually tattooing his arm on the spot with an India-ink-dipped pen (attached to the same cluster of balloons as the notebook-pen)– really difficult to watch.
There were a couple pieces tucked inside buildings as well. For “Magic,” Allison Berkoy projects her own face onto an eerie, mummy-esque doll. If you push a button the doll wakes up and starts talking, offering a selection of personal ruminations in pursuit of a life imbued with supernatural wonder. I first met Allison at Fountain, and I am addicted to the magically haunted tone of her work.
BEST: I felt like an explorer in an alternate, luminescent universe. Definitely worth the trek out to SI, and highlighted some members of the island's own art community. I can't wait to see what LUMEN 2012 has in store.
WORST: Notable lack of food! – Single valiant halal cart vs. throngs of hungry art lovers. After a long night of adventuring, I happily retreated to the mainland for some serious pizza consumption.