Expected to draw over 30,000 arts-minded visitors, Austin’s eighth annual Fusebox Festival will bring together more than 400 artists from cultural hotbeds around the world, including The Netherlands, Israel, Germany, the U.K., Argentina, Columbia, New York City, Los Angeles, Portland, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Seattle, not to mention contributions from numerous central Texas artists as well.
This isn’t your normal festival, however. Originally founded by Artistic Director Ron Berry, the eclectic contemporary art and performance festival is unique in that it weaves together seemingly disparate art experiences throughout venues and locations across the city, encouraging visitors to not only engage with the works but with the city as well. Fusebox Fesitval (or just “Fusebox” as it's known to insiders) will be 12 days of boundary-pushing, innovative displays of artistic talent right in the heart of Austin.
“Fusebox champions innovative works of art across a variety of different mediums. [It] acts as a catalyst for new ideas, new artistic models and approaches to help us engage with the issues and questions that define contemporary life,“ states the festival website.
It’s no surprise that a festival of this magnitude and scope has garnered well-deserved praise along with comparisons to larger entities. According to Brendan Kiley, Arts Editor at Seattle’s The Stranger, “America’s most electric and engaged destination festivals happen in New York City (Under the Radar), Portland (TBA), and Austin (Fusebox).”
Judging from the festival’s “warm-up” fundraising event, 60 in Sixty, that took place Wednesday night at the ND, festival-goers can expect a surprising array of unique perspectives, humorous wit and thought-provoking performances. The event, which is a crucial annual fundraiser for the festival features 60 Austin artists, performing in rapid-fire succession for 60 seconds each. Creativity abounded, with segments ranging from spoken word poetry to interpretive dance and musical performance. The festival lineup was also announced, and CultureMap has the exclusive first look at a few of the notable highlights from the official release:
Allison Orr & Emily Marks: Invasion of the New Grrl Order (Austin)
Fusebox Festival’s kickoff event will feature 100+ teen and pre-teen girls dancing and performing alongside the Riot Grrl band The Coathangers. This large-scale dance/music project, choreographed by Allison Orr (Forklift Danceworks, Trash Project) and musician Emily Marks (formerly of Girls Rock & Roll Camp) will feature many elements of the Riot Grrl movement including: rock music, zines, and skateboards. The free performance will be on the lawn of the Long Center for the Performing Arts and emerge from the surrounding lawn, park, and sidewalks.
Phil Soltanoff: An Evening with William Shatner Asterisk (Fusebox World Premier)
William Shatner’s image from the original Star Trek series speaks on the subject of art in the 21st Century and then proceeds to take questions from a live audience. Phil Soltanoff (director), Rob Ramirez (systems designer) and Joe Diebes (writer) have created a dynamic, video Shatner puppet by meticulously cataloguing everything William Shatner ever said on Star Trek. Together, the artists attempt to bravely make Captain James T. Kirk expand our universe.
Gob Squad: Super Night Shot (U.K. & Germany)
Precisely one hour before you arrive, Super Night Shot begins. In a military-style brief, Gob Squad declares a “War on Anonymity” and takes to Austin streets armed with video cameras, embarking on a set of comic and surreal adventures that celebrate unexpected encounters with strangers. You give them a rousing hero’s welcome as they return to the theatre and the footage of the fantastical mission is mixed live into a four-channel, wide screen film.
Joan Jonas: The Shape, The Scent, The Feel of Things (New York)
Seminal video and performance artist, Jonas presents her cutting edge multi-media performance. Featuring music by the acclaimed Jason Moran, this collaborative work evokes the American Southwest through an artistic consideration of the Hopi snake dance, a ritual that affected Jonas during visits to Arizona in the 1960s. Presented in partnership with Texas Performing Arts and the University of Texas Art History Department.
Fusebox Festival Hub
The Hub is the central gathering place for the festival, hosting free programming during the day and ticketed events at night. The space (1100 E. 5th — the old TOPS warehouse) will be active seven days a week for as many as 20 hours a day. The Hub will house an installation curated by Sterling Allen and Katie Geha (in partnership with Art Alliance Austin), artist chats, panel discussions, an information desk, beer garden and café/bar. The Hub will be the official Late Night Venue for the festival, presenting live music from all over the country.
As is obvious from just the few selected events listed above, the entire festival is meant to entertain, delight, confuse and provoke further exploration into larger themes and ideas.
According to Berry, “there's something especially exciting and powerful about this collision of different ideas and approaches from different backgrounds and perspectives. This notion of hybridity is central to our understanding of creativity…These are artists that entertain us while nudging us to look at the world through a different lens. At the end of the day, we like to think of the festival as a platform for conversation and ideas. It's about being alive in the world today."
Fusebox Festival will take place from Apr. 25 – May 6, 2012. Tickets and passes go on sale Feb. 27, 2012 and can be purchased at www.fuseboxfestival.com