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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Blog: Crystle Reid on ArtHere!

Bedbugs! (photo: Julian Stamboulieh)

January 25, 2012
The concept
by Crystle Reid

You’re in a hotel in downtown Montreal where you come across a bellhop on stilts crouching in the elevator, behind him is a very pregnant woman and her husband yelling back and forth at each other, they appear to have stepped out of a Christopher Guest movie.  The couple has a small crowd of people quietly following them.  When they leave the elevator the pair leads the crowd into a hotel room.  Down the hall you can see a large puppet escorting people out of another room; and you can hear sounds of laughter.  Have you found yourself in some sort of weird wacked out crazy parallel universe?  No, chances are you’ve come upon an ArtHere! event.

The Last ArtHotel! (photo: Julian Stamboulieh)

ArtHere! events challenge the notion that theatre and art needs to happen in pre-ordained traditional settings: a theatre or a gallery.  Rather we choose to bring art to unexpected and new settings: a campground, a crypt, a house, a museum, a hotel, anywhere unexpected.  At an ArtHere! event  there are 15-20 minute performance pieces by different companies and artists happening all around the space in repetition.  Audience members go on an adventure choosing what shows they would like to see.   While not viewing performances they can relax in the main space. It’s the perfect opportunity to have a drink, listen to music, take in some visual art and share thoughts about the pieces they’ve seen.  The kinds of things to experience are truly varied: experimental theatre, stand-up, drama, performance art, comedy, and puppetry, to name a few. In addition to this there is lots of visual art, film and music.  It’s a smorgasbord of art!  

The mission of ArtHere! is to provide artists with a place to connect, experiment and play.  And play they have. Some of my personal highlights over the years have been:  Quality slippers doing a puppet show about polyamorous sock puppets entitled, “Sole Mates” in a kitchen pass through.   Ryan Hurl and Alarey Alsip transforming a small basement room into black light paradise where one audience member enters at a time to dance to old music, color the walls, have a marker fight and get a hug from two fabulously over the top performers.  David Sklar’s piece which featured two soldiers laying on their stomach, lit by the television talking about the war until we discover *spoiler alert*they’re bedbugs.   Brainbow Limb transforming a hotel pool deck into a lounge lizard utopia that audience members could interact with.  Astra’s own sundae bar where guests are invited to make a sundae under the watchful eye of two security guards while being plied with shots of milk.  Mi Casa, who recently presented at Wildside festival, presented a baking show with a pregnant woman who keeps flirting with an audience member to the annoyance of her jealous husband.  Jacqueline Van de Geer crowned herself queen of a bedroom paper bag kingdom and invited guests to listen to childhood hood stories, slow dance and bow before a can of Coca Cola.  Footnotes collective performing a powerful movement piece about creation with music and fire dancing under the moonlight by the lake at ArtCamp!  Chesley Welsh, of Bent by Elephants and friends performing a Gingerbread Man Musical in a tower over looking Old Montreal.  You can see why it’s really hard to predict what’s going to happen at an ArtHere! event!  The possibilities are infinite.

I’m not ashamed to say I see potential performance spaces everywhere!

The first part of any ArtHere! is finding a space.  We look for locations that have lots of potential performance areas, a large enough main space, people in charge who are excited about what we want to use their space for and finally, it absolutely needs to inspire us.  I’m not ashamed to say I see potential performance spaces everywhere!  After the last ArtHotel! our group got together to discuss where the next ArtHere! should be, there were several suggestions: A boat, Red Path Museum, the Olympic Stadium, an office building.  Our publicist Erin brought up that Hi-Montreal is opening a new hostel just around the corner from their currently operating Auberge de Jeunesse.  This piqued my interest because if we could use the hostel before it opened then there would be lots of space available for different pieces!  I requested a visit with the hostel to see if ArtHere! would be a good match for their space.  Fortunately as Nuit Blanche lovers they were excited by the idea of turning the hostel into a performance venue.  I often get asked, “how did you find someone to agree to host this event?”  We pursue a lot of different locations and look for managers and owners that are excited or at least intrigued by what we want to do.  We’re incredibly upfront about our intentions and early on we ask very strange questions.  For example, “are you interested in renting out your laundry room for the night?”  If people balk at a question like this it’s probably not a good match.  In the case of the hostel I knew it was a match made in heaven when they asked, “ are you interested in seeing our electrical room?”  The answer to that would be yes.  The spaces at the hostel are really appealing:  traditional adjoining hotel rooms, the elevator, the aforementioned electrical room, lounge rooms, computer rooms, and dorm rooms with bunk beds.  There are just so many theatrical possibilities with a bunk bed! Shadow puppetry anyone? 

My next task is to find artists who want to take risks and test new ideas. If you’re interested in creatively working in a found space please send us an email.  We’ll send you an application form and an FAQ.  This promises to be a fun ArtHere! as we have the entire hostel to work with as late as we like! 

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