News | UH CounterCurrent arts festival brings history into the present
January 30, 2015
By Molly Glentzer | Houston Chronicle
The University of Houston's Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts has scheduled a diverse mix of performances and installations for CounterCurrent 15, its second annual festival of free, experimental live performances, April 14-19.
Although they didn't plan it, a theme of "past and future" serendipitously developed with the works chosen, said the center's director, Karen Farber. "A lot of the artists are bringing historical moments into the present by remixing them in contemporary ways."
As with last year's events, there's an emphasis on projects that involve the community and encourage Houstonians to explore the city. "We're really repeating this experience of being a part of something," Farber said.
She calls the festival "a container for works in Houston that nobody else would be able to present." Some of the performances, installations and happenings are new commissions developed with other organizations. The partners include DiverseWorks, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, the Aurora Picture Show, Dance Source Houston, Blaffer Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the new gallery She Works Flexible (this year's CounterCurrent headquarters).
Two events are drawn from the center's Intersections initiative, a program that is also developing four new works over two years with the aim of changing perspectives about Muslim cultures. Ibrahim Quraishi's "Islamic Violins (ed. II)," an installation incorporating grainy mini-video, saturated sound and suspended violins, will be on view at She Works Flexible. The violins explode, but it's not about violence, Farber said. An homage to the Fluxus movement, the installation is inspired by Persian, Arabic, Urdu and Turkish poetry; ideals of the beloved, serenity and timeless beauty.
The Beirut-based Zoukak Theater Company brings its participatory performance "In Walking Distance" to the UH campus. It's about the role of women in driving political change in the Middle East.
Political change closer to home comes into the spotlight at DiverseWorks with Brooklyn choreographer Dean Moss's "johnbrown," a multi-media meditation on the legacy of the 19th century abolitionist.
Suzanne Bocanegra, who coaxed participants into playing violins at last year's festival, is back with something quite different and star-powered: Actress Lili Taylor will perform her theatricalized "artist talk" "Bodycast" at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Brown Auditorium.
"Cry You One," a collaboration by Mondo Bizarro and ArtSpot Productions of New Orleans, will unfold during a three-hour performance at an outdoor location still to be determined. Originally about the environmental disaster of Hurricane Katrina, it will explore the oil industry and its impacts in this version.
CounterCurrent 15 opens big, with Luke Savisky's "Ht/X," a live video show for the underside of downtown's Allen's Landing Bridge; and end small, with "10 Tiny Dances," featuring performances on a 16-square foot stage by Houston and New York artists.
A total of about 2,500 people attended CounterCurrent events last year, but the scale of each show remains intimate. While attendance is free, some require reservations because viewing space (which does not always mean seating) is limited.
See the full schedule at countercurrentfestival.org.