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Artwork by Lizabeth Eva Rossof, 'IBush: 1,000 Words for Bush' (2004-2008)
Pod person: Artist Lizabeth Eva Rossof, creator of 'IBush: 1,000 Words for Bush,' will be at tonight's reception at the Sesnon Gallery.

Human Doings

A Bay Area-wide conceptual show opening at UCSC urges viewers to get active about art.

By Maureen Davidson

Duchamp and Dada, Beueys and Fluxus, performance/installation/conceptual/ guerrilla art, happenings, actions--all decried the staleness and sellouts of art institutions and brought art into the streets, to the people, to deal with the gritty stuff of real life. Painting was dead, curators were fascists, galleries commodified art. "Vandals! Terrorists! Pornographers!" shouted the institutions, then identified the upstarts as an art movement and immortalized them in catalogs and exhibitions. That's a coarse history of a century of art protest and absorption--bringing us to Intervention.

The University of California-Santa Cruz has invited nearly 80 officially acknowledged international artist-troublemakers like Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Ant Farm, Annie Sprinkle, Martha Rossler, Suzanne Lacy, the Yes Men and Linda Montano--a few with MacArthur grants and Guggenheim fellowships, a few from surprising backgrounds--to "intervene" with the people of the Bay Area. Folks minding their own business on the street, the bus, the beaches could be interrupted. Passers-by might be brought respectfully into the process of co-creating art "using humor, surprise and unusual associations to overturn assumptions about the world," in the words of organizer Shelby Graham.

"Intervene! Interrupt! Rethinking Art as Social Practice" is a month-long series of such art actions in sites throughout the Bay Area, accompanied by three exhibitions: at the Sesnon Gallery on the UCSC campus, at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art and at the LAB in San Francisco. All events build up to a three-day festival at UCSC May 15-17. There, artists will intervene on campus or nearby and, of course, participate in scholarly panels discussing this art practice that is embedded within the social and political realities of daily life.

A wedding reception on April 4 marked the opening of the festival and the exhibition This Show Needs You at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. Love artists Elizabeth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle are real-life partners engaged in a seven-year performance work called the "Love Art Laboratory." They invite the public to co-create their wedding every year. This year, their fourth, is their green wedding. The ceremony itself will culminate in the intervention festival at UCSC on May 17. Guerrilla artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña and others will officiate. The public is invited to act a part.

At the ICA reception, guests were dressed to the nines, congratulating the thrice and future brides. A gallery displayed mannequins wearing Liz and Annie's wedding costumes from the last three weddings--red, orange and yellow--along with invitations and videos. The day after the reception, about 20 people returned to ICA to participate in a "Bridal Sewing Bee."

"People told stories about weddings they'd been in, and brought and sewed personal memorabilia, shells, beads, birdhouses, on our costumes," said Sprinkle, a porn-star-turned-performance-artist whose work is all about love.

"Interruption of Hierarchies," the exhibition at UCSC's Sesnon Gallery, opens today with a 5pm reception. Curator Shelby Graham has worked to upend all norms, turning the space into a video and prosthetic lending library, radio recording studio and "art lounge" featuring a stealthily overstuffed sofa with subversive sound-messages.

Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nobi Talisman offer opportunities to rant for 30 seconds as part of their "Psychological Prosthetics" series, asking accidental collaborators, "Can I interest you in our 30-second rant recorder to activate your outrage?" If no, then, "Would you prefer a bandage to bandage your shame and soothe your apathy?" They'll even design a custom backpack to carry psychological baggage. Says Hibbert-Jones, "We'd really like someone to let us design their backpack." Their rant machine can be checked out and rants uploaded on a website.

Packard Jennings offers his Anarchist Action Figure and a sign reading "What the F***?" that may be checked out and used at will. The art lounge features flat screen video documentations of interventions like that of Jennifer Parker and Tina Takemoto, who arrived in character to protest a show at the SFMoMA but were assumed to be part of the installation. Two artists tackle the Iraq war. Martha Rosler's photomontages combine combat images with domestic trivialities. A video game by Joseph DeLappe inserts names of the dead servicemen in the Iraq war into an online military-funded video war game: "Bringing the Iraq war home to the lounge/living room, to see how people live with it," according to Graham.

INTERRUPTION OF HIERARCHIES opens Wednesday, April 16, with a reception 5-7pm at the Sesnon Gallery, Porter College, UCSC; see or call 831.459.3606. INTERVENE! INTERRUPT! RETHINKING ART AS SOCIAL PRACTICE opens May 15 at UCSC; see for info.

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