The horizon for a spectacle of live art, known as Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival, is within eyesight. For the first two weekends in June, performance artists near and far migrate to the Midwest to participate in Chicago’s fourth annual celebration. Scaling between stories of chemical castration (Chicago’s Atom-r) to an “Upgrade You” makeover of normal shoes into expensive ones (China’s Miao Jiaxin), Rapid Pulse thrives on diversity.
Past Rapid Pulse festivals have fostered a sense of home, bringing together personalities and visions to create a Moulin Rouge-Pandora’s Box menagerie, a performance artists’ paradise. The festival presents live art at pioneering Defibrillator Gallery, in their new Noble Square location. Durational performances will take place in storefront windows while additional live works, screenings, artist talks, and events will take place on-and-off site (check the website for details).
Chicago-based Atom-r, a self-described provisional collective exploring forensics, anatomy and twenty-first-century embodiment, will present “Kjell Theory: A Prologue.” The performance juxtaposes the narrative of gay computing pioneer Alan Turing’s forced chemical castration with algorithmic mutations of Guillaume Apollinaire’s 1917 play “Les Mamelles de Tirésias (The Breasts of Tiresias).”
Norwegian artist Tori Wranes is intentionally enigmatic when she describes plans to embody a dream-like character to present a short concert that delivers a message in a peculiar language. She admits to playing with surreal identities, adopting images from her own longing and fantasy. “I am interested in making errors, to make the brain run other errands than usual,” she says in a conversation via email.
Rapid Pulse contributes to a global perception of Chicago as a performance art destination. Though a fundamental way to view performance art, festivals devoted to the medium are rare. Joseph Ravens, director of Defibrillator and Rapid Pulse, believes Midwestern hospitality and the range of styles, forms and geographic representation sets it apart. “I can’t count the number of times international artists have come to us in Chicago and fallen in love with the city,” Ravens says. “They go back to their homelands and speak highly of our hospitality, strong work ethic and our vibrant, community-driven art scene.”
Over the years, Rapid Pulse has seen performances by exiled-artist Sukran Moral (Turkey), Anna Berndtson (Sweden), La Pocha Nostra (Los Angeles/Latin America) and Wafaa Bilal (Iraq/US), to name a few. Last year, “Carlos Martiel (Cuba) wanted to cover himself with the blood of people who live in the U.S. as immigrants. Finding volunteers to donate blood and then drawing and collecting it was a lot of work,” Ravens says.
Despite challenges, Rapid Pulse beats on. Chicago-born Ayana Evans will keep the tempo from the window with her three-hour jumping jacks routine in high heels and full make-up. These dynamics compose the vital signs of Rapid Pulse, leaving the audience with a visceral energy and stretched mind. (Whitney Richardson)
Rapid Pulse is hosted by Defibrillator at 1463 West Chicago, and at other satellite locations. The festival spans two weekends (Thursday-Sunday): Group One from June 4 through June 7, and Group Two from June 11 through June 14. A full schedule of events can be found at rapidpulse.org.