Expect the unexpected at four-day Transmodern Festival

April 02, 2009|By Sophia Terbush

A mobile nail salon constructed from an Army parachute, a body suit that is a musical instrument and "light milkmaid aerobics and stretching" sound like fantasy, but these are just a few of the art installations for the Transmodern Festival (Live.Art.Action).

The sixth annual festival, which will fill four floors of lofts and galleries in West Baltimore's H&H Building and then spread into the city's Seton Hill neighborhood, gives art enthusiasts four days, Thursday through Sunday, to experience what organizers call "the radical subculture" in the arts community. Each day's events will include performance art, music, video installations and more.

"The festival presents experimental, expectation-defying, interdisciplinary artwork," co-founder Bonnie Jones said in an e-mail.

Jones added that the event represents female, minority and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender artists. "This is one of the principles that the festival was founded on: to provide a venue and resources for, and to celebrate the work of, underrepresented or marginalized artists."

It's also a wider celebration of the arts scene. More than 70 local, national and international artists will participate in this year's festivities, which were organized by a group of 13 curators, artists and galleries, including the H&H Building's Whole Gallery, Gallery Four, Floristree and the 5th Dimension.

"Transmodern has become the big birthday party for Baltimore performance," organizer Ric Royner said in an e-mail.

Co-founder Catherine Pancake added that the event offers artists "opportunities that might not be possible in solo endeavors."

Stephanie Barber, a multimedia artist, is organizing Thursday's opening ceremonies, which will feature video artists Animal Charm of Los Angeles and Shana Moulton of New York.

Barber said the festival has "broadened what is the notion of 'performative.' "

"Animal Charm does live video mixes, so they create the work like a DJ with videos," Barber said. "It's all improvisation." Moulton interacts with her videos, she added.

Other festival highlights include the AVWC, an audio/video lounge curated by local sound "magicians" Snacks; a rooftop installation by local artist Melissa Webb; and Altered States, an exhibit scrutinizing the history of collective action.

Sunday, free Pedestrian Service Exquisite comprises more than 30 artists who will roam the streets, likely amusing and alarming passers-by. Members of the Ambush Theater and the Cause Company, for example, will be dressed as lampposts, shrubs and more.

"If last year is any indication," Jones said, "we're expecting sellout crowds."

if you go

The Transmodern Festival runs Thursday-Sunday at the H&H Building, 405 W. Franklin St., and other sites in Baltimore. Tickets are $10 per day; festival passes are $25 (but exclude Altered States at Load of Fun, 120 W. North Ave. The fee for that exhibit is $5.). Go to transmodernfestival.org.

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