While the city played host to a plethora events ranging from Austin Food and Wine Fest to Eeyore’s Birthday to Austin Psych Fest, I had a chance to check out the Fusebox Festival in downtown Austin. The mystique lying beneath the title of “contemporary art and performance festival” appealed to my thirst for unlimited options: who needs a festival that ONLY focuses on one thing like music or food, or EEYORE! I need my options of artistic mediums, people. Ok, but really…
Other than hearing about Fusebox in brief passing on KUT, I had no clue what it was. The purpose of the festival is to offer the public a week+ exploration of the arts spanning across music, dance, theater, cuisine, and performance art realms. Each day is something different with more than 50 events taking place in 15 different venues. The featured shows, music, studio art and lectures come from a diverse mix of local, national and worldwide backgrounds. According to Fusebox Artistic Director Ron Berry, “Fusebox champions adventurous works of art across a variety of different mediums. We think there’s something inherently exciting and powerful about this collision of different ideas and perspectives. This notion of hybridity is central to our understanding of creativity. The festival is also a great opportunity to engage with new, emerging artists as well as renowned masters. We hope you can join us.”
A friend who is very active in the San Antonio music scene was participating in this particular Fusebox event which he described as a “rad interactive chamber music thing”. I was instructed to go to the Terrazas Branch Public Library on East Cesar Chavez where I would check in and get instructions on where the event was happening. Once I arrived, I found the Fusebox set-up in a small room in the library. I traded in my ID for a map and a small FM radio with headphones, which I was told would be my source of stimulating artistic wonder for the next hour. From there, the event was set up like this: Within the radius of about a mile, houses surrounding the library were hosting 10 or so musicians who were all given the same composition to play on their respective instruments. By tuning in to the pre-set radio station, you could listen to the hour-long performance while walking from house to house and watch each musician play the piece. The musicians aren’t given a radio and cannot hear what the others are playing – they have to rely solely on time and their own mental capacities in these dead-silent rooms. The composition was very mellow and drone-y, reminiscent of something I would expect to hear a performance art exhibit (appropriate in the given context here). My friend did things on his violin I had never seen before, including some interesting circular bowing intervals. Watching each performer play the same thing within their own context and interpretation was like hearing a different song with each step into the next room. I give Fusebox some great kudos for making this crazy form of art a real deal.
Although this was the only Fusebox event I managed to catch this weekend, I would strongly suggest checking out some of the other things they have to offer. It’s things like this that really work to push and challenge us to go forward and re-invent what we deem “traditional” and “conventional” forms of art. Fusebox runs until May 6 and can be picked apart in full detail here.
Photo courtesy of The Horn