The Vertigo Files


A Photojournalism Essay By Emmett Lynch

Students fill Kamerick Art Build awaiting for doors to open.    

F2. Two Live DJ's scoring the Vertigo Night. 


Whenever one hear’s of an art show, they normally think of a quiet room filled with hung paintings, right? Now if you hear the words ‘Performance Art’ show, then you are in for one of the most memorable nights to date. On the dark and cold night of November 29th, the University of Northern Iowa Art Gallery held its annual showing for works of the performance art catalogue. With the event beginning at 6PM on a school night, there was more than enough time for the preparation and anticipation to be seen. In Figure 1. hundreds of students can be seen gathering inside the Kamerick Art Building waiting for the doors to open.

 

The brightly lit hallway filled with joyous faces all ready to be shocked with wonder from what stood behind those doors. Once walking through those doors, you immediately were submerged into the true beauty of performance art. The shift in vibrations from the hallway to perfectly dim lighting inviting you into a world where creativity could come to light. Complemented by moody music to open the the mind of the incoming spectators. Live DJ’s scored this event right by the entrance doors in assurance to also attract in more guests shown in Figure 2.


F3. Live characters of the exhibit interacting with guests.
F3. Live characters of the exhibit interacting with guests.

Walking into the gallery was its own experience. Now this is when it was time to soak in the true meaning of performance art. In a very spacious room, the bystanders move in a clustered line all going in the same order. Not many immediately branched off into stepping further in and viewing the other works of art in the back. Everyone just stayed tightly together all getting used to the ambiance of performance art. The unique thing about performance art, is that the artworks itself can engage with the viewer. Nearly 5 minutes into the exhibit, two loud and deranged characters antagonized members of the audience. The act of improvisation was key for these two men. As they would approach bystanders in the manner of patrolling the area, but in a very aggressive, yet amusing way. The topic of conversations ranged from ‘how safe are you keeping this area’ and ‘let me see your ID’. The two men were willing to state their names and purpose of performance. In Figure 3. Sergeant Johnson and Sergeant Cornbaum were on the job and in character. Taking patrol of the exhibit by interacting with the audience. When interviewed, these to men stated “It’s a safety bulletin company”, Johnson said. While Sgt. Cornbaum snickers “my  father owns this company”, sending the two into another outspoken frenzy. They handed out cards that had the worry ‘sorry’ on it in a very tiny print, and continued to patrol the exhibit.

 

F4. Masked nude woman dances freely in transparent cage.
F4. Masked nude woman dances freely in transparent cage.

That was a great way to get the audience loosened up and more involved. Now there were people walking everywhere emotionally reacting to some of the more outgoing pieces of art. One of the more polarizing pieces for the audiences are usually the one involving sexual material. In Figure 4. There is an increasing crowd around what appears to be a nude, dancing woman. Surrounded by a transparent cage, this masked woman seductively danced as dollar bill trickled along the walls of her confinement. The colorful light from the cage, bounced off of the ceiling. Letting this masked woman's energy spread throughout her side of the room.


F5. Woman guts fruits of red labor in between her legs.
F5. Woman guts fruits of red labor in between her legs.

Whenever you advanced past the free-spirited woman, there was much more beauty to admire of female culture. In Figure 5. Lays a woman on a an wall-white bed spread complimented by a white background. The interest in her piece was that she was dissecting the insides of grapefruits and other fruits. Leaving nothing but red stains all over the white bedding. The stains lie in between her legs as she balances a mirror. Making it for whoever to stand evenly with her, see themselves. This was some sort of sign that shows the beauty of a woman, as well as the pain she feels on a monthly basis.

 

F6. Pages being ripped out of vintage dictionary.
F6. Pages being ripped out of vintage dictionary.

On the opposing side of the exhibit, there was a very intriguing piece of art. This piece involved ripping the pages out of a book that is full of use in human history, the dictionary. In Figure 6. Can be seen a vintage dictionary, with the page actively being ripped out. This can be a sign of the how the performers don’t need words to express themselves. Therefore, a dictionary is potentially obsolete in the performance art world. Without being sure about every technicality of performance art, an interview with an executive of the gallery was overdue.


Director of UNI Gallery, Darrell Taylor at Vertigo Night.
Director of UNI Gallery, Darrell Taylor at Vertigo Night.

Gallery Director, Darrell Taylor brought his acquired knowledge to the true origin and meaning of performance art. When asked about the purpose of performance art; Taylor replied, “It’s a many fold question, but it gives artists a chance to think of their art in more than two or three dimensions. It’s more than something that a artist will just want to put on the wall.”

 

This connects because not one of the artworks displayed that night could be hung, or brought anywhere. It was all in the physical moment of pure performance. Taylor described the separation in performance art as “It’s something that you create in time and space." 

Like visual artwork, that takes place in time only.” Taylor continued to spread his knowledge throughout the exhibit whenever asked. Actively helping students find works of art. Figure 7. Shows Darrell spectating the exhibit and working as an aid for the event as well. Taylor directed another impressive exhibit, and looks forward to the talent that next year’s Performance Art show will hold. As Taylor will direct a new group of students into being comfortable in letting their works of art be expressed, in the space of time.

The UNI Gallery of Art will be holding BFA Group Exhibitions for the remainder for the Fall semester, from December 6-15th.