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We've Got Your Stimulus

Some examples of performances and projects from the last edition of Artists & Models: Extreme Costumes (above), Unhinged Nurses (below right).

The Artists & Models party returns on May Day after two years absence

Not having received any noticeable portion so far of the Obama stimulus money—but there’s always hope—Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center has put together its own stimulus package in the form of its annual fundraiser.

Artists & Models: Stimulus takes place Saturday, May 1, from 9 pm until 2 am the next day at Rock Harbor Yard, and includes 30-some individual artist or artist collective installations and half a dozen or so musical groups, performing music ranging from electronic to what might be called jazz/rock with a humorous twist to neo-classical Indian with sitar to Afro-pop. All extremely danceable, it is promised.

The artist installations are all to a greater or lesser degree interactive with the audience, and so, like the music, geared to stimulating audience participation in the festivities. Moreover, traditionally at Artists & Models events, the audience adds a participatory element of its own in the form of unusual costumes and even impromptu performance activities.

In other words, anything can happen and probably will.

Based on prospectus descriptions, several installations will use audience activities to trigger computer-generated visual imagery and sound. For instance, P.J. Moskal’s component will employ large-screen projections to create a contemplative space for the exploration of issues of real and virtual self. While in Timothy Scaffidi’s project, it is said, a grid of particles flowing around audience silhouettes will generate visual and sound effects that an astute audience member may soon figure out how to manipulate to create his or her own artwork.

A number of others installations sound like biology experiments run slightly amok. The installation by James Andrix and friends will feature a cyborg human brain by way of discovering educational methods appropriate to superintelligent composites, whatever all that means. Meanwhile, Christopher Young’s component will consist of a sculptural installation with video and kinetic elements and an eight-foot androgynous head. Who would want to miss that?

A theatrical piece by Alice Alexandrescu, Mark Tomko, and Kyle Butler will reprise the memorable moment in the movie Free Willy where the whale leaps to his freedom, but here replacing the whale with a buffalo. It’s intended as a meditation on the City of Buffalo and its perennially untapped potential.

And one of the city’s most beloved burlesque troupe’s, the Stripteasers, will do a stage show. The name is pretty descriptive. This is an entirely women’s group dedicated to the noble historical project of reviving and revivifying the ancient art of burlesque, the sexual titillation plus comedy performance form that died out in the middle of the last century under the onslaught of a host of infinitely more explicit forms of erotic display. It’s a kind of feminist art project that a male chauvinist of healthy libido could relate to.

Electronic music will be by Bev Beverly, playing her own dancey compositions. And there are four bands or musical groups: MC Wizzalot & the Hip Hop Tip Top Orchestra, which was described above as jazz/rock with a humorous twist, but that brief description will probably prove inadequate; Orchestra Stimuli, previously and otherwise known as the 12/8 Path Band, a mobile unit doing New Orleans and related music; Family Funktion and the Sitar Jams, a trio of brothers playing, for the most part, guitar, percussion, and sitar; and the Divi Rome Royal African Sound Afro-pop ensemble.

Artists & Models is famous for its novel venues, and the current version will uphold that tradition. The event will be held at the Rock Harbor Yard building, a former industrial facility at 57 Tonawanda Street, lately rehabilitated. It’s the building you see on your right as you approach the west end of the Scajaquada expressway, painted noticeably with bicycles, and bearing the legend “Rock Harbor Commons Opening Fall 2009.” To get to it, exit the expressway onto Niagara Street. Head north, i.e., to your right. Almost immediately, Niagara Street bears left. Straight on is Tonawanda Street. The Rock Harbor Yard building is about 500 feet from where you exited the expressway onto Niagara Street.

Aternatively, free transportation, with parking, will be provided from and back to Buffalo State College lot M, just across Grant Street from the Buffalo State football field.

The cost of the event is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Canadian money at par. Advance-sale tickets can be purchased at Talking Leaves, both locations, Rust Belt Books on Allen Street, the Sweetness 7 Cafe on Grant at Lafayette, the Room on Hertel, the Clarence Center Coffee Co., Goodrich Road, Clarence Center, and at Hallwalls, 341 Delaware, or online at (click on the store button).

You have to be 18 to enter, 21 to drink alcoholic beverages. Food and drink—including beer and wine and non-alcoholic beverages—will be on sale.

Plenty else will be on sale as well, including a variety of souvenirs, one of which is the event excellent T-shirt.

Among freebies will be artist Jax Deluca’s stimulus package, consisting of a set of 64 cards imprinted with wise advice and/or directions composed by the artist. To earn a set of cards, you step up to the installation booth and make a promise—but no need to keep the promise—which will then be inked onto the front of the stimulus package.

Other freebies will derive from various photographic installations, such as Shasti O’Leary Soudant’s gender-bending wheel of fortune installation, in which a spin of the wheel will be used to assign gender-specific props and make-up for a portrait photo that will then be digitally printed and signed by the artist, a gift to the participant.

The Artists & Models event is Hallwalls’ main source of community support. And pretty dirt cheap, as these things go. Doing the math, for the advance ticket, just considering artist installations, it works out to about 50 cents an installation. Considering just musical groups, about two dollars a group.

Considering both artist installations and musical groups, the math gets extremely difficult, but would work out to even more of a bargain.

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