Arts In Context Shorts: A Strange Pilgrimage

This week’s episode of Arts In Context Shorts features “Strange Pilgrims” at The Contemporary Austin. This experiential art exhibition, takes its name from Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez’s 1993 book of short stories, wherein Márquez characteristically loops together strange, magical, hallucinatory stories. With its newest exhibition, the Contemporary takes spectators on another kind of magical pilgrimage through time, place, imagination and perception.

Curated by senior curator Heather Pesanti, “Strange Pilgrims” is the Contemporary’s first large-scale, thematic exhibition, spanning three locations – the Jones Center, the Laguna Gloria and the Visual Arts Center in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas – and an extensive, 14-artist lineup. The exhibition is broken up into three thematic sections: Environment and Place, Performance and Process and Technology and Information.

The exhibition features a combination of newly commissioned works, site-specific refabrications, and existing works from an international lineup of artists, including Ayşe Erkmen, Sofía Táboas, Yoko Ono, the Lakes Were Rivers collective and Charles Atlas.

From giant vats that pump out large quantities of foam to indigo stained sculptures, Strange Pilgrims covers a wide variety of mediums and ideas. Sometimes challenging, often interactive, and always fascinating, The Contemporary Austin has elevated experiential art to a new level.

Strange Pilgrims is on view until January 24, 2016.

Arts In Context Shorts: Body Shift

Creating “ECHO,” an improvisational, site-specific dance, the dancers of this Body Shift Performance Workshop have honed the skill of open awareness.  Each individual explores improvisational dance by tuning into his or her own body and choosing a movement that will benefit the design of the whole dance.  This allows the dancers freedom to do the dance that only they “know how to do” with the accidental moments of improvisation shining through like hidden gems.

Body Shift is a collaboration of Forklift Danceworks and VSA Texas and offers classes and workshops which empower people of all abilities to embrace dancing in their own unique way.

Arts In Context: Bike Zoo

Take a walk – er, ride on the wild side.

Giant rattlesnakes, bats, and butterflies parade down the streets thanks to the Austin Bike Zoo. This mechanical menagerie is the brainchild of Jeremy Rosen, a UT grad with a degree in mechanical engineering. Rosen began the project with a simple goal of creating whimsical ways to play with bikes and ended up with a collection of intricately engineered animals. Part puppetry, part engineering, and all fun, the Austin Bike Zoo inspires wonder and delight everywhere they go.

“We have our own style and our own way of doing things,” Rosen said. “It really is original.”

Arts In Context Shorts: Barrio Writers

By empowering teens through creative writing, higher education, and creative arts, the Barrio Writers are reinstating the term “Barrio” to its original meaning – community – and embracing it. This writing community began with small workshops at El Centro Cultural de Mexico in Santa Ana, California and have now evolved into week-long, intensive programs on university campuses across America. At the end of the week, the Barrio Writers transform their stereotypes into a place of positivity and become empowered in their own words. Having also published several summers of writing into anthologies, they collaborate to promote diversity, cultivate creative writing, and offer a new voice in literature. Get information about events in Central Texas at

Watch full performances from students who participated in the Austin program this summer.

Arts In Context Shorts: Sweet Art

AICS SWEET ART ANNIE DECORATINGEach time Annie Varghese starts a new cake, she feels like it’s her first one, and she won’t stop until she reaches perfection. She found her passion for cake sculpting from baking cakes for her children’s birthdays, and now she uses traditional flavors and ingredients to transform her cakes into a limitless, fictional world. She believes that every cake is a chance to explore her imagination, and she uses clean lines and balanced color tones to add details and create larger, more extravagant cakes. Her passion shows that cake isn’t just a sweet treat but an exciting art medium.


Arts In Context Shorts: Riding the Line

This week, Arts in Context Shorts takes you up handrails and down half-pipes to explore skateboarding culture in a new light.

Torque and Axis, an exciting new exhibit by artist Jared Steffensen, showcases the materials, shapes and movements generated by skateboarders as they travel through urban landscapes in innovative ways. Using bright colors, fluid lines and repurposed materials, the exhibit emphasizes the contemplative and imaginative aspects of skateboarding. Many of the exhibit’s sculptures highlight the beauty of skateboarding equipment while a film installation explores the perseverance skateboarders employ in their practice.

Presented by the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas, Torque and Axis pulls skateboarding into the art world with fascinating results.

Arts in Context Shorts: Wildly Strange

This week’s Arts in Context Shorts features Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s eerie photographs that possess a “wildly strange” nature. Often employing masks, dolls and sometimes his own children set against abandoned buildings and other eerie backdrops, Meatyard’s work differed from the documentary, photo-journalism approach that defined the mainstream definition of the photographer in the 1950s. His photographs blur (often quite literally) the distinctions between literature and visual art, encouraging viewers to explore the role of fiction in the photographic images and their representation of reality.

Arts in Context: The Thing We Are Not

This week’s Arts in Context Shorts features the work of artist Denise Prince. Across the disciplines of film, photography, painting and object making, Prince’s work employs the commercial language of advertising to make explicit what is real or deftly, its counterpoint, fantasy. Prince’s portrait on cancer survivor and apparel designer Gail Chovan is supplemented by wit and made clear the pleasure with which she constructs narratives and then disrupts them. Through the artistic process, Prince has learned to live better by uncovering the thing we are not.

Arts In Context Shorts: Experimental Response Cinema

This week’s Art In Context Shorts focuses on a group exploring the limits of film. Experimental Response Cinema showcases those films that explore the untapped possibilities of cinema. By unearthing experimental films hidden in archives and publicizing new experimental works, the local organization offers viewers the chance to marvel together as images merge, pop, and glide across the silver screen. Highlighting the works of filmmakers like Roger Beebe, whose films combine multiple projectors and innovative cinematography, Experimental Response Cinema is an invaluable contributor and cultivator of Austin’s robust film scene. Creating installations that are half film and half art to audiences eager to experience a unique and imaginative side of cinema.

Arts In Context Shorts: Second Saturdays

This week’s Arts In Context Shorts focuses on a monthly arts event for families. Every second Saturday of the month, The Contemporary Austin hosts family art-making activities at Laguna Gloria. Second Saturdays is a great way to make contemporary art accessible to families as it provides the opportunity to spend a relaxing day in a beautiful sculpture garden and learn about how nature influences art. Canopy Tower, a sculpture crafted specifically for Laguna Gloria, provided the inspiration for the table-top biospheres families gathered to create here.