Content in this issue calls attention to a wide variety of presenters scheduled to contribute at the upcoming GAS Conference in Norfolk, Virginia. The Conference is putting the integration of performance within contemporary glass practice firmly on view; not only due to its increasing presence within the field, but also due to the fact that the Glass Studio associated with the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk has become THEE preeminent glass-based institution facilitating glass-based performance and performative inquiry.
Aside from integrating a robust schedule of evening performances within Conference programming, there will also be a panel discussion dedicated to speaking towards the issues related to glass-based performance, its roots, and its direction. Moderated by Ben Wright, the panel includes Erica Rosenfeld (founding member of The Burnt Asphalt Family), Thor Bueno (member of the B TEAM), Charlotte Potter (founding member of Cirque de Verre and Programming Director at the Chrysler Museum Glass Center), and John Roach (installation and performance artist).
The article below is the culmination of a conversation had with Ben Wright and Erica Rosenfeld and personal speculation of the significance of a panel discussion such as this (in this very moment and at this very Conference). It is the draft I submitted in its full, unedited version to serve as supplemental material to what is seen in the Summer 2017 issue of GASnews:
“Performance Anxiety: A Critical Lens on Glass Performance Art” is a panel discussion moderated by Ben Wright (Artist and Director of Education at UrbanGlass) and includes a handful of participants with varying relationships to glass-based performance; each selected to illuminate and expound upon the recent uprising of this movement within our field.
At the time of me writing this piece, those originally listed in the official GAS Conference programming booklet as participating panelists has changed to some degree. Instead, it involves Erica Rosenfeld (Artist and Educator, founding member of The Burnt Asphalt Family), Thor Bueno (Artist and Member of the B Team), John Roach (Performance and Installation Artist), and Charlotte Potter (credentials above, as well as Founding Member of Cirque de Verre).
I can only assume that it’s due to playful witticism, but the panel discussion title certainly suggests a sense of unease, tension, and trepidation when thinking analytically about the current stance of “performance art” within the contemporary field of glass. In fact, I can’t help but recall the observation of Rebecca Park back in 2009 when assessing three up-and-coming performance troupes at the time in her article “Flame On”; of observing the field’s positive response to a new generation and brand of glass theatricality, but also a noticeable “…wariness from the glass community about the idea of performance art.” †
This panel will certainly help us communally collect our thoughts. “One thing that all glass performance has in common is that there is a craft and a labor being performed,” notes panelist Erica Rosenfeld. “So much of what I know about the genre is due to the storytelling of many friends and glass family. I think this panel will add to an already existing oral history of performance in glass.”
Glass-based performance has been described in the opening remarks of the GAS Conference program booklet as “a leading trend” in contemporary glass practice. Although true in some respects, the terminology used in this particular case grabs one’s attention. “It is indeed a trend. But leading?” asks panel moderator Ben Wright. “I don’t think it is leading, because where is it going? I don’t think it really knows. There is not enough critical activity digging into it, writing about it, researching it, [or] putting it into context.”
This is where the function of this particular panel - in this particular Conference - has some real value. Amidst all performance activity slated in the 2017 GAS Conference, this panel discussion is the only scheduled talk within the GAS Conference program that speaks directly about it. This alone makes “Performance Anxiety” not only interesting, but important; a first step (and perhaps a long-awaited first step…) in holding conversation about glass performance quite publically by a variety of panelist perspectives…
…and there is so much to talk about.
Without knowing what the panelists will be bringing to the table, I can’t help but speculate upon topical areas worthy of approaching: our awareness of the history of performance art and what’s being gained/lost in that legacy when glass is interjected; the dominant role of the hot shop and hot glass at present as the primary vehicle for performative activity in our field; the metrics used to assess value or authenticity in this current work and method of working; whether or not anybody truly is a “glass performance artist” and how we differentiate between performance practitioners from occasional dabblers; and so much more.
Although this panel discussion is the first opportunity at a GAS Conference to publically examine the intersection of performance and glass, I certainly hope it’s not the last. In all of its recent, rising popularity – and amidst it’s yet to be fully recognized past – there is so much to contextualize. As it stands, glass-based performance is one part tool, one part trend; predominately fixed in spectacle, but lending way to occasional moments of something truly exceptional and challenging.
† Rebecca Park, “Flame On.” Glass Quarterly, Spring 2009, Issue 114, pg. 32.
Glass Program of the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.