A woman in a cheap ball cap cut fresh ginger while clenching a plastic grocery bag, oblivious to the soaked front of her shirt, which was tucked into her high-waisted jeans, while an elvish guy with his blonde hair in double buns drew a bunch of lines on the wall with some charcoal attached to a branch, intermittently resting in studied poses as he became more and more smudged, paying no attention to the prim lady next to him, who was making the case for reparations from a folding chair, a bottle labeled “reparations” in front of her crossed legs, while a tall imposing person in costume wandered silently in and out of the action.
Nobody should be surprised that all this happened in Highlandtown last weekend, though the fact that it was intentional may raise an eyebrow or two.
The former location of Horton’s House Tuxedos and Menswear, 3320 Eastern Ave., was the scene of a two-hour, pop-up art performance, assembled by Victor Torres, an MFA candidate at the University of Maryland.
The “temporarily unoccupied” space was given new life as a fictitious foreign ad agency. Torres himself created a new foreign language and alphabet and used it to write a creation myth.
Horton’s House had had one of those conveyor hanging apparatuses common to dry cleaners, wherein hung clothes are whisked in a revolving path about the space. Instead of clothes, the hangers held large pieces of parchment, on which Torres has written his myth. Every once in awhile, a recognizable symbol appeared among the glyphs, a light bulb in a closet or a traffic light, for example. The script also featured many outlined hands.
“It’s really talking about the parameters of a fictitious foreignness,” said Torres of the exhibit, as a subtitled video of a Carmen Miranda routine ran on a television in the background, subtitled in Torres’ created language.
“What is our current understanding of foreignness and otherness?” he said. “What is the threshold at which something becomes ‘other’ or ‘foreign’?” The event was a collaboration between Highlandtown Main Street, a program of the Southeast Community Development Corp., the Highlandtown Arts District, and UMBC’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture.
Performing were Hoesy Corona, Sarah Tooley, Kata Frederick and Sophia Mak.
“I’m just so happy to have these performers,” said Torres, who is a UMBC research assistant to Sandra Abbott of the Highlandtown Arts District. “They’re so captivating—so aware of what they’re doing.”
by Erik Zygmont