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Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009

Adventures with Number 9 at Performance Art Showcase

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Here's a quick history of Milwaukee's indispensable Performance Art Showcase, founded by Pegi Taylor/Christiansen in 2004 and co-produced annually by Taylor/Christiansen and John Loscuito.

The 2004 and 2005 showcases at Vogel Hall in the Marcus Center took the form of vaudeville revues, introducing audiences to the rich variety of local performance art and proposing many definitions for it. The subtly competitive aspect of that format (Milwaukee's Got Talent!) was erased in 2006 when the participating artists (I was one) collaborated to create a full-length, multidisciplinary performance, Fly, a response to 9/11 and the Iraq war that was greater than the sum of its parts-a democratically created, communal artwork at Vogel Hall.

The fourth showcase, two years in development, made the city its stage. Titled My Vote Performs, this exemplary event took place at Milwaukee's polling sites on Election Day 2008. Lead artists and their teams created site-specific performances in response to a common theme: the act of voting. This first-in-the-nation event received national attention as a model for cities to celebrate voting rights while also providing an extra incentive to exercise them.

All facets of this history-the feast of varied works, the collaborative impulse, and the celebration of freedom and community-are part of this year's showcase, titled 9/9/09 after the date of its upcoming presentation in the large walk-around 4th Floor Gallery at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD).

What's new is the use of a chance element: the number 9. Each artist's work will somehow refer to 9, and the whole event will be structured in 9s.

Each performance, separated from the others by temporary walls, will last 9 minutes and be given 9 times (each time differently). Between segments, artist/DJ Joe Riepenhoff will spin music involving the number 9 and chat in a central lounge where food and drink will be available. Audience members will be free to construct their own adventures, seeing each artist once, in any order, or choosing to return to certain performances, or even spending the entire time with a single performer. They can also contribute their own work: Paper, pens and hanging space will be provided to those who want to draw artist models Pegi Christiansen, Alice Wilson and Sarah Moore as the three take new poses every three minutes, 9 times.

The distinguished group of participating dancers, poets, composers, ritual makers, animators, stand-up artists and installation artists also includes Marie Mellott, A. Bill Miller, Kimberly Miller, Cristian Muñoz, Monica Rodero, Daniel Schuchart, Ximena Soza, Marc Tasman, Heather Warren-Crow and Yehuda Yannay.

9/9/09 takes place one night only, Wednesday, Sept. 9, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, 273 E. Erie St., 4th Floor Gallery. Admission is 99 cents!