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On Exhibit: Performance art featured at Collar Works

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Entering into the gallery, it feels like things are both in motion or are debris from something long gone. Two large bison head sculptures, created by artist Rachel Frank, still atop a canvas platform. A few still shots of Frank wearing one of the heads are on display next to the heads.

“[What’s here] is either an artifact of a performance piece or in anticipation of one,” said Elizabeth Dubben, the executive director of Collar Works.

“Transactional Days,” one of the two exhibitions at Collar Works, has a focus on performance art, but that’s not to say that there’s not plenty to see if you’re not there for an actual performance.

Curated by Justin Baker, a Capital Region artist, the exhibition asks the viewers to engage in a “transaction” of sorts.

It’s perhaps felt most directly with Valery Jung Estabrook’s “Hometown Hero,” a large installation that is quite literally a living room, complete with an easy chair, lamps, wall hangings (all made by the artist). A television placed in front of the chair plays a video that Estabrook made and is in.

“It’s like she’s inviting you to watch her with her,” Dubben said.

Estabrook is looking outward and inward, examining the artists Asian American identity with the desire to “Make America Great Again.”

Hers is more of an ongoing performance piece.

For artists like Ed Atkeson, the work is more dependent on time.

Atkeson has written a play and set up a stage with puppets and paintings. The full performance of “Picasso the Poet” will be at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

“We have performances all month long,” Dubben said.

The following Saturday, April 6, there will be a “Chicken Dance” performance by Jack Magia followed by an “All Dicks on Deck” performance by Hana van der Kolk. The exhibition will wrap up with an artist talk on April 27 and then a “rewilding” performance by Rachel Frank on April 28. But the art doesn’t stop with “Transactional Days.” It continues in the Collar Works Lab with “Article 13.”

“If you move through ‘Transactional Days’ [into ‘Article 13’] you have a complete shift in emotion,” said Sandra Rouse, “It heightens your awareness of the severity of the issue of immigration.”

The Troy-based artist and member of the Ragged Edge studio curated “Article 13” with Anne Liljedahl. As the title suggests, each work reflects a moving piece of the idea of immigration and the freedom to cross borders (as outlined in Article 13).

Two haunting paintings by Jean Tansey, “Refugees Walking” and “Hiding from Soldiers,” are at the forefront of the exhibition, reflecting the terrifying experience of fleeing a country. Within the works, Tansey references South Sudan, though the sense of fear is no doubt shared by those fleeing other countries as well.

Other artists, like Niamatullah, offer poignant portraits of children in Afghanistan, some crying out in pain, others giving the viewer a hard look.

“His art is an expression of what he’s seen,” Rouse said.

In a mixed media piece, the Rabbi Linda Motzkin from Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs created a work using handmade parchment and Hebrew scribal arts. It’s stretched out across a wooden frame with what looks like pulleys as if the message itself is being pulled or stretched.

Surrounding the exhibit, there are a few key events that Rouse is hoping will start a bigger conversation about “our broken immigration policy.”

On Saturday, from 2 to 4 p.m. Rana Bitar, a poet and local doctor from Syria, will be reading from her forthcoming book, “A Loaf of Bread.” Jad Jacob will be showing his documentary, “iamsyria,” which tells the story of Syrian refugees who left their country for Germany. There will also be a conversation between Bitar, Jacob and artist Nada Odeh, who left Syria in 2013. Some of her works, which are part of “Article 13,” touch on her experiences there and explore what it means to be an immigrant.

Then, on April 22, there will be a forum with Samantha Howell of the Board for the NY Civil Liberties Union, Dr. Dina Refki, interim co-director of the Global Institute for Health and Human Rights at SUNY Albany and Terence Diggory of the Saratoga Immigration Coalition. They will discuss immigration and its impact on the Capital Region.

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