Arts Desk

Would You Like Fries With Your Performance Art?

From the start, art doyenne Philippa Hughes has said she's all about making art accessible. The only problem with making arts accessible via art party, of course, is that people still must elect to go to the art party.

Evangelizing for performance art might be even tougher. Or at the very least, Hughes says, the form faces a slight stigma, even though it can force a deeper level of engagement.

Through her events site the Pink Line Project, Hughes means to start presenting more performance art. The first installment, taking place this evening, is set in an appropriately populist venue: a restaurant. Tonight at Smith Commons on H Street NE, Pink Line is hosting "Drawing Lines" by the group Aether Art Projects, a performance in which onlookers can be participants rather than mere observers.

According to Aether's website, the event “is a performance piece based on the improv game in which participants are given lines on slips of paper that they have to incorporate into a conversation. The objective is to integrate your line without whomever you're talking to noticing that you've said your line. If your partner calls you out on saying your line, they win. If you successfully slip in your line without them calling 'Line!' then you win." A little like Telephone or Charades, basically.

For Hughes, it’s a chance for a "non-art" individual “to sort of experience art in a different way, not just in a quiet snooty gallery,” she says.

Hughes chose to work with Eames Armstrong, the founder  of Aether Art Projects and the artist behind "Drawing Lines," because she had a similar vision about getting more people involved in art. (Hughes previously commissioned Aether to install a yarn work in the temporary Lightbox venue in Anacostia.) “Performance specifically is such an open form," says Armstrong. "It offers a lot of possibilities for engagement and experimentation. I think that the project this Wednesday, it is kind of self-contained, kinda improvised. It occurs on the site at that time, it works with what is already there, with the people that are already there, to have them participate in the work. For me, the idea is to take the performance and to bring it to more of like a social level, to incorporate everyday conversation into the piece, literally generate conversations about art.”

The boozy, bustling Smith Commons—whose owner reached out to Hughes—isn’t exactly a typical venue for visual art. And so for Hughes and Armstrong, it’s perfect. “Kinda makes sense," says Hughes. "It’s where people are. [It] makes sense to bring art to a venue like that."

The performance begins at 7 p.m. at Smith Commons, 1245 H St. NE. Free.

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