OZ Arts | May 17
WORDS Peter Chawaga
Like distinct sounds arranged together in orchestral harmony, simultaneous performances in distinct mediums and disciplines have the power to illuminate one another.
Demonstrating just how symbiotic artistic displays across the spectrum can be, OZ Arts Nashville will present MusiCircus, a compendium of more than 75 musicians, composers, writers, dancers, visual artists, aerialists, performance artists, and culinary artists all demonstrating their crafts concurrently across 43 sections of OZ Arts’ sprawling property.
The event has been curated by Colleen Phelps, an award-winning percussionist who is drawing from the history of artistic “happenings” in the 1950s—freeform, multi-disciplinary performance-art events that were originally conceptualized and organized by art pioneer Allan Kaprow and his mentor, the composer and music theorist John Cage.
While there may be some initial sensory overload, a key concept behind these events is that disparate artistic expression will prompt unexpected correspondence between the works, not competition. Of course, the freeform event will also embody an edict of Cage’s, who said that the highest purpose is to have no purpose at all.
“The idea behind putting on a MusiCircus now is to bring so many members of the arts community together and to see what combinations we can find,” Phelps explains. “But also, in some ways, losing a sense of purpose to the event would be more in line with Cage himself . . . So, maybe we should just say that we’re having MusiCircus because we just are.”
OZ Arts has secured a wide range of local artists to participate in the event; their ages range from 11 to 70 and their mediums and disciplines of choice run the gamut. Many of those who will be performing side by side have made plans to coordinate their performance in some way, even if they have never met before.
As a sampling of the breadth of the event: The Whites Creek High School World Percussion Ensemble will be performing a samba; the Portara Ensemble choir will be collaborating with the Epiphany Dance Company; the Porch Collective will be contributing spoken-word performance and an audio and visual installation; and the artisan collective Tank615 will be presenting something called Tank Chicken.
An event like this makes the most of the OZ Arts space, which has hosted a wide variety of artistic performances in the past and is a veritable playground for local artists and art lovers. Visitors will be free to survey the artistic offerings as they like, spending as much or as little time as they like interacting with a given performance. Performances will be occurring simultaneously, with the number in progress fluctuating throughout the evening. Some performances will last all night, some will be repeated every few minutes, and still others will be performed differently throughout the event.
“MusiCircus, as a cacophony of simultaneous and overlapping performance and visual art happenings, will embrace the entire campus, indoors and outdoors, with works both intimate and large scale,” says Lauren Snelling, OZ Arts artistic director. “There is no pre-prescribed order for the consumption of these pieces, so audience members have autonomy to design their own experiences—reinforcing the notion that every presentation at OZ Arts is different, designed to suit each individual work, and audiences are encouraged to be awake to the possibilities and fully engaged in the moment.”
Perhaps no single event on the arts calendar is as readily poised to bring the full variety of Nashville’s art scene to its patrons. “The Nashville arts community is showing up with open arms to share their stories and creative talents in a communal environment,” Snelling says. “I encourage all visitors to arrive with an open mind and hope they will leave with a new perspective on what is possible . . . within every discipline of art offered for their consumption.”
MusiCircus will be held at OZ Arts, 6172 Cockrill Bend Circle, on May 17. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; the programs begin at 7 p.m. and end at 9 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.ozartsnashville.org.