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MFA students prepare for a ‘weird’ performance

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Camille Bullock (above) will be one of 9 MFA students participating in a performance art exhibition titled ‘You Make Me Do This.’ Bullock’s performance, which includes the theme of a relationship break-up, will entail her eating an entire cake, a behavioral reaction that alludes to the title. Courtesy of OSU

Camille Bullock (above) will be one of 9 MFA students participating in a performance art exhibition titled ‘You Make Me Do This.’ Bullock’s performance, which includes the theme of a relationship break-up, will entail her eating an entire cake, a behavioral reaction that alludes to the title.
Courtesy of OSU

Remember your lines. Hit your mark. Enunciate.

That common advice won’t be of any help to nine theater students when they take a new type of spotlight Saturday at the Urban Arts Space.

Students from Ohio State’s Master of Fine Art acting program will present individual pieces of performance art called “You Make Me Do This.”

The MFA acting cohort consists of students who have created and developed their performance art pieces in a solo theater seminar taught by assistant professor Jennifer Schlueter.

The performance art involves a lot of participation and interaction with the audience, said Camille Bullock, a member of the MFA acting cohort.

“It is this kind of idea where you’re a living installation of art and we all do different things, and interact with the audience. There’s chants and chaos within it ­— it’s kind of alienating for some people, because there are going to be some weird things that are happening,” Bullock said.

The MFA acting students were unaware they would have to do a performance piece, a requirement that was announced in Schlueter’s course last semester.

Jane Elliott, another member of the cohort, said some students weren’t initially thrilled about idea of performance art. The title “You Make Me Do This” is a playful nod to that, but as has more personal connection to the performances, many of which explore behavioral reactions of experiences from the students’ past.

“We didn’t necessarily know we had to do this, but a lot of us are doing pieces that are partial to us and our reactions to things we’ve seen other people do,” Bullock said, “The nine of us have been with each other for 2 1/2 years, taking the same classes and everything.”

Their use of the Urban Art Space will look like a “living art gallery” where each performer has their own area that they’ve prepared for their performance. Some are installing windows and others are incorporating technology into their space, Bullock said.

“This, for some of us, is a companion piece to what we will be doing in our solo show in April,” Bullock said, referring to the solo performance festival that the nine students will also participate in at the Roy Bowen Theatre.

Elliot described the pieces as compulsions performed for the audience because of the way the pieces deal with reactionary consequences. Her piece will involve setting up a domestic dispute and having the audience voting on a decision to be made. After her performance, she will email the audience with the results.

The inspiration for each performance piece came from all sorts of different places, Bullock said.

“My piece is a lot about relationships and breakups and how we deal with that in the digital age. There will be text messages involved — audience members will be able to send me text messages which will be projected on a screen behind me, while I am decorating and eating an entire cake,” Bullock said.

Other performances have been inspired by such topics as censorship, racism, school shootings and domestic violence within the sports community, Bullock said.

“Performance art depends on what the audience is feeling. It is just as much about their reaction to it, as to what we’re doing,” Bullock said.

The goal of performance art, Bullock said, is to make people think or feel. Elliot said another interesting aspect about “You Make Me Do This” is that many of the performances are happening at the same time in close proximity.

“The pieces will really speak to each other,” Elliot said.

One performance piece will be an eight-hour long endurance piece performed by Sifiso Mazibuko.

“I am curious to see what my body in particular can put itself through,” Mazibuko said.

Mazibuko, unlike the others, will perform his piece once and is set to begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday and will be doing different circuits and athletics until 7 p.m. He hopes the audience feels the weight of the repetition.

“The fatigue of the body will influence the atmosphere,” Mazibuko said.

Mazibuko called his performance piece an “individual investigation.”

“We are going to be doing some tasks or performing some things that may look weird or seem strange. I would want the audience to allow themselves to not block off the experience, not say, ‘This is weird, I don’t like it,’ or if they do, to think about why they don’t like, just to kind of think, feel, wonder and question,” Bullock said.

“You Make Me Do This” opens this Thursday at 6:30 p.m. with a reception on Saturday starting at 5 p.m. Its last show is Jan. 29th.

It is set to take place in the Urban Arts Space, located at 50 W. Town St. and admission is free.

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