events interviews

The Happening

A few years ago, my colleague and friend, artist Allison Sommers and her husband, musician and scholar, Gerrit Roessler, started to organize artist salons that took place every few months in their apartment. They were hoping to create an environment for artist friends to stretch their creative muscles.

At these salons, music has been improvised and visual art collaborations have started. There have been mini-puppet shows, presentations of computer art in development, a myriad of sketches, paintings and sculptures, clothing, prints and jewelry on view. More wondrous things than I can list. The works are often surprising. Sculptors sing and painters bring in digital art…they cross boundaries to shake up their routines and learn new things.

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Alison’s apartment is quite small, thus the parties are generally pretty small. There is a benefit to the size of these gatherings – the intimacy of them fosters a certain kind of conversation – but last year Allison thought that we might benefit from a larger gathering. The Happening was born.

The first Happening, which took place last August at Skylight Gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan’s famed art district, was a resounding success with a packed space. We are currently in the midst of organizing our second one, which will take place on Saturday September 13th at Gristle Tattoo in Bushwick, Brooklyn. If you will be in the area, please join us. Here is the Facebook Event Page.

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I thought you might appreciate hearing from Allison directly:

Samantha Levin for Creep Machine Magazine: What prompted you to start the salons?

Allison Sommers: After a year or so of living in the city, I looked around and realized that I was friends with more artists than I had ever known in my life, and, furthermore, I respected their work and fed off their energy. I can’t remember what sparked the idea of starting the Salon exactly, but it grew out of this desire to see what happens when everyone gets together, shows work that noone else can see (in progress, not for public consumption) in a safe space, and mixes social life with art life until they’re indistinguishable. It’s a closed, intimate club where special things happen and joys and miseries alike are shared. Everyone sticks their neck out, and there is a power in being in art-cahoots like that. It’s a very old-fashioned sort of dream, a fin de siecle (part II) bohemian rejiggering.

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SL: Why move to a bigger event with the happening?

AS: It was quite organic– after a year or so of Salons, we all realized that we had something together, that there was a power to this unorganized collective that could be harnessed, or at least amplified. Having a public event also meant it was an event of inclusion, whereas the Salons are closed-door and finite (everyone must participate, and only so many can come, if nothing else but because my apartment is only so big). Very importantly, it’s an opportunity to engage in public displays of art without the confines of market or business concerns, something that comes up repeatedly as an irritant, the self-censorship and commodification of art object that plagues our ‘everyday’ work. The Happening is an art-verb for an evening, not a selling event, and it’s important to me that it remains dynamic.

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SL: What are you hoping it will develop into?

AS: Gerrit and I have long, feverish, arm-waving discussions about what we want to do in New York with art and artists. I think that we (and our Salon/Happening compatriots) are very frustrated with the art market and scene that we engage with on a regular basis, and I really think that it’s up to us to bludgeon our worlds into our liking. There are plans for more solidification of collective, more organization of art-political action, but only time will tell whether it’s pie in the sky thinking or merely ideas that are waiting to be actualized. It’s better when it’s a bit of both, I guess.

Learn more about The Happening Here: http://thehappeningnyc.tumblr.com/

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