Get ready to rumble

Art of This hosts a 23-day participatory art event 

LYNDALE — It’s impossible to say accurately what’s happening at Art of This Gallery right now, other than it has something to do with a 9-foot cube.

Patty Healy still was constructing that cube less than two weeks ahead of the April 11 opening of “Rumble on the Southside,” a group performance in the spirit of a 1960s happening that was scheduled to play out over 23 days.

“There are some artists that are part of this piece that I don’t really know exactly what they’re going to do,” said Healy, a Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) instructor. “There are some that I don’t know what they’re going to do at all.”

“Rumble on the Southside” was conceived as an open work, which Healy’s co-curator, Anthony Warnick, said was defined by a “give and take” between the performers, as well as between the performers and audience.

“It’s a work that’s dealt with open hands,” said Warnick, a former student of Healy’s. “You offer it to people, and the way that they react kind of shapes it in ways.”

In other words, Healy and Warnick have no script for the three-week piece, and neither do any of the artists they’ve invited to perform in, on and around that 9-foot cube. The curator, in this case, might be better described as a set designer, conductor or referee.

“Nothing that is presented in the show is finished,” Healy said. “It’s not finished until it’s already happened, because it requires the participation of the performers and the audience, as well.”

Stop by Art of This any time before May 3 and you, the viewer, will help shape whatever it is “Rumble on the Southside” becomes.

The term “open work” comes from a book by Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco, but the show promises to be more than an exercise in art theory. Art of This specializes in playful execution of high-concept art pieces, works that are often challenging and experimental while remaining accessible.

Said David Petersen, the gallery’s artistic director: “It sort of has almost all of the components of stuff that we’ve wanted to do in our space.”

“We’ve always wanted the gallery to have as much activity and community involvement as possible, so this format that they’ve created is very ideal for our mission and philosophy,” Petersen added.

At the center of the piece is Healy’s cube, a modular structure designed to be easily transformed or disassembled. When the 9-foot walls are lowered it resembles a boxing ring, a discovery Healy said informed the show’s title.

She and Warnick also want the guest artists to “rumble” in a sense, reacting to and building off of each other’s performances.

Four resident artists — T.J. Barnes, Sam Hoolihan, Sarah Petersen and Jason Gaspar — will perform regularly over the 23 days. A series of guest artists also will visit the gallery as the work unfolds.

The gallery’s regular events, including an April 21 installment of its Improvised Music Series, will go on as scheduled during
the rumble.

Warnick will help set the stage for the event with two interactive sculptures, both of which are witty mash-ups of old and new media.

He planned to create a wall drawing of the front page of the New York Times with its headlines removed. Text messages from gallery visitors will be displayed in their place.

Facebook, meet the Old Grey Lady of journalism.

Another of Warnick’s sculptures will print out Times headlines in real time as they are posted to the paper’s website. The printer will feed into a shredder placed directly over a fan, instantly turning all the news that’s fit to print into confetti.

“It turns the space into a kind of party atmosphere,” he said.

What type of party will it be?

Well, it depends: Are you going to be there?

Go see it

“Rumble on the Southside,” runs through May 3 at Art of This Gallery, 3506 Nicollet Ave. S. 721-4105. www.artofthis.net

For a continuously updated schedule of events during the exhibition, visit www.rumbleonthesouthside.wordpress.com.
Not all events are open to the public.