By Wesley Walter, Managing editor
UM students gathered in Alan and Lindsey Song Center for the Art’s Black Box Theatre on Jan. 24 for a night of collaborative creative performances, including live light shows, drag, musical and poetry performances and tarot readings, all hosted by the Slide Art Collective.
SLIDE or Safe Laboratory for Improvisation and Development of Artistic Expression is the brainchild of senior theatre and art major Julia Jones and UM alumnae Josie Daisy.
The show consisted of both planned performances and artistic “playgrounds” in which attendees were given access to craft supplies, noisemakers and projection equipment to engage with freely.
SLIDE’s first performance, which Daisy described as a “dress rehearsal,” was held on Oct. 24, 2023.
Jones spoke on the importance of the black box theatre as a venue saying, “We wanted a space that encouraged, like, technical art and like art that can use technology, and we wanted a versatile space which is exactly what the black box theatre is, but we are hoping to expand to other spaces after this one.”
Daisy said, “I was really excited about how the room that you host something in will change the environment of what happens. If you do a drag thing in Palmer, it’s going to be different than the black box and I think also like the way that the seating arrangement is in the black box is more encouraging for the audience to feel like they’re part of the show rather than like be observant.”
Daisy said the initial idea for Slide came about when she and Jones attended a live show by the hyperpop duo 100 gecs.
Daisy said the show, “combined so many aspects of theatre and performance and music, and we were like Montevallo doesn’t have anything like this.”
Jones said the two also derived inspiration from past spaces in Montevallo such as Eclipse Coffee, where students were encouraged to congregate and share art.
Jones said that Eclipse provided an environment where students could, “Do open mic stuff, display their art in a creative and experimental way, but there’s not that anymore.”
Jones added, “I think also with COVID like people haven’t been collaborating as much anymore. I noticed they don’t get out of their spaces as much, so we were thinking it would be cool to combine different artists and help them meet each other and explore their mediums.”
The collective’s goals lie in not just promoting collaborative creative expression, but researching it as well. Jones is currently using the collective’s performances at UM as undergraduate research.
“Through these performance nights that we host, we will survey the artists and the audience and that’s the whole project, to find out their interests and their expression,” Jones said, remarking that, “The art is the research, but also the artists are the research too.”
While information about the performances will be relayed to UM’s College of Fine Arts at the end of the semester, Daisy said researching collective artistic creation and how to set up a collaborative artistic laboratory is just as important to her personally.
“It’s kind of a call and response with my experiences in academia, like my feelings about my art education and my degree. This is kind of a call and response into like what I’ve missed out of my degree and what I could want to help bring to the community, which is like just live collaboration,” Daisy said.
Beginning at 7 p.m., the show opened with a poetry reading by UM student Faith Liberman, described by Jones as SLIDE’s “poet laureate.”
In a performance of her poem, “In-organized Organized Chaos,” Liberman read, “Archons mull over innumerous imperfect solutions, aberrating next while the chaos spreads infecting everyone it enters dominating its baleful hosts to create more inorganized organized chaos.”
Later in the night, Liberman read a piece of “exquisite corpse” poetry created collectively by attendees asked to write four words including two nouns, one verb and an adjective. These sentence fragments were then arranged together by Liberman into a singular poem.
SLIDE’s environment offers a space where artists and performers can gain experience performing. After the event, Liberman said, “Slide has made me enjoy poetry more and has given me more confidence about reading my poetry in a public setting. Slide is a great place to try new things and present your work because it’s a safe and welcoming environment.”
UM graduate student Maile Miguel led a tarot card reading, open to all attendees. A camera recorded the cards as they were drawn by Miguel, with live video fed into a projector screen as Daisy distorted the color and shapes of the projection.
Following the tarot reading, attendees were given their first opportunity to engage with the artistic playground aspect of the show.
Daisy gave attendees the instructions, “think outside the box,” before she and Jones exited the Black Box, leaving students alone with two cardboard boxes and various craft supplies.
Amongst other creative projects undertaken by attendees during this playground, attendees affixed googly eyes and pipe cleaners to one of the boxes and cut out arm and eye holes to make the box wearable.
After a 15-minute intermission, drag queen JoAnn Crawford performed a lip-sync to “Noel’s Lament” from the musical “Ride the Cyclone.”
Crawford explained her personal connection to the song saying, “Noel’s Lament is from this queer kid in a small town called Uranium City, Saskatchewan and it’s telling how, since he lives in a small town, he fantasizes about living a life that’s grander even if it is horrible and twisted.”
Growing up queer in Oxford Ala., Crawford said it was easy to feel isolated in the small town which was, “Not like what I’ve seen and what introduced me to drag which is ‘Drag Race’ where you have these massive club scenes. So, I always wished for something grander than just small-town Alabama.”
This marked Crawford’s first live drag performance, until then only performing on her Instagram account @joann_from_accounting.
When asked why students should attend future SLIDE nights, Crawford said, “A lot of the artists here are queer. Even though it’s not marketed as a queer art space—everyone here is some form of LGBT or ally and it’s just a really good way to bolster and support—bolster and support upcoming artists like myself.”
The last 15 minutes of the event were taken up by another playground in which attendees were invited to experiment with various pieces of video and projection equipment, noisemakers, audio equipment and craft supplies.
Daisy introduced the playground saying, “Everyone is welcome to come participate because we want to reach a collective expression. This is a test to see if we can practice art as an experience and not a product.”
Music was provided during the playground by members of the Birmingham-based noise and avant-garde music collective Kids at Play.
Kids at Play member Patrick Wilson spoke on the event saying, “I think it was great. I was really happy with the turn out. It’s crazy how much it grew from the first night that we did it where there were like five or six people and tonight there’s a room full of people here, so I’m really like really excited about doing this. I’m really looking forward to the next one that they’re going to have outside I think that’s gonna be fun.”
Reflecting further on the differences between the dress rehearsal and the night’s show, Wilson said, “The first night that we did it, it was kind of like there was a program and we went by it but tonight it seemed like there was a little more spontaneity. Like stuff happened that we didn’t expect. Like somebody came over to me at my synthesizer and was like, ‘Hey how’s this work,’ and I was like, ‘well let me show you’ and like we did stuff that I didn’t expect to do. I think that’s the thing, is like, its good it gives you an experience that you don’t expect and that’s always, you know, like, freeing.”
Speaking on his experience at the show UM student Romeo Garrison said, “I liked the mixed media. I like the different uses of the projections to kind of add on to what we were doing. Even when I was on the floor during the tarot reading, I thought like the distortions on the projections were really cool—but just a lot of good spectacle.”
UM student Audrey Paige Robinson, who was also present at the event said, “I think it was really cool to see so many interpretations of like what art is to every person, cause it can really be anything. So, I really just loved seeing all of these different people express their creativity in the group playtime and in the individual performances.”
Daisy expressed hope that the performance and future performances will allow attendees to enjoy the collaborative creation of art for the sake of art alone, saying, “I feel like in school and in also just in the world they encourage you with your art to make something that can be like condensed and commodified.”
“I’m excited about SLIDE because I think it’s a protest to that,” Daisy said.
“These nights are art itself, the feelings you feel and the experience that you have is the art and it’s something that only happens once. It lives in the moment,” said Daisy. “If you want to be involved in community and enhancing your creativity and also just enhancing your liveliness then I recommend you come out.”
As of now the collective is planning another show at UM in March. Information about future shows can be found at SLIDE’s Instagram, @slideartcollective.
Wesley Walter is managing editor for The Alabamian. He is a junior English major and mass communications minor. Wesley boasts a 750 credit score, boyish good looks and soulful eyes that contain a deep indescribable sadness. In his free time, he enjoys travelling, visiting gas stations and thinking about getting into surfing.