We’re all familiar with the phrase work-in-progress. Regardless of how and to what it’s applied it consistently connotes incomplete, unfinished, ill-suited for public consumption. We don’t read books before they’re bound or hear songs before they’re recorded, we barely look at a Facebook photo before it’s been cropped, resized and retouched. Our role is often limited to viewer of the polished product, not voyeur to the process; they never let us watch.
This is the appeal of Art Battles, a freestyle art competition that is uniquely reliant on audience participation and approval. At Art Battles, creation is celebrated and transformation encouraged. And while the final product determines the winner, the entertainment relies on the interim.
I attended my second Art Battles Friday night at Le Poisson Rouge. My first was about 4 years ago. It was held at a random empty space in Soho, music was playing though a DJ may or may not have been present, they were serving cold beers out of a cooler.
Nearly half a decade and an MTV special later, Art Battles has raised its' profile. This time, DJ Jus Ske hit the ones-and-twos and Danny Simmons--creator of Def Poetry Jam--MC’ed. Though apart from that and the venue swap, not much has changed. The formula doesn’t need much tweaking.
During Round One, entitled KongZilla, NYC-based artist and Art Battles creator Sean Bono battled three unknowns to determine who would advance to the finals. The artists were provided a live model as well as cardboard cut-outs of both King Kong and Godzilla. They each created their own vastly diverse interpretations of the male/female struggle as the equally diverse audience looked on.
With a colorful celebration of the female model, NYC-native and University of the Arts graduate, Andre “Dre” Trenier, advanced to Round Two. There he battled the most recently victorious Art Battles alum, Leif McIlwaine, an “aerosol artist” from Salt Lake City. The two went head-to-head on large black-and-white canvases and freestyled into the night.
By the time they were done a divided audience was unable to determine a winner, a sudden-death over time ensued, taking us well past 2 a.m. I believe a victor was eventually determined, but I can’t even recall who it was. Once you’re involved in the process, you become far less concerned with how it turns out. You’ve already gotten your fix.
Final Word: For more information on Art Battles visit their website. Images on this post have been provided by KirillWasHere.