Weekend at Berenice: Performance Art is well and alive in the Hillsides of Los Angeles
By Lara Salmon
On April 28th and 29th a group of young performers gathered at a mountainside home in East Los Angeles to create a weekend of live art. Titled ‘Weekend at Berenice’ in honor of the winding street it occurred on, the ten performances took place throughout the exterior of the house: on the stairs, under the balcony, in the garage, and on a bright yellow stage created by one of the participants. In addition to the ongoing performances was a collection of sculptural pieces to be found around the yard. The atmosphere was of peers supporting each other—a place for unfettered creative risk. Viewers soaked in the afternoon sun on outdoor sofas, blankets and pillows. The herbal-spliff bar “Qu” continually fueled a palpable sense of California chill.
Alexsa Durrans and Miles Brenninkmeijer, two of the event organizers, kicked off the weekend with a dance piece on the bright yellow stage. Wearing roller shoes in which the wheels had been replaced by squeaky dog toys, their performance emanated a cacophony of squeaks. Their choreography was reminiscent of synchronized swimming, coordinated and yet never quite in sync. Perhaps the pinnacle of the dance came after its conclusion, as the duo squeakily bounced off the stage, up the stairs and out of the audience’s vision.
This act was followed by immediate deconstruction of the yellow stage. On a mission unannounced to the audience, Amelia Charter began unscrewing the top yellow planks from the wooden pallets below them. Balancing planks on her back she separated and arranged the pieces of the stage to stand against each other. Upon completion Amelia announced that everyone was welcome to traverse the “tunnel.” For twenty minutes people crawled through the stage-turned-fort, until she announced again that with their help she would return it to its original form for the next performers to utilize.
Not all the work, however, took place on the property. As the sun began to set visitors’ attention was drawn to the hill a couple hundred yards away where Sterling Hedges, the third organizer-cum-performer of the weekend, could be seen along the horizon. He engaged the landscape in various motions, eventually sliding through the brush to create a line upon the mountain. This trace remained, a remnant of an action turned geometric in its poetic intention.
A highlight of the first day was the piece by Jasmine Nyende—a poet, musician, and model who merges these talents in her performance work. She stood on the stairs leading to the backyard, sound system at bay and books in hand. Speaking, “reading,” and almost singing, Jasmine shared segmented emotions of what it is to be her. By witnessing her thoughts and observations, we might decipher something about our own world. The piece ended with Jasmine’s riff upon an electric guitar.
Day two of “Weekend at Berenice” was equally as ambitious and well attended as the first. Performances again took place on the yellow stage and throughout the property. The atmosphere of the event was refreshing in its objective to be a platform for uninhibited creativity, not to be judged by outdated art world critique. It was refreshing to see young performers bring their art form to life with curious fervor.
Perhaps the best example of this was the closing performance of Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai. Prima’s piece took place in the garage, where they used projectors to give a disjointed speech about horizons. It concluded as a window was opened to reveal five silver, shining figures ascending a neighboring mountain. Traversing the horizon, these metallic walkers majestically reflected the sun’s setting light. It was a hope-inspired end to an ambitious weekend of performance.
“Weekend at Berenice” was organized by Alexsa Durrans, Sterling Hedges and Miles Brenninkmeijer. It occurred on April 28th and 29th.
The participating artists were Bapari, Leanna Bremond, Miles Brenninkmeijer, Amelia Charter, Nicole Cooke, Alexsa Durrans, Sterling Hedges, Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai, jose&carolina&magi&allie, Maddy Inez Lesser, Jasmine Nyende, Alana Reibstein, Cameron Taylor, and Gracie Winston.