Small Plots art installation to culminate at Dash game

by Keith Barber

Blurring the line between art and life is the driving force behind Lee Walton’s public art installation, Small Plots, part of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Arts’ Inside Out: Artists in the Community II series. For the past month, a group of 25 local actors have performed six different scenes in 18 different settings around Winston-Salem. On at least one occasion, there was no audience for a performance. However, even that experience informed the artists, Walton and SECCA curator Steven Matijicio about a subtle aspect of public art. “The break-up scene happened in a park when it was pouring rain, there was nobody else there,” Walton, a Greensboro artist and UNCG professor, said. “It was just two actors going through a performance. It was like poetry. These people got up that day, drove to Winston-Salem and performed — not creating a spectacle but these orchestrated things were happening.”

On Saturday, Walton is assured of a large built-in audience as Small Plots concludes with an interactive performance at the Winston-Salem Dash’s home game against the Wilmington Blue Rocks at 7 p.m. A former college baseball player, Walton said the opportunity to stage a performance during a sporting event offered him a unique challenge. “I’m a big baseball fan anyway, and the idea of creating a life theater that would use the culture of the crowd as the piece, we ran with it. We thought it was a great finale,” Walton said. Matijicio said the final installation of small plots will continue the theme of accentuating the theatrical aspects of everyday life. “Lee always had an interest in the dialogue between sports and art — finding the comedic aspects of sport and looking at the theater of the sports event,” Matijicio said. “It was the idea of looking at eccentric fans and how they are a vital part of the sports experience.” Scorecards with the nine characters listed will be given out to everyone who enters Wake Forest Field on Saturday. Fans will be encouraged to look for characters like, “fan with too much popcorn, clumsy fan with drinks and fan with iPod dancing.” The trick will be determining the actors from the real patrons, Walton said. “I’ve never been that interested in creating a spectacle,” Walton said. “I wanted something that kind of seeped into the crowd so the performance could be next to you or the row behind you. So instead of the performance being on the field, everybody is suspect, even the person you came to the game with.” The Dash performance is a larger-than-life way of “bringing art into the public realm that people can have fun with,” Matijicio said. Walton defined Small Plots as “lifeslash-theater,” and said the plot entitled “Lost Businessman” could be called “social architecture.”

What Walton found most fascinating about the Small Plots pieces was the way each setting created a different reaction in the unsuspecting ?????????? audience. For example, the “Man Pushing Heavy Box” scene performed on a downtown street elicited a different response than the same scene played at Reynolds Park. “You see it dawning on them that something interesting was happening,” Matijicio said. “It’s theater happening every day. You know the rituals inside an auditorium. What do you do when it’s in the public realm? Do you clap? Do you speak with the performer afterwards?” For the unsuspecting audience, public art of this nature is hyper-real, Walton said. “They might go home and tell their friends and still not be able to understand what’s going on. The edges of where the art is gets pretty blurry,” he said. During the past month, onlookers would often ask Walton or Matijicio if they knew what was going on but they never let on. After the plots ended, the actors just walked off, Walton said. “Spectators may not ever know what was going on,” he said. “Then you’ve got the audience that’s in the know. We’re inconspicuously watching, so there’s a couple layers of theater. The audience turns out to be some of the more interesting performers.”

SmallPlots sketches will perform Saturday at Gene Hooks Field at Wake ForestBaseball Park (formerly Ernie Shore Field) at 7 p.m.

“Too Many Oranges,” one of Lee Walton’s Small Plots, plays out in downtown Winston-Salem. (courtesy photo)