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Experimental visions: MCA premieres On Edge Festival, four days of performance art

"This World Made Itself," Miwa Matreyek

As a frequent attendee at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Forum Lounge” over the years, it would be fair to say the events — every First Thursday at 7 p.m. — were unpredictable and just as often brilliant as they were half-baked. Sometimes there were short bursts of stunning performance, clocking in at a friendly 20 minutes; sometimes audiences found they had signed up for two hours. It was an experiment that had run its course in a way, but it was also pointing to something bigger, more consistent, and better defined. The On Edge Festival opens this Thursday, and promises the best of the performance art scene.

In its four days, the Festival, curated by Forum Lounge’s Heather Jeno Silva, will put on productions at MCA, as well as at Center Stage Theater, Municipal Winemakers, the Courthouse Sunken Gardens, and a gallery/event space on Canon Perdido.

"Spinning Four," Surabhi Saraf
“Performance has been a big part of CAF’s history,” says executive director Miki Garcia, referring to MCA’ s previous moniker. “It was spaces like this that acted like laboratories in a way, and we’ve had this strong tradition from the beginning. When I got here 10 years ago I wanted to bring it back . . . We’re doing something that nobody else is doing. Arts & Lectures has Philip Glass and Yo Yo Ma, but we’re providing space for the next Yo Yo Ma, the next Philip Glass.”

The On Edge Festival features artists both from Santa Barbara and elsewhere, and a majority incorporate video and interactivity. It welcomes some familiar faces back while exposing audiences to new ones. Whatever you choose to see, you won’t be bored, and best of all the majority of the shows are free.

Thursday, Sept. 18
Sarah Elgart and Arrogant Elbow: “Follow”
Choreographer Sarah Elgart has chosen the Sunken Gardens for her dance piece, which will incorporate the building’s classic architecture and grounds into an exploration of space and history. 8 p.m. County Courthouse Sunken Gardens

Friday, Sept. 19
Elizabeth Folk: “Desperately Clinging to Something That Was Designed to Deteriorate”
Santa Barbara artist Elizabeth Folk personally accompanies participants on a “coming of age” journey, led by her “alter-ego.” 5 p.m. 208 W. Canon Perdido St.

Surabhi Saraf : “Spinning Four”
Surabhi Saraf manipulates the sounds and images of four old metal oscillating fans into a mesmerizing, loop-filled work. 7 p.m. MCA SB

Annie Dorsen: “Spokaoke”
Karaoke with a difference! Annie Dorsen invites willing participants to get up and, instead of singing a pop song, recite a famous speech from history, from Socrates’ “Apology” to a speech from Sarah Palin. 9 p.m. Municipal Winemakers

Saturday, Sept. 20
Miwa Matreyek : “The World Made Itself”

Miwa Matreyek is a good friend to MCA and with each visit her work — an intricate choreography of video projection and silhouette work from the artist herself — becomes more awe-inspiring. This all-ages show is like stepping into an animated children’s book. 11 a.m. MCA SB

Microscope Toy Theater: “The Fisherman’s Dream”

L.A.-based Russian-Israeli artist Yulya Dukhovny creates worlds in miniature and then tells stories with them, incorporating puppetry and cut-outs. It’s fascinating, intimate work. 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. MCA SB

Artist Talk: Janie Geiser, Yulya Dukhovny and Miwa Matreyek discuss their work. 3 p.m. MCA SB

Miwa Matreyek: “The World Made Itself”

Repeat performance, see above. 7 p.m. and 7:40 p.m. MCA SB

Faye Driscoll: “You’re Me (Redux)”
A shortened and rethought version of a piece choreographer Faye Driscoll premiered in 2012 at NYC’s “The Kitchen” in which she and another dancer tell a blackly humorous tale of human devolution and whether two people can really be considered one. 8:30 p.m. Center Stage Theater. Tickets: $15/$10

Sunday, Sept. 21

Microscope Toy Theater: “In a Real Elephant”
The second of MTT’s children’s shows, this story is about a girl whose dying wish is for a real elephant to visit her. 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. MCA SB

Microscope Toy Theater Workshop
If your kids would like a chance to make their own Toy Theaters, Yulya Dukhovny is here to show them how. 12 p.m. MCA SB

Fringe Films
Six experimental filmmakers and their visions push the boundaries of film, including Ursula Brookbank, Sarah Elgart, Janie Geiser, Marc Horowitz, Morrissa Maltz & Lauren Lillie and Abinadi Meza. 4 p.m. MCA SB

Janie Geiser: Fugitive Time
Closing the festival, Janie Geiser uses found objects and cut-outs to spin surreal narratives, in a combination of shot footage and live video. 7 p.m. Center Stage Theater. Tickets: $15/$10

On Edge Festival
When: Thursday, Sept. 18-Sunday, Sept. 21
Where: Various locations
Cost: Free except where noted
Information: mcasantabarbara.org, 966-5373

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