Curator Dan Cameron's inaugural New Orleans international art biennial may have seemed like an alien art invasion — flooding the city with mysterious green "P.1" signs and spreading contemporary art and installations to museums and far-flung locations in the Lower 9th Ward — but the second installment (with magenta "P.2" images) should be a more familiar happening. But opening day (Saturday, Oct. 22) features three one-time-only performances, and curious art fans should take note of the quick start to the three-month expo.
"It's fast, so if you miss it, it's over," Cameron says, describing the opening ceremony parade created by mixed-media artist R. Luke DuBois.
Opening day features two parades, highlighting how visiting contemporary artists are interacting with the city's culture. While those events will be over quickly, P.2 also initiates a new dimension, a permanent space and physical presence in the city. Information about P.2 artists, shows and events will be available in Prospect New Orleans' new offices — which Cameron refers to as "Prospect New Orleans World Headquarters and Drop-in Center" — on the edge of the French Quarter (1036 Esplanade Ave.).
Opening weekend features two parades, conceived separately by New York artists William Pope. L and DuBois, and they take New Orleanians' concepts of parading in different directions. A mixed-media artist who incorporates music and sound compositions, DuBois is orchestrating a marching band parade in which three groups (Roots of Music, Eleanor McMain and O. Perry Walker marching bands) split into five groups that will start at different locations and march toward the opening ceremony at Washington Square. Synched up via radio, they will come from as many as five to 15 blocks away and converge on the square playing DuBois' 35-minute composition based on brass band music. DuBois will edit video of the event, and it will be presented at Dutch Alley in the French Market for the duration of P.2.
The ribbon cutting for P.2 is at 11 a.m. DuBois' The Marigny Parade performance begins at 11:15 a.m. and marchers arrive at the park at roughly 11:45 a.m. At 1 p.m., there will be a second-line to the New Orleans African American Museum (a P.2 exhibition space) in Treme.
Saturday at sunset (6:23 p.m.), Pope. L's moving installation Blink will depart from Robert Tannen's Art House installation on the levee in the Lower 9th Ward and travel until its sunrise arrival at Xavier University, where the installation will remain for the duration of P.2.
In preparation for his piece, Pope. L asked for New Orleanians to submit photos that related to the questions "When you dream of New Orleans, what do you dream of?" and "When you wake up in the morning, what do you see?" He created a presentation with those photos, which will be projected from within what Cameron describes as a "moving lantern." It's a former FedEx delivery truck painted black, and the images appear from the back. For the parade, the truck will be put in neutral and teams of volunteers will pull it through city neighborhoods. In several ways, the procession is the opposite of a jazz funeral.
"It strips away the celebratory aspects," Cameron says. "There's no band and no music."
For P.1, Cameron spaced that expo's 81 artists throughout the city, intending to have visitors experience as much of the city as possible as they visited sites. Although Cameron hadn't solicited works addressing Hurricane Katrina, many artists created shows focused on the levee failures and rebuilding. P.2 features fewer artists, but many visiting artists have created New Orleans-specific work.
"We selected artists who would respond to the city in the most dynamic way," Cameron says.
P.2 features 27 artists, including locals George Dunbar, Bruce Davenport Jr., Dan Tague, Dawn Dedeaux, Keith Duncan and others, and American artists William Eggleson, Jennifer Steinkamp, Alexis Rockman and others. Visiting international artists include An-My Le (Vietnam), Pawel Wojtasik(Poland), Ragnar Kjartansson (Iceland), Grazia Toderi (Italy) and Ivan Navarro (Chile).
Museums and universities comprise the majority of P.2 sites, but there are some off-the-beaten-path venues as well. The Contemporary Arts Center features the greatest concentration of work with eight artists. The New Orleans Museum of Art hosts four artists in its atrium, where Steinkamp's installation will be joined by Davenport's depiction of parading marching bands and Le's photographs of New Orleans' Vietnamese community. Tulane University's Newcomb Gallery hosts the costuming work of Nick Cave, which should be of interest to fans of Mardi Gras Indian parade traditions, and the work of Joyce J. Scott, who also will have an opening day performance at the New Orleans Healing Center (a P.2 venue). Other venues include the UNO Gallery on St. Claude Avenue and the Issac Delgado Fine Arts Gallery. Sculptures will be installed at the Piazza d'Italia and 4725 Dauphine St., where Robert Tannen has created Art House at the Levee.
P.2 is smaller than P.1 in both the number of artists and venues. It also is operating on a smaller budget. P.1 overspent by roughly $1 million and had to fundraise afterward to balance its budget. P.2 originally was scheduled for 2010 and was postponed, but Cameron created P.1.5 to showcase local artists and remind the city of Prospect's presence. He says the show of younger artists helped reinforce the idea that there are many relatively unknown but talented young artists in and from the city.
Grounding Prospect New Orleans in the city and encouraging locals to embrace it as their own is part of Cameron's goal. Although he owns and has worked out of his home in Treme, Prospect hasn't had a year-round physical presence until now. Prospect is opening a space on Esplanade Avenue, which will serve both as regular offices and a site for changing exhibitions.
"I want people to understand and absorb that (Prospect) is here in a tactile way," Cameron says. "Prospect isn't something brought to New Orleans."
For details on artists, P.2 sites and events, visit www.prospectneworleans.com.