On a blustery Saturday afternoon, seven artists have gathered to scope out a raw warehouse space in a massive building in the Fort Point Channel neighborhood. The ceilings are water-stained, tattered paint-stained rags and paint canisters are scattered on the floor, and fuse boxes and gas meters are the most conspicuous wall decorations. But nobody seems to notice. Theyíre all carefully considering the distances between cement columns and various surrounding walls as they stake their claim on the plot of floor that will best suit their installation, exhibit, or performance. These artists, who are meeting with Jed Speare, director of Mobius, are among the many participating in this yearís ArtRages, the 14th annual "art party FUN(d)raiser" for Bostonís oldest artist-run center for experimental work in all media.
Next Saturday, November 23, the 7500-square-foot room will be the site of an all-out blitzkrieg of alternative artwork that will spare none of the senses. The zigzagged periphery will be teeming with installations and displays ranging from video to performance pieces to sound art to sculpture and including several medium-crossing hybrids. The center of the low-ceilinged space is reserved for the stage, where performers will unleash kaleidoscopic sound and dramatic fury. The roster of bands stretches from a calypso group to avant-garde jazz artists to a master of the electro-acoustic sounding bow.
That would include local punk cabaret outfit the Dresden Dolls, whose frontwoman, Amanda Palmer (also known to Harvard Square residents as the Eight-Foot Bride), is appearing in her third ArtRages. "Itís a nice Ďbest-ofí for Mobius," she says. "For people who donít have the stomach to venture out and see performance art, this is great event where people can sample what local artists are doing. Itís such a great way to feed an audience: surround them with art and artists so they can feel the energy of what Mobius does all the time."
Although the party reflects the range Mobius offers throughout its 45-week programming year, this mainlined jolt of its æsthetic is far more intensive than anything you can experience in Mobiusís intimate Congress Street gallery. Each artistís work is a cross-sensorial field trip in itself. But when you experience something as part of a concentrated multimedia carnival, the effects could be alchemistic. Thereís no telling, for instance, how one will perceive Magda Fernandezís installation, which she dubs a "digital protest against the unverified victory of the Bush administration," when roving performance duo Marjorie Morgan and Tom Plsek, respectively a "voice hyperactivist" and a "trombone explorer," sonically saunter before it.
"What makes ArtRages exciting is that it brings a high-art concept to the party atmosphere," says Mobius member David Franklin. "People have this preconception that art is a stuffy thing in galleries with bare white walls, very hushed and reverent. On the other hand, I know many who like a good party but find typical clubs to be too commercial and predictable. At ArtRages, you get the uniqueness and creativity of the art world in the excitement of a temporary nightclub atmosphere."
Throwing an eccentric arts-centric bash that resembles the loft parties that flourished in Greenwich Village à la Andy Warhol in the 1960s suits Mobiusís cooperative culture. Those who exhibit or perform in its space are often members of the Mobius Artists Group, but they donít have to be. The same goes for the party. As much as it is a fundraiser, ArtRages is also a way for the group to hold out a hand to new artists and boost its exposure. But with drinks to sip on and no scant selection of conversation starters in full view, another end should be easily achieved.
"People should be engaged and have fun and be a little bit caught off-guard," says Speare. "And thatís definitely going to happen."
"Mobius ArtRages: THE Outrageous Art Party FUN(d)raiser" takes place next Saturday, November 23, from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at 205 A Street in Fort Point Channel. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door ($15 for card-carrying members of other Boston cultural organizations); call (617) 542-7416.