Anna Berndtson
Anna Berndtson Credit: Courtesy of Anna Berndtson

Pure voodoo at its best, performance art traffics in psychic violence, provoking questions that viewers, by virtue of their emotional disturbance, feel compelled to answer. Defibrillator Gallery’s Rapid Pulse, now in its second year, is designed to make the genre more talkative: the festival, which includes window shows, public spectacle, and video screenings, coordinates performances with discussions, spread over ten days and four venues (Defibrillator, 1136 N. Milwaukee; Electrodes, the gallery’s front windows; Hub, 1535 N. Milwaukee; Nightingale, 1084 N. Milwaukee). Come for the bad vibes, stay for the nauseating hypersonic jolt.

Some highlights:

Technoviking is Iraqi expat Wafaa Bilal‘s exploitation of a meme in crisis: an enormous Aryan head will deflate unless spectators constantly tweet #technoviking (Sat 4-8 PM, tentatively planned for the intersection of Division, Ashland, and Milwaukee). Sara Holwerda’s Chair Dance (Adagio) toys with the striptease convention that a chair “signifies the body of the male spectator” (Sat 7 PM, Defibrillator). Jess Dobkin’s Free Childcare Provided is all-ages: arguing that performance art taps into primal or magical thinking, Dobkin challenges herself and other adults to explain artistic concepts to children without resorting to mumbo jumbo (Sun noon-2 PM, Hub).

Andrew Barco recalls the surgical theater as he operates on a small cube of aerogel in Pale Blue Eyes (Mon 7 PM, Defibrillator). For A Life in Pictures, Kambui Olujimi printed out 1,200 photos from ten years of his digital albums and asks visitors to bring their own; he seeks to emphasize the exchange aspect of communal spaces otherwise dominated by “separate, individual screens” (Tue noon-7 PM, Hub). Arti Grabowski recounts the year he ceased to be a man (Wed 7 PM, Defibrillator).

In Fair & Lost, Francesca Fini evokes old Italian struggles for freedom as she grieves for a system teetering toward collapse (Thu 7 PM, Defibrillator). Jefferson Pinder investigates contemporary tropes of blackness in The Magical Negro (Fri 7 PM, Defibrillator). Donning veils of charred toast for At the Edge of Longing, Zierle & Carter progress through three phases: “bare,” “free,” and “stripped free” (Sat 6/8, Electrodes). Anna Berndtson makes butter in a blue ball gown during Churned (Sun 2:30-7:30 PM, Defibrillator). To close the fest, Boris Nieslony plumbs his primordial depths to find out how humans came to sing and dance in Naturstudy: Debility-Decibel (Mon 7 PM, Defibrillator).