RECESS!, at Charybdis. The space is a lot of the show at Charybdis’s new location, a 14,000-square-foot former bowling alley refashioned for its inauguration into a low-rent modern playground complete with half pipe, shooting gallery, climbing nets, and a variety of penny arcade-style games. Graffiti art covers the walls, interrupted by installations either celebrating or condemning technology (or both) as well as more traditional two-dimensional stuff. Music plays from ridiculously large speakers, and overhead lights throw intricate patterns on the floor. Blurring the lines between art and decoration, political speech and entertainment, Recess! is like being trapped inside a cathode-ray tube or pinball game.
Curator, catalyst, and Charybdis impresario Gregor Mortis may have outrun the forces of gentrification–the old Bucktown digs are now condos–but adversity still dogs his undertaking. Despite–or because of–police scrutiny, last-minute technical difficulties, and simple bad luck, his performers made good on their promises of collective spontaneity. Power outages provided two shining moments. Didgeridoo player Karl Sacksteder and a drummer filled the first night’s pitch-black void with a weird acoustic simulation of the recorded music that had just been silenced, substituting a single shrouded rhythmic motif for sensory barrage. When a blackout struck the second night, Sacksteder’s abruptly deamplified band, Rasa, fell into a percussion groove; William Darke stepped up with an impromptu fire-eating performance; and bicycle riders, naked dancers, and airborne Frisbees appeared from nowhere. Unimprovised highlights included throbbing rockers Metropolis and computer sound-and-image mixer the Flashbulb.