Hollywood to Liquid Sword to SRAC: Performance Art in the Pool

by | May 1, 2024 | Featured, Research and Innovation

Norway-based interdisciplinary artist Michael Laundry will perform a piece in the SRAC pool on May 7 as part of a collaboration with SJSU Art Professor Robin Lasser and the Hydro Futurists, a cohort of SJSU graduate students in the fine arts. Image by Michelle Frey.

It’s not every day that you witness performance art in the Spartan Recreation and Aquatic Center at San José State. That’s why, when a cohort of art graduate students discovered an opportunity to collaborate with Norway-based interdisciplinary artist and curator of the Mikey Laundry Art Garden Michael Laundry, they didn’t just leap — they dove in head-first.

San José State Professor of Art Robin Lasser’s professional collaboration with Laundry started as an online correspondence, almost as if they were artistic pen pals trading ideas, theories, creative approaches and concepts across the Atlantic. 

“I am interested in his work for a number of reasons,” Lasser says. “One, he often works site-specifically and he approaches his projects from a research-based perspective — and I do too. He’s a choreographer trained in classical ballet. I soon realized that I wanted to bring him to the university to collaborate with a group of graduate students called the Hydro Futurists.” 

Lasser shared Laundry’s work with Alena Sauzade, SJSU gallery director and collections manager, who invited him to speak to participate in the Art and Art History Department’s Tuesday night lecture series.

This is no ordinary lecture series, though. In addition to offering an evening talk about his work, Laundry will be collaborating with Lasser and the Hydro Futurists: Michelle Frey, ’25 MFA Pictorial Arts; Larisa Usich, ’24 MFA Spatial Arts; and Timna Naim, ’24 MFA Spatial Arts, to perform “Hollywood to Liquid Sword.” Laundry has also invited Thomas Nugent, who specializes in lighting design and special effects, to participate in the performance.

The 25-minute piece commences at sunset on Tuesday, May 7, in honor of the 60th anniversary of John Cheever’s short story about pool- and time-hopping, “The Swimmer.” Laundry will be swimming and dancing in the SRAC pool while artwork by the Hydro Futurists is projected in the water and on his body. Naim’s ceramics will also be on display outside the pool, and photography and work inspired by the project will be included in an art exhibit on campus that opens the same night.

Lasser plans to project short videos inspired by the evening’s theme of water and change — namely, images of melting ice ships to represent the changing climate. Like many of her other works, Lasser’s contribution reflects the space.

“People will be using the pool like they normally do, and they won’t expect to see a performance — that’s why I call it an art intervention,” she adds. “Art interventions that happen in public spaces add beauty and intention, reflecting the interface of life and art.”

The Hydro Futurist cohort write in an artist statement that they aim to engage in “water’s transformations through sculpture, performance, installation, film and printmaking” to address “the residuals of human experience in conversation with water.”

“Water-Silver” by Michelle Frey

Working with Michael is interdisciplinary in the greatest sense, from a live performance to a group exhibit,” says Frey, who also serves as the senior director of creative strategy for University Marketing Communications. “This project is international, multi-material and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. We may bring our Hydro Futurist work to Norway and other countries in the near future.”

“Hollywood to Liquid Sword” starts on Tuesday, May 7, at 7:30 p.m.

The Hydro Futurist art exhibit is open in Gallery 7, located at Art Building 114, from May 6-10.

Registration is required to attend the event. Please register here.