OCULUS brings weird and interactive performances to Northern Spark

Venus DeMars is turning a vacant store in downtown Minneapolis into her own private peepshow. Except at this peepshow, you'll be part of the performance.

The show is part of OCULUS, a coalition of artists gathered by the Hennepin Theatre Trust for the Northern Spark arts festival this Saturday. The peepshow, which will display a performing DeMars with a mashed-up video of the viewers peeking inside, will be joining the exhibitions of about 20 other artists and musicians this weekend at a "pop-up park" in the parking lot of the Orpheum Theatre on Hennepin and 10th.

The artists of OCULUS will showcase their work for Northern Spark as part of the new Hennepin Cultural District program, which will convert unused space in downtown Minneapolis into venues for local artwork and performances.

[jump] "With OCULUS, we're trying to present a different perspective by utilizing art, artists, and projections to totally activate spaces that wouldn't normally house those types of projects," says Cultural District's arts coordinator for Hennepin Theatre Trust Joan Vorderbruggen.


Projects include DeMars's bohemian meta-peepshow, a giant interactive video displayed on the side of the Orpheum, and a creepy modern-dance number. Meaning OCULUS will be anything but your average art exhibit. And while that's what people have come to expect from Northern Spark, Vorderbruggen says their exhibits will definitely stand out.

The theme for Northern Spark this year is "project the city," so most of the OCULUS exhibits will have a heavy projection theme to them. DeMars's peepshow, titled "Space Lounge" after her weekly DJ set with videographer Mach Fox at Club Underground, will be a menagerie of light shows, music, and an interactive video of the viewers as they peep in through the small storefront window of the old National Camera Exchange building.

Those with internet access on their phones will be able to visit a corresponding website to hear the live stream of what's being played inside, and perhaps even influence how the imagery is displayed.

"[The show will be] very eclectic and unique," says DeMars. "You're not going to see it anywhere else."

*** OCULUS artist Brian Hart has been making a name for himself with his light drawings, an art that involves using sources of light to draw on long-exposure photographs. Last year, Hart won sixth place for the International Light Painting Award, and earlier this year he was featured in an episode of MN Original.

For Northern Spark, Hart will be translating his light drawing techniques for the first time to video. His experimental short film, titled "UNCERTAINTY.," addresses larger themes of uncertainty in life, but in a unique way. The film will be projected two stories high, against the outside wall of the Orpheum Theatre, looping what will seem to be simply dots of light moving around in darkness.

"They're going to be seeing hundreds of tiny dots floating around in black space," Hart says. "Buzzing around, moving constantly."

What you're actually witnessing, Hart explains, is him and his partner, Taylor Dahlin, tracing themselves and the environment around them with light.

Viewers are encouraged to bring a camera, or use their phone along with a long-exposure app, to take pictures of the video and figure out just what Hart and Dahlin are tracing. The project invites the viewer to participate in the light drawing process, Hart says, by providing them with moving light to capture a light drawing.

"I'm kind of inviting people to do what I enjoy doing so much, which is making these light drawings," he says. "So basically, I'm providing the moving lights for them and they're taking my position as the photographer."


Dancer Jaime Carrera enjoys making people uncomfortable. During a May Day performance last month, he danced around naked, holding a knife close to his genitals, and drank his own urine.

Carrera won't go that far during his eerie dance number "Sombra," which translates to "shadow" in Spanish. Northern Spark is a clean-cut crowd, he says, so he'll be dancing fully clothed during his OCULUS performance. But that doesn't mean he won't take things in a strange direction.

"When I come out, people will know something's happening," Carerra says, "because I'll be the weirdo in the black suit."

Carrera's suit covers him from head to toe in black nylon, making him a walking silhouette. In his suit, he'll engage the audience, and push some boundaries. Just not too far, he says, since the Northern Spark crowd will most likely have people who have never encountered his brand of performance art.

"What I like to create for those type of events is something that isn't necessarily going to scare them away," Carrera says, "but still make them think and make them kind of process something that they may not know how to process at that time."

You can catch Carrera's two performances at 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., free of charge. DeMars will do live performances in her peepshow at 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., and Brian Hart's video will be running all night long. Other OCULUS artists will be performing throughout the night as well.