Five months ago, novelist and installation artist Matthew Jewell spent the first edition of Telophase--a periodic exhibition mounted by a loose collective of artists and writers--in bed in the far corner of an uninhabited apartment above the Inner Town Pub in Ukrainian Village. Smoking and reading aloud, he enacted scenes from Scale, his novel in progress about a man who never leaves his room and meticulously documents the rotation of his bed around a fan.
Named for the last phase of mitosis before a cell splits into two new cells, Telophase is an attempt by the group's members to create a new way to present artwork that merges language with imagery and live performance. "Everybody here is trying to work in interesting ways that are not necessarily traditional text and/or readings, and to complement that there's visual art that has a narrative aspect," says Odie Lindsey, one of the organizers. "There has to be a narrative quality that sort of falls between these two spheres."
The inaugural event, titled "The Ding, Dent, and Scratch Sale," took place on December 12. The Telophase members, regular patrons of the Inner Town, made a deal with the bar's owners: they cleaned up the abandoned space upstairs--several cozy rooms with red floors and oddly shaped mirrors bolted to the walls--and got a free venue in return. That night, in addition to staging readings and installations, they auctioned off the junk they'd found in the apartment, along with copies of a hand-bound Telophase book.
At the second Telophase, which brought together 23 artists and writers in March, envelopes poked up out of AstroTurf laid on the floor and suitcases hung from the ceiling. In a side room the remnants of a book of football trivia lay scattered about, the result of Keith Hendrix's project "Destruction of Football Books with Baseball Means," in which he pummeled the books with baseball equipment until their bindings broke. Jewell stayed under his bed for the first three hours of the show, and MJ Rider presented a five-foot-tall braille book made of wood and fake fur that she invited attendees to approach and touch.
For the next event, "Paper or Plastic," organizers want to further break from the dynamic of traditional readings by having tour guides lead people through the exhibit, interacting with installations as a character or persona--a French art critic, say, or a waiter at Bennigan's.
Collaboration is key to the success of Telophase, says Lindsey: "We bounce ideas off each other." Della Watson, who has been presenting parts of an epistolary story created by mailing enigmatic letters to and from fictional characters to her friends, concurs. "You don't encounter that many situations where you have a group of people working with total creative freedom. It's kind of exciting."
Telophase will present "Paper or Plastic" on Thursday, May 8, from 7 to 11 above the Inner Town Pub, 1935 W. Thomas. It's free; call 773-252-9515 for more information.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Dorothy Perry.