This Is Art: Open to experimenting

By Jack Rechsteiner, managing editor.

Experimental is defined as “involving a radically new and innovative style.” Experimental art pushes boundaries, breaks them and redefines what we can think of as art.

“Experimental art is the highest form of art. I get this high off humanity when I see people going into these places who have never been explored before. It’s like the human spirit, it’s almost the same as discovering fire. It pushes art and communication and ourselves,” says Benjamin Champagne, owner of Counter Culture.

On a chilly February night in Saginaw, Counter Culture became a venue for artistic explorations that aren’t normally seen in the area. The roster for the night featured an electronic doom noise artist, a film accompanied with a performance piece by the artist who made it and an avant-garde band.

“One of Counter Culture’s missions is to try and inspire people. That’s what experimental art is. It’s pure courage and inspiration, it can get people thinking that they can go out and make art themselves,” says Champagne.

Experimental art is partly defined by its nature to oppose and question current conventions. This allows experimental art to tackle issues that other art may not be able to, as well as letting it take on those issues in ways that conventional art doesn’t allow. This is a large part of the ideology Amanda Lee brings to her performance art, particularly the piece she performed at Counter Culture titled “Survivor’s Guilt.”

“My work addresses the specific juxtapositions that exist only in American culture. Every day all but a few Americans are faced with an onslaught of war, terror, attacks on other countries, threats to their healthcare, and police brutality, to name a few. In the face of all this violence and fear, we still somehow manage to go to work, to have hobbies and do things for fun. Sometimes, we cannot hold it together. We cry when mass shootings happen. We have panic attacks and are not sure why. My video, sound, and body performance are all meant to address the ways we ‘hold it together’,” says Lee.

These efforts to challenge the norm have difficulties getting attention from the mainstream, but it is still a crucial part in changing the mainstream, even if it goes largely unnoticed in the public eye. For experimental art to do this, though, it has to be seen, talked about and shared – all of which require opportunity. Rob Rosin made the drive to Saginaw from Cleveland to have the chance to perform confessional songs as Krycek, the name of his one-man, multi-instrument avant-garde band.

“Places like Counter Culture are key, because where else would experimental bands and artists get to exist? It’s a stepping stone between making music in your bedroom and getting to perform in bigger cities or bigger venues,” says Rosin.

Innovation and ongoing experimentation is necessary to keep art changing so that it stays relevant to our ever-shifting society and cultural identity. Art and music are vital parts in reflecting the current state of the world we live in, along with our interests and concerns. Pushing art to go in new directions is what keeps that reflection accurate.

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