Performance artists will dance and 'fight' at the Nerve festival in Fort Lauderdale

When David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and Leonard Cohen died in 2016, artist duo Jan Weingarten and Dave Kudzma wondered if these musicians would perform at rock clubs in heaven.

To answer that question, the couple wrote a comedy sketch titled “CBGB’s in the Sky Featuring Bela Lugosi’s Dead Cat,” part of their performance-art project this weekend in Fort Lauderdale’s FAT Village. Weingarten and Kudzma, who go by “Jan & Dave” professionally, spent a recent Wednesday afternoon pasting movie posters of two Lugosi films, “Plan 9 From Outer Space” and “The Black Cat,” against the brick walls of the Projects — North warehouse. The wall of posters — other images depict Grandpa Munster and a cat wearing a vampire’s cape — is designed to be a shrine to punk rock, fallen music icons and to Lugosi, an underrated actor in his lifetime, Weingarten says.

“Bela Lugosi used to complain that Lon Chaney and other horror actors got better billing than he did. And complaining is a very punk-rock idea,” Weingarten, of Miami Beach, says, referencing the bygone New York club CBGB. “I wonder if Bela is also partying up in heaven.”

Weingarten, in her younger days a singer for the Miami punk outfit Kreamy ‘Lectric Santa, says “CBGB’s in the Sky” also carries references to Bauhaus (“Bela Lugosi’s Dead”) and the Kinks (“Celluloid Heroes”). At 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Jan and Dave will perform the sketch as part of the Nerve 2017 Performance Art Festival.

The Nerve is a three-day showcase championing all things performance art, an underexposed art form compared to painting and photography in South Florida, says Fort Lauderdale artist Jen Clay, who organized the show with Projects curators Peter Symons and Leah Brown. “CBGB’s in the Sky” will join 46 other artists doing 24 simultaneous performances at five gallery storefronts and warehouses in FAT Village: The Projects — North, ArtsUp!, Far Gallery, 519 Front Window, and Projects — South.

The Nerve has doubled in scope compared to 2016’s inaugural festival, thanks to new grants from Funding Arts Broward and the Broward Cultural Division, Clay says. There are twice as many artists and four extra venues this year, she says.

“We call it ‘The Nerve’ because it takes nerve to be a performance artist,” says Clay, also a performance artist. “But we also want to create performances that are unnerving or unsettling.”

For performance artist Belaxis Buil, it also takes physical abuse. Ahead of her show in the Projects — North space, Buil has been assembling “Blood-Thirsty,” a 15-foot-tall structure built from tree branches, Styrofoam and red house paint. The project, she says, evokes the Salem witch trials and its modern parallels to President Trump’s Muslim ban. The project will be an endurance test for Buil, who plans to dance and even “fight” with six other performers around the arterial sculpture.

“I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m putting my body on the line,” Buil says. “I think of what we’re doing as a physical game of chess.”

Other highlights: Fort Lauderdale experimental sound artist Richard Vergez will broadcast automotive sounds from an “Audiomobile” outfitted with microphones and speakers. Meanwhile, the Wild Beast Collective, the artist duo of Jenny Larsson and Edison Penafiel, will perform “And It’s Going To Be Great!” an interpretive dance inside the Projects — South space, which will respond to Trump and immigration.

“The Nerve 2017 Annual Performance Art Festival” will take place 7-10 p.m. Friday, March 17, and Saturday, March 18, and 6-9 p.m. Sunday, March 19, at the Projects North, ArtsUp!, Far Gallery, 519 Front Window, and Projects South in FAT Village in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $10-$15, $22-$35 for a festival pass. Go to FatVillageProjects.com for the daily schedule.

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