City News

CounterCurrent Festival in full swing this week

1 - Hillerbrand+Magsamen's Homebalance; Photo Credit, Hillerbrand+Magsamen

Stephan Hillerbrand’s project “Home Balance” allows attendees to enter a bounce house where video projections surrounding them will display film of the artists and their children wreaking havoc in their home. | Courtesy of UH Media Relations.

The CounterCurrent Festival is in full swing this week with various showcases, exhibitions, performances and works from leading interdisciplinary international and local Houston artists.

The festival, which started April 12 and runs through Sunday, is in its third year and is sponsored by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. Some of the projects in the festival are led by UH professors and scholars.

“As UH is a place where innovation and creative entrepreneurship are highly valued, we are exporting that energy into the city around us,” said Karen Farber, executive director of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.

Farber said CounterCurrent functions as the bridge between the University and the greater Houston community. This year some of the partners include the Blaffer Art Museum, the Alley Theatre and the Aurora Picture Show as well as various local restaurants and bars. The events will take place on and off campus.

“We want to make sure our events on campus happen when the campus is vibrant and populated,” Farber said.

One of the projects taking place on campus includes a public painting on the plaza outside the Graduate College of Social Work building by French-Tunisian street artist eL Seed, who already started his project and will continue to work on it until Friday.

“Writing messages is the essence of my artwork,” eL Seed said in a news release. “You don’t need to know the meaning to feel the piece. There is a beauty in it that you don’t need to translate.”

eL Seed's Untitled; Photo by Rika Prodhan

eL Seed is a French-Tunisian street artist. According to the CounterCurrent website, “by bringing the rich history of traditional Arabic calligraphy into the context of graffiti, urban culture and politics, eL Seed establishes that art in the Arab world is continuing to grow in practice, style, breadth and function.” | Courtesy of UH Media Relations.

Another project during CounterCurrent week is a collaborative work by art professor Stephan Hillerbrand and his wife Mary Magsamen. Titled “Home Balance,” the project will allow attendees to enter a bounce house where video projections surrounding them will display film of the artists and their children wreaking havoc in their home.

“We are interested in making playful interdisciplinary works about our family that dive into deeper ideas about consumerism and stereotypes, leading to larger themes of race, class and gender roles in contemporary American life, but we also hope that people have fun,” Hillerbrand said. “This festival embraces experimental and innovative works and we are honored present this new piece as a commission for the festival.”

Creative writing associate professor Mat Johnson and his team of professors and students have worked to produce “Sequence: Graphic Storytelling,” a single graphic novel that focuses on the future of the graphic novel genre while still rooted in comic books.

“We encourage students to come support their peers and hope people will be inspired and challenged,” Farber said. “Festivals are immersive experiences.”

These are only a few of the numerous exhibitions currently on display at CounterCurrent. The entire festival is free and only requires an online reservation. Farber stressed keeping reservations is critical to ensuring everyone has the chance to experience the festival.

“We work on the honor system,” Farber said. “This means we have to educate every member of our community about keeping their word. When you say you’re coming, you are holding a seat that could be available to someone else. This festival is the University of Houston’s gift to the city of Houston.”

For a complete list of the festival events, visit the festival’s website.

[email protected] 

Leave a Comment