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Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center to exhibit fourth annual CounterCurrent festival

Dancers will perform on a small 4 ft by 4 ft platform for CounterCurrent Festival 2017 at the Post HTX. | Courtesy of Karen Farber

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts will present their fourth annual CounterCurrent festival in April, which exhibits various types of art located on campus and across Houston.

The festival, free to the University of Houston community and the public, will present 12 projects this year from local, national and international artists that include theater and dance performances, video and audio installations, art galleries and more.

Karen Farber, the director of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, said they call the festival a performance of installation and ideas and are interested in what interdisciplinary or collaborative practices exist in the arts today.

“We’re looking for art that crosses those artistic boundaries or combines them,” Farber said. “So we’re looking at projects that really bring together, for example, music and visual arts, dance and theater or poetry and performance.”

Farber said that not every performance will combine two disciplines, though that is the perspective CounterCurrent is coming from.

Several of the installations exhibited this year are interactive in some way, said Pia Agrawal, the program director for the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center.

“The audience has a role in the installations,” Agrawal said. “They are not necessarily participatory, but the installation is really complete when the audience gets there.”

Installations this year include Stories of Refuge at the MATCH gallery, which documents the lives of three Syrian refugees, and The Miraculous, an installation created from a collection of short stories.

Although some of the projects at the festival are not located on campus, The Miraculous will be visual at 50 campus locations.

“The artists were really interested in doing the installation throughout the campus,” Agrawal said, “so that we’re bringing art to other places on campus that might not necessarily get it or see it.”

Performances at this year’s festival will include the theatrical adaptation of Donald Bartheleme’s novel Snow White and Ten Tiny Dances where 10 dancers perform on a 4 ft by 4 ft stage.

John Beasant III, one of the dancers and choreographers in Ten Tiny Dancers, said in an email that creating work on a small platform with the audience sitting so close is intriguing. He welcomes the constraint of space, he said.

“The level of intimacy between performer and audience, I am enamored with,” Beasant said, “as it forcibly changes the lens as to how people view, interpret and respond to dance as an art.”

The festival will also include a series of talks called Daily Conversations, where a local artist pairs touring artists and UH faculty from different colleges. They will speak on how each of their practices relate to the festival.

Daily Conversations’ hosting artist, Carrie Schneider, will pair someone in theater with a scientist or an engineer, Agrawal said. Even though they are different majors, Agrawal said, they could be studying similar ideas.

The entire schedule and lineup of projects and their locations at the festival can be found on the CounterCurrent official website.

“If I were to say one thing to UH students, it is that not only is all of this free, but it’s really created for them,” Farber said. “Even though the public comes out to see so much that’s in CounterCurrent, we choose the projects because of the demographics and what we perceive is the interest to UH students.”

The headquarters of the festival are located at the MATCH Theater on Main Street, where some projects and the main box office for free tickets will be held.

Farber said she encourages those attending the festival to make reservations for specific projects they want to see because seating is limited, since people can reserve as many seats as they want for free.

The CounterCurrent website opens up reservations on Thursday until the start of the festival. It will run from April 18 through April 23.

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