Performance artist discusses femininity

For The News-Letter

Performance artist Carly Bales discussed her career and views on performance art with Hopkins students and community members in the Arellano Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 29. The event was presented by the Digital Media Center and the Homewood Arts Program as part of the Fall 2015 Digital Media Center Salon Series.

Bales, born in Tennessee and based in Baltimore, is a multifaceted and prolific performer who has worked as an actor, organizer and curator. She will soon try her hand as a director.

Although she is trained in traditional theatre, Bales eventually took more of an interest in film as a media for expression.

However because opportunities to work in film were not readily available when she came to Baltimore in 2009, Bales began to work in small-theatre and performance art.

In 2011 Bales helped create EMP Collective. EMP Collective is a multifunctional space in downtown Baltimore that hosts film screenings, theatre productions and writing workshops.

Her work with the Collective has led Bales to become involved with a new initiative called Le Mondo. Bales and her partners realized that while there are many energetic and hardworking performers in the city, the nature of the industry has created a situation in which the arts in Baltimore are difficult to capitalize on and not very sustainable.

The goal of Le Mondo is to get performers together to share resources and space. Bales is in talks with the city of Baltimore to take over several abandoned buildings in the Howard Street corridor and convert them into a multi-venue, internationally-recognized performance arts hub in Baltimore.

When Le Mondo is completed it will be a massive space with the potential to help foster creativity and performance in Baltimore.

In addition to working on Le Mondo, Bales is also the curator and organizer for Pulse, a regularly-occurring salon and event series for the discussion and development of performance artwork in Baltimore. Like Le Mondo, the goal of these salons is to provide a consistent outlet for performance artists to create new work and connect with other performers.

In her talk Bales described her unique performances throughout her career, from traditional small theatre pieces to more eccentric and creative pieces.

Her more unconventional experiences include a performance in which she tortured her audience with feathers and glitter, another in which she put a camera to her mouth and displayed a huge projection of her mouth for two hours and one in which she and another woman licked, spit and put dirt on each other. She will soon move to the other side of the stage and try out directing.

Bales focused on the examination of femininity in her work. Throughout the talk she explained her interest in feminine beauty, grotesqueness and monstrosity. Her love of horror films was also apparent as she played a variety of clips from films including Alice Sweet Alice, Rosemary’s Baby and The Brood, which grotesquely portray females and have been an inspiration for Bales’ work.

Bales also became intrigued by how common tropes that force women to conform to certain stereotypes can be empowering instead of victimizing. She explained that when she was younger, people would try to typify her and make her fit a particular mold that she did not fit into. This experience caused Bales to focus on creating her own path through life and discovering the uniqueness of femininity.

Taking advantage of the creative spirit of Baltimore, Bales continues to do her own unique and varied performances and to forge greater opportunities for herself and other performers.

On Nov. 19, the Digital Media Center and the Center for Social Concern will be holding another talk by Baltimore-based artist, graphic designer and social organizer Jermaine Bell. Bell will be discussing ways to develop projects that allow for creativity and create a social impact.

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