Duke Coffeehouse’s Chaus Arts Showcase: Home of experimental art
Duke Coffeehouse maintained its reputation as the place for all things weird, unpredictable and avant-garde when it hosted the Chaus Arts Showcase last Wednesday, a collection of art from some of the Coffeehouse’s favorite Duke artists. Unlike many other student arts showcases, the Chaus Arts Showcase didn’t just attract your classically talented painters and mixed-media artists. In typical Coffeehouse fashion, the showcase featured experimental music by La Plastique, a four-piece student ensemble featuring violin, electric and slide guitar, keyboard, synthesizer and percussion, and strange theatrical performances like Avant Fart’s "Dream Disposal Ceremony," in which he burned a box full of our dreams, written on popsicle sticks.
In addition to these radical musical and theater performances, the Chaus Arts Showcase presented two films: senior Alexis Munier’s documentary "Daytona" and sophomore Evan Morgan’s experimental found-footage piece "The Act of Seeing." Munier’s film depicts the filmmaker’s own struggle to say goodbye to her childhood home as it’s deteriorating in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Morgan’s film is just as personal, but in a different way. In it, he explores the act of seeing as a political decision, forcing the audience to choose which of his various overlaid images we will pay attention to. Though both films are drastically different in genre, tone and most other aspects, it is worth noting that both Morgan and Munier produced their films for an Arts of the Moving Image class. Like Duke Coffeehouse, the Duke AMI Program is another space dedicated to the production and viewing of experimental arts.
After screening these two films, showcase-goers were encouraged to peruse the student art displays stationed around the Coffeehouse, which included multi-canvas painted scenes, collages and illustrations. Afterwards, sophomore Zoe Abedon delivered an original poem she wrote for her Russian Literature class, and a musical duo explored the technique of steady, persistent rhythmic patterns in their performances of two songs. The evening ended with Avant Fart’s dramatic “Dream Disposal Ceremony.”
Duke Coffeehouse proved once again that the it is a place unlike any other on campus—a place for the experimental, the different, the marginalized. The Chaus Arts Showcase provided a platform for Duke student artists whose work may not have been mainstream enough to display at other arts exhibits on campus. With the construction of the greatly anticipated new Duke Arts Center, Duke administration has shown that the institution values the arts and the students who engage in them. But does this institutional dedication to art include a dedication to the more experimental art that Duke Coffeehouse is known for supporting? At this point in time, it seems as though the Coffeehouse is the only place on campus willing to undertake such a project.