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This article was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on September 9, 1998.
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TAGFest VIII — At the Crossroads
The annual Trenton Avant Garde Festival, an irreverent,
artist-driven extravaganza familiarly known as TAGfest, returns
September 12, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It’s not only free to the public,
but all its participating artists all work for free. Most activities
are at Mill Hill Park, along the Assunpink Creek, on the corner of
Front and Broad streets in Trenton. Musical performances are featured
at the nearby Joe’s Mill Hill Saloon, and this year’s poetry is at
the Mill Hill Playhouse.
Founded in 1990 and having improvised its merry way through seven
successive seasons, this may be TAGfest’s last year in its current
form (or formlessness). Volunteer, musician, and visual arts
Wilbo Wright says some members are considering breaking up the one-day
festival into a series of smaller, year-round events. TAG already
runs several events each year, including the George Antheil birthday
concerts; TAGFest is just the best known.
Some vocal members of the community want to retain the current all-day
extravaganza. With political acumen worthy of the state capital, this
year’s artists and visitors are invited to cast a vote on the matter
at the festival’s "misinformation booth."
Wright is among the TAG members pushing to restructure TAGfest.
festival is so all-consuming, timewise, it’s presenting problems,"
he says. "Because we’re not paid to set up the festival, and we’re
now in our eighth year, it becomes more and more difficult to take
something like eight weeks of uncompensated time to organize a single
event. A variety type performance series would offer TAG the ability
to set up shows as needed, on a smaller scale." Such shows would
be managed and motivated by the artists involved, he explains, and
such a format could also responding to traveling troupes that he
as "a whole national and international community of artists who
work without a home."
TAGfest originally moved outdoors as a direct response to city
of its New Variety performance series that it presented at Mill Hill
Playhouse in the late 1980s. The move was a successful one in
performers and performances, says Wright, who adds that, ironically,
Mill Hill Playhouse is now restored as a TAGfest performance site.
"There are no paid stars at TAGfest — which is not to say
there are no stars," says Wright. "But we very consciously
set up our by-laws so that nobody would be paid. This way we get a
great range of work, from the well-known — even famous — to
young people starting out. We are truly encouraging people who are
trying new things. TAGfest standards would still apply in a
series format and would continue to get young people involved."
Arguing against the restructuring — some might say dismantling
— of TAGfest, are some long-time contributors from outside the
area such as the artists’ contingent AS220, of Providence, Rhode
who will perform again this year. The group is enjoying success in
its hometown, but also singles out TAGfest as a valuable and unique
destination, a regional forum that should not be abandoned.
In the meantime, the result of roughly nine months of volunteer blood,
sweat and tears, this year’s TAGfest highlights include:
Artists performing throughout the day include: David Sherick’s
`Musical Hunchback’ one-man percussion band with another one-man
gizmo that processes audience sound through a laptop computer.
Michael Hopkins, `Bubble In Sound,’ a giant walk-through
that is, well, a big bubble. Kemp Herbster, painting break-ups
and sculpture. Catherine Boucher and her dance troupe. Robert
Grant paints in the park before his evening’s "Radical
performance. Charlie Moleski, creates temporary text in chalk.
Steve Perlsweig returns with his latest variation on the one-man
band. Claude Noton (a.k.a. Dimitri Rotov), a Trenton-New York
commuter, offers a snapshot survey of railway bridge graffitti.
Wilbo Wright undertakes an aquatic installation in the park
creek. Brad Hoffer, Cranbury housepainter by day and creator
of monolithic-like installations of toxic and/or expelled materials
At the Amphitheater
with percussion to augment their Chapman stick extravaganza as they
provide the soundtrack for the opening of the festival.
trio features former Ween bassist Matt Kohut.
audio collage work with current topics.
now teaching at Princeton, has played with Swans, Damage and Glenn
Branca to name a few. His quintet — violin, cello, synthesizer,
baritone sax, and guitar — blends minimalism, microtonal tunings,
into the ground and still could not bear to part with it, so he turned
it into a family of instruments. With Wilbo Wright, Alan Mallach,
William Trigg, Mary Schmidt, and Eric Haltmeyer on auto instruments.
Apocalyptic soundscapes. Their albums include the 1997, "The
Ring is Made Out of Stolen Gold."
Spoken Word fame brings his semi-big band of angular wordsmiths and
bass and vocal duo that combines agit pop songs with projected art
action images in a larger-than-life multi-media show.
Philadelphia ensemble of dance, theater, and visuals.
cello player, and Janey Dean, painter/sculptor.
and analog synthesizer collage.
on the new release, "Droppings."
monologue with music, dance and slides.
have endured "ontological oneric existence rather than actual
life," with his "Radical Barbie Dolls."
bass-less form of improvisatory music.
Continuous poetry, film, and spoken word coordinated by Robert Salup.
Featured poets: Eric Ortiz, Christine Ortiz Doug Dilks, Sharon
Radimir Luza, Jonathan Allen, Yusof Rastafari, Loud Black Voices,
Edwin Long III, Cy K. Jones, River Huston, Ian Summers, Denise
Felicia Sanzari Thomas, DJ Cola, Michael Angelo, Chris Marchetti,
and Robert Salup.
Broad and Front streets, 609-777-1770. Raindate is September 13. The
most up-to-date schedule can be found at www.trentonnj.com/tag.
Free. September 12, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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