The "Outlaw" Collective Muscle Nation is Back, and That's Good for Dallas Art

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Don't get us wrong. We love that Dallas' formal arts scene is backed by faithful supporters able to infuse the likes of George Grosz and Giuseppe Verdi into our cultural consciousness, but this ain't no Arts District kind of event. And that's a beautiful thing.

Beyond the I.M. Pei curves downtown, and subsumed within all the "world-class" posturing, Dallas is fostering an authentic and organic artistic culture of its own. It's the city's burgeoning grassroots arts scene, spearheaded by artists rather than donors, and it exists outside established tradition. Blink and you'll miss it. Find it and you'll find something aspiring toward truly "world class."

It might be silly to suggest that groups like In Cooperation With Muscle Nation -- a partnership between seven Dallas-based artists from a variety of media -- are "renegade" or "maverick-y" simply for existing outside the established understanding of Dallas art, though they might appreciate that absurdity. Truthfully, the role of the artist has from the dawn of creative expression been one of counterculture. And while we love that our named venues bring in the type of work one will find in textbooks, grassroots collectives complete the cycle.

Which is why it's worth noting that In Cooperation With Muscle Nation is back with 'N Sink: A Regenerating Light Garden, a pop-up show going down on Saturday night from 7:30 until 10:00 at 960 Dragon Street (the Goodyear Retread plant). Per the official release:

[T]he basic idea is this: plants have to find source that produces something they need (like a spring). But at every source, there is a price to be paid, and that price takes the form of a sink. Not the place where you wash your hands, but an entity that consumes something that is vital to the little baby plants (think a sink hole--a hole in the ground that water pours into).

That "something" for the artists of MUSCLE NATION is light. They will be moving light sources (TVs, videos, flashlights, strobe lights, night lights, you get the drift), storing and using them...sinking them into the barren landscape of the Goodyear Retread Plant at 960 Dragon Street (special thanks to the Jim Lake Company for their space).

We live in a world of bright lights and video screens. Our "sunlight" is artificial, but it feeds our souls. Our gardens are illuminated by TV flowers, our plants are pop cultural explosions. We sink into pop to get our nutrients to live. It's simple really: we all just tune in and tune out to the lights around us.

What does it mean for eight artists -- Robin Myrick, Emily Loving, Hillary Holsonback, Danielle Georgiou, Sandi Edgar, Willie Baronet, Andy Amato and guest artist Cody Ross -- to converge upon a single spot in order to create? It becomes something more than mere simultaneous art-making. It becomes a conversation between creative exhibitionists, daring one another to move outside traditional art modes, falling into the rhythms of other fields and taking on a performative tone.

In Saturday's case, this will be catalyzed by performance art duo Slik Stockings and realized in images of "girls covered in poloroids and plastic," a "tv graveyard garden" and -- if perhaps you hadn't made the connection -- the music of N'Sync.

Why does Dallas need this? Because Dallas is a city of performances, but its productions are surreptitiousness and dishonest. We bleach our hair and make nude claws before Magic Tan spritzers so that no one remembers if we are (allegedly) a few pounds overweight and (disgracefully) fair skinned. We are all "drag" without any of its transformative power; we are "in hiding," rather than braving the truth that we might in fact be a "freak" and embracing our individuality, sexuality, intellect and emotional freedom.

Performance in the context of art is about becoming more human, not less. More personal, less homogenized. More normal in our eccentricities. It is about finding humor in the absurdity of being breathing, moving, feeling sacks of blood and bones. It's confronting the fear that we may only, truly be those soulless, spiritless sacks.

In Cooperation With Muscle Nation -- and the individual artists and arts groups forming its backbone -- is the type of forward movement, outside the established greatness of dead white men, with the potential to catapult Dallas arts into something truly "world class."

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