In our opinion, the Transmodern Fest is poised to fill the gap left by Whartscape, which ended for good last summer.
Transmodern, now in it’s 8th year, is the city’s best alternative festival with four days of 200+ performance pieces and other goodies at venues across the city.
This year, we chose two, what we feel, are must sees at the fest. The first is Lexie Mountain’s PROJECTIONS, a video exhibition.
We’ve also chose to focus on CampCamp, a living, interactive “campground” curated and created by two of the city’s most influential emerging artists, Marian April Glebes and Fred Scharmen .

We begin with an in-depth Q&A with Lexie Mountain about her work and the local art scene in general.

Gutter: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background as an artist? Are you a B-more native?

Lexie Mountain: I was born in Massachusetts and lived in the Boston area until 2000, when I moved to Chicago to work at Thrill Jockey Records and do freelance writing for some small press magazines. I moved to Baltimore in 2002, worked at Monitor Records, dishwashed, booked tours, and created a solo set that amounted to reel-to-reel karaoke. Around 2005 I formed Lexie Mountain Boys for fun; a friend suggested the band name and I thought of what that band would be if it was the opposite of what it sounded like it should be. Sounds like a bluegrass band, is an instrument-free all-female experimental a capella performance art mash. I’ve collaborated with a wide variety of Baltimore improvisers and rock musicians, participated in Transmodern, Whartscape and High Zero, and traveled all over the place. I also curate one art exhibition a year and occasionally book tours and shows.

G: Tell us about your Transmodern piece.

LM: This year, I am curating an exhibition called PROJECTIONS, which occupies the Charles S. Fish & Sons building across the street from the H & H Building at 405 W Franklin (corner of Franklin & Eutaw). The windows of this building will be transformed into rear projection screens, with live actions occurring once a night (and twice on Saturday) from select artists.

G: In your blog post about SXSW, you mention that Baltimore has “one of the spiciest scenes in the country right now” (we do our research! 🙂 ) would you say the same about our art scene? Where are we in comparison to surrounding cities.

LM: I would say that our art scene is pretty spicy these days. We have great printmakers (Jordan Bernier, Jen Kirby, Chris Day), a healthy gallery scene (Open Space, Nudashank, Current Space, MAP) that intersects with the venues in town to create multi-use spaces (like most of the H&H Building), and, best of all and now more than ever, people are choosing to stay in Baltimore and even move here from places like New York and LA because they crave something a little wilder, a little more open to interpretation and invention. Artists are more inclined to keep Baltimore as a home base while traveling as well. When you say “surrounding cities” I am wondering if you mean Richmond, DC, Philly, or if you mean New York City. Many artists based in the Delmarvasphere travel and show work in neighboring cities. Richmond, DC and Philly also have burgeoning scenes, alternative venues and adventurous galleries. They are doing pretty well. We are doing pretty well. We all have a lot of work ahead of us. Eventually, all of us will be one giant city-state of which New York City will be the capitol and we’ll have a unified public transit system stretching from Florida to Maine. It is the golden dream of I-95.

G: What does the Transmodern Festival mean to you? How does it differ from other city festivals? Could it fill the void left by Whartscape as the city’s top alternative (and I mean this literally, not like “alt”) festival?

LM: Transmodern Festival is very special to me. I’ve performed in it nearly every year of its existence in some capacity, from the first year when I participated in a piece by Chiara Giovando to last year when Lexie Mountain Boys showed a video preview for Nat Munari’s documentary about our European tour. This is the first year that I’ve been called upon to curate. Transmodern is different from other city festivals in its specific embracing of transgressive art and performance, and in supporting female and genderqueer artists and artworks. I think Transmodern achieves different ends than Whartscape, besides the fact that it predates Whartscape by about 5 years and was part of a culture that made it possible for Wham City and Whartscape to exist in Baltimore. Transmodern began as a festival of art, theatre and performance, and Whartscape was primarily a music festival with an arm in theatre and performance. The festivals are alike in that they embrace the various permutations and manifestations that their primary focuses embody, and are guided by an adventurous attitude. Whartscape’s absence isn’t a void so much as a dare: what is the next thing left to do, and who’s going to do the shit out of it?

G: I’ve noticed, as someone who’s been to all the Whartscapes and Transmods fests so far, that these and others like Hi-Zero seem quite segregated and are attended by mostly white, young, MICA/creative types who travel in the same circles time and again. Is there a way to make these types of fests more accessible to people across the city as opposed to a select group? Is it worth reaching out or is there a fear of not being taken seriously? How would you tell someone about the fest that, say, is from a neighborhood like Canton or Fed Hill or even Edmonson Village and is looking to branch out but has little exposure to the Bmore art scene?

LM: People in Canton and Federal Hill can get newspapers and there’s enough internet there to go around. What about the people in neighborhoods like Sandtown or Cherry Hill? I think if you want to seek something out, you will. It takes massive effort and money to put something in front of every single person in this city, resources that aren’t available to Whartscapes and Transmoderns and High Zeros and thus they have to rely on word-of-mouth, enthusiasm and the internet to take the place of the advertising dollar. I think the majority of people seek out what they are interested in already, or seek out things that are well in line with what they are interested in already and these festivals rely on a known-quantity to balance out the experience of the unknown.

Finally, G: Does the local media do enough to promote our art scene and festivals like Transmodern? Would you like to see the city take more of an interest?

LM: No. Yes.

Here’s the rundown:
April 28 – April 30
A video exhibition curated by Lexie Macchi for Transmodern 2011, occupying the Charles Fish & Sons Building storefront, corner of Franklin & Eutaw Streets, Baltimore.
Live actions & screenings:
4-28 11:15pm
4-29 10:15pm Hermonie Only
4-30 10:00pm Joe Denardo & Snejina Latev
12:00am Shana Palmer

with the work of
Tamara Alegre
Mark Brown
Liz Donadio
Exploding Motor Car
Amy Lockhart
Nat Munari
Margaret Rorison
running throughout, 8pm – 12am

for schedule updates follow @mountainlex

Artist Lecture
with Joe Denardo & Snejina Latev, Kari Altmann & Jim Drain
Sunday May 1 4:30pm – 6:30pm
Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus, Mattin 101, SDS Room

Part 2 coming up.