Diva on Repeat: Art Installation at Fresh Arts Part 2

A little repetition can be surprisingly refreshing. At a glance, the second part of Soprano Lisa Harris’ performative installment “No Matter How Hard I Try I Can’t Look The Same As I Did Yesterday” seemed identical to the first. But a true performer knows that every performance is unique unto itself—nothing is ever exactly the same.

Titled “Being Alive,” Friday night’s performance is the final part of a two-part installation at Fresh Arts following the first, “Memory,” which was performed September 13. Friday, September 27, will mark the end of the installation with a closing party at Fresh Arts.

The same heavy velvet curtains draping over projections of Liza Minnelli and the same Sondheim bouncing off the concrete surfaces made for an uncanny audience experience—had we all stumbled into the same performance? Simply standing in a different part of the room than last week, I realized when Harris spoke into the mirror, she actually responded to a dialogue in one of multiple sound recordings running through the room: The recording asked “Can you give us a little more attitude” and Harris replied “I’ve got plenty of attitude!”

As an audience member remarked during the closing question-and-answer with Harris, this installation broke its icy separation from the audience with an easy interplay between performer and her audience, even including a sing-a-long with that catchy Streisand classic “People.” The chalk circle of insecurities—“wounding, dismemberment”—still marked the floor, but as Harris looked at her image in the mirror and announced “I’m happy,” it was clear this night was about overcoming those psychological hurdles every performer faces.

Harris stated after the performance she wanted to pull us into her vulnerability. Moving from a retrospective mood last week to “Being Alive,” Harris brought an organic vivacity to something that could have been a blasé repeat. And largely, it had to do with engaging the audience. Is a performer ever really alone on that stage? In Harris’ own words, “We all just did this performance together.”

For more info about Lisa Harris, check this out: http://lisaeharris.tumblr.com/


Behind the Diva: Art Installation at Fresh Arts


Who doesn’t want to know what’s behind the diva? In a performance installation at Fresh Arts titled “No Matter How Hard I Try I Can’t Look the Same as I Did Yesterday,” Soprano Lisa Harris offers a glimpse at what happens behind the scenes—and the mystery is worth the time.

Harris’ Friday night performance, “Memory,” was the first of two installations at Fresh Arts. “Being Alive,” the anticipated second part, will follow on September 20.

Located at the edge of a railroad, the space in Fresh Arts uniquely captures the artistic environment of Houston itself. Those entering the space were greeted by long black velvet curtains draped over the floor, an old baby grand piano, and a vanity surrounded by characteristic light bulbs. A small space without carpet, all sound bounces off the walls, making the space an ultimate site for Harris’ rich soprano voice.

Strategically, the installation revealed the inner consciousness of a performer. Before Harris entered the space, a video projection of her singing “Memory” dressed in a white cat costume as a child hit one wall. On two other walls were a collage of more recent pictures of Harris, dressed and undressed, so to speak, as a performer. In a circle surrounding a pillar in the center of the room were phrases marking the inevitable identity crises of any performer from “Inflated or Heroic Act” to “Wounding, Dismemberment” and “Alienated Ego.”

When Harris did enter the space, she went straight to the piano. Harris looked through Cole Porter sheet music and a Cats score, talking to herself about each piece as though entirely alone. She made no eye contact with the audience, reinforcing the concept that the audience was allowed into a singer’s intimate experience while still invisible. Later, Harris explained she wanted to show the “psychology of the dressing room” where the performer puts on a new identity like one might a new dress.

When Harris moved across the room from the piano to her mirrored vanity, she pulled her audience deeper into her consciousness while repeatedly rehearsing phrases like “Hi, I’m Lisa Harris and I’d like to sing for you today” in the mirror. As she brushed on makeup and threw her hair under a bright, golden-sequined hat, the audience watched itself reflected in the mirror behind her.

Harris took up her last position by her pianist, Kathy Elder, to “warm up” before she presumably took the stage. Opening with “Memory,” Harris’ voice—full of passion and technically superb— inevitably stole this show. After a round with Stephen Sondheim’s “So Many People” and “Send in the Clowns,” Harris brought supreme poignancy to the installation with the Funny Girl Barbara Streisand classic: “People.” While a train rumbled by outside, Harris let this song capture the night’s sentiment as the veil of the performer fell to reveal the person underneath.

The second and final installation happens next Friday, September 20 from 6-8pm at 2101 Winter St. For more info, check this out: https://www.spacetaker.org/culture_guide/event/no-matter-how-hard-i-try-i-can%E2%80%99t-look-same-i-did-yesterday