Fittingly, this year's Fusebox Festival starts off with an event that symbolizes the 12-day convergence of performance and multimedia art.
At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 21, the public is invited to assemble on the steps of the Capitol. Stubb's will provide free barbecue. A 15-piece Texas swing orchestra led by indie/alt classical musician Graham Reynolds will feature vocalists Dale Watson and Christina Marrs. And then, under the direction of celebrated, edgy choreographer Allison Orr, a 30-minute performance by a couple of dozen skilled two-steppers will gradually morph into the 'All-Step' with the audience invited to join in.
Inclusive, open-ended, a mix of high art and local culture, a crowd-sourced performance, the event - 'T is For: Two-Hundred Two-Steppers on the Steps of the Texas Capitol' - is how Fusebox founder and artistic director Ron Berry sees the whole festival.
Though Berry has mustered innovative creators from around the world to come to Austin - Fusebox includes performances, exhibits, happenings, public discussions and Internet-based projects - many of the artists practice a kind of art that not only leaves plenty of intellectual and artistic space for the audience but also actually relies on an audience to complete it.
It's the come-all-ye participation that's akin to posting comments on the Internet. It's the openness of social media. It's the crowd-sourced news story.
'Participation, openness is woven into the fabric of our lives nowadays,' Berry says. 'And a lot of the artists (in Fusebox) let you in on their secret - they openly address the artifice that's a part of their art.'
The British duo Action Hero will use the historic Victory Grill to stage 'A Western,' a 60-minute semi-improvised riff on the classic Western movie that uses the audience as collaborators. Local theater artists Kirk Lynn and Thomas Graves will host 'Quest for the West,' a weeklong scavenger hunt of sorts that offer people a new daily quiz or task and then invites participants to document their work in MP3s, Quicktime movies, journal entries and photos, which will all be posted to a Web site.
Even those performances that don't involve an audience (no worries - not everything will force you to play along), acknowledge the fiction they're creating.
In 'Paved Paradise Redux,' the noted performance artist John Kelly makes no secret that he's a man playing the part of folk singer Joni Mitchell. New York's Big Dance Theater openly reinvents the classic French New Wave film, 'Cleo From 5 to 7' as a live performance. Winnipeg-based artist Daniel Barrow creates live video animation to tell existential tales. And Austin artist Wura-Natasha Ogunji documents the proscribed actions of 100 black women performing live in East Austin that will be simultaneously projected as a live video feed in West Austin's formerly African American neighborhood of Clarksville.
'Fusebox is really about this ongoing conversation between Austin and the world,' says Berry. 'And that conversation is open and flexible and honestly questioning.'
*'The Velvet Suite' One of Japan's foremost contemporary dancers Kaiji Moriyama combines the grace and technique of ballet with the precision of butoh dance for an emotionally charged, visually stunning solo performance. 8 p.m. April 20-21. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave.
'L.A. Party.' Live video projection and live performance collide when creators David Barlow and Phil Soltanoff tell the crazy story of a fanatical vegan who slides off the wagon one night and falls into a wild bender, Los Angeles-style. 10 p.m. April 22-23. AustinVentures Studio Theatre at Ballet Austin, 501 W. Third St.
*'Slurb.' A vividly animated 18-minute video by Marina Zurkow presents a colorful cast of characters who inhabit a drowned, carnivalesque world of the future where extreme weather has gone terribly wrong. April 22-May 27, Women & Their Work, 1710 Lavaca St.
*'One Swallow Doesn't Make A Summer.' Empty downtown storefronts and public spaces becomes home to a series of site-specific innovative installations. April 21-May 28. 2nd Street District including Republic Square Park.
'Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry,' Daniel Barrow. Awarded the 2008 Images Prize at its premiere, Barrow's live manual animation combines overhead projection with video, music and narration to tell the whimsical story of a garbage man who has a vision to create an independent phone book chronicling the lives of each person in his city. 8 p.m. April 25. Off Center, 2211 Hidalgo St.
'Comme Toujours Here I Stand,' Big Dance Theater. What better way to critique the medium of film to set against the impact of live performance? Acclaimed New York troupe Big Dance Theater offers its live reinvention of the classic French New Wave film, 'Cleo From 5 to 7' about a woman waiting to hear the results of a biopsy. 8 p.m. April 27-29. Rollins Studio Theater, Long Center.
*'Stepchild.' Favorite Austin video artist Luke Savisky projects his abstract collages onto and around the amphitheater seating area at City Hall. 9 p.m. April 28. Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second St.
'Under Polaris,' Cloud Eye Control. Collaborative Los Angeles performance group from Los Angeles combines imaginative interactive media, live theater and electronic music to tell the story of an journey across a vast arctic expanse in order to preserve a seed containing the wealth of all human history. 7 p.m. April 29-May 1. Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Road.
*Denotes free event.
'T is For: Two Hundred two-steppers on the Steps of the Texas Capitol'
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
Fusebox Festival 2010
When: Wednesday through May 2
Where: Various locations
Cost: $129 all-access pass (guarantees admission to all events). Individual events $10-$22. Many events are free.