Meet The Curator – Ron Berry
Name: Ron Berry
Title: Curator and Creator
Affiliation: Fuse Box Festival
1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?
I grew up in the Houston suburbs. Strip-malls, bayous, astronauts. I was a NASA kid. My father was an aerospace engineer and my mother a counselor and teacher. Spent many a summer in west Texas on our family ranch near Ozona, TX aka the Biggest Little Town in the World. It is Texas with a capital T. Sparse, rugged, big sky, cactus. Was in a rodeo out there, kind of hilarious. I think we were sort of the half-time entertainment. I was paired with my cousin and given a burlap sack. They let a sheep loose and we tried to catch said sheep and stuff it in the sack. Point, set, match went to sheep.
After Houston went to a small liberal arts school in the Midwest (Earlham College), studied in London, spent a summer in Greece, and then moved to Austin with some friends to make art/performance/film.
2. What do you look for when you’re seeking out new work?
Good question. I don’t know if there is a particular quality. My tastes are pretty broad. In terms of live performance, I am especially interested in space. What the performance does to a space. Does it activate the environment in an interesting/arresting way. I tend to look for things that are “live” in the space, in the room. I am drawn to work that invites conversation, or in some ways is a conversation. I prefer questions to answers. I tend to like work that invites you to write your own meaning on top of it. I like big ideas. I like little goofy ones. For the festival, I’m generally interested in work that is adventurous and playful in form—new ways of looking at things.
3. What was your most remarkable moment as a curator/presenter/producer?
I have received several letters/emails from people I don’t know saying that the festival changed their life and their relationship to Austin. This is remarkable and exciting to me.
In terms of projects, there have been many. Willi Dorner’s Bodies in Urban Spaces was remarkable. The performers were truly daring and risky. It brought a lot of new faces out. People that wouldn’t normally go see contemporary performance, which was exciting. The work is beautiful and adventurous but I especially love that it invites this really interesting conversation between strangers about the meaning of architecture and public space.
Bringing in Forced Entertainment’s Quizoola! was a highlight for me as well. It was performed in this old abandoned City of Austin Power Plant. It was haunting and hilarious and heartbreakingly sad at times. The piece gets at something essential about the live event. The same can be said for Phil Soltanoff and Joe Diebes’ production of I/O which we produced at the old airport and Rotozaza’s Etiquette and GuruGuru.
4. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?
Oh, lots and lots! But here a few…big Tim Etchells fan. His book Certain Fragments articulated so many things I had felt or thought or suspected, but hadn’t been quite able to name. My dear friend and artistic partner Phil Soltanoff has been a big influence. He is a fierce artist. I think he is a master of allowing space/room for things to unfold and happen and be discovered, while at the same time maintaining an uncompromising devotion to truthfulness. His work is about as honest as I’ve ever seen. I trust it. And when you inherently trust something, I think this allows for a deeper conversation.
Locally I’ve been inspired by Peat Duggins (visual artist), Graham Reynolds (composer), Steve Moore and Katie Pearl, the Rude Mechs, my comrades at Refraction Arts, and Rubber Rep…their show The Passing of Passing Fancy was one of my favorite shows ever. Don’t know if they’ll ever do it again, but you should read about it for sure.
Tom Waits and David Lynch got me through high school.
5. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?
I wish I was a little more mechanically inclined. I get really frustrated with things (computers, cars, devices, etc). Plus, I think you get like ten extra bad ass points if you can repair your own car. I think that’s awesome. Also, I wish I spoke about five languages.