Visual artist Rebecca Schoenecker may insist that her “Rollervision” performance “started out as a joke,” but the end result is incredibly thought-provoking. Shoenecker, a former competitive roller skater, initially came up with the concept after a visit to Bridgeport’s spacious Archer Gallery.
Archer’s wood floors are oddly reminiscent of a roller rink floor, which sparked Schoenecker to lightheartedly tell her friend, Patrick Holbrook, that she wanted to skate in the space. He convinced her to go with it. “It’s kind of a subversion of the roller skating that she did when she was a kid,” Holbrook says.
Schoenecker and her sister younger sister dedicated years to the sport. “It’s basically like an ice-skating competition but on roller skates with the awful music, judges and everything,” her sister Amy says. “I’ve seen some of the crazy outfits [Rebecca] used to wear.”
Schoenecker wanted “Rollervision” to address the feminine ideals that were pervasive in skate competitions. “It’s interesting to revisit that time in my life,” she says. “It was creepy to be a little kid and wear all of that makeup.” She wanted to focus on the dichotomy behind the lure and loathing of beauty by taking elements of the sport’s theatrics and exaggerating them into rote, emotionless rituals. Schoenecker enlisted the help of Holbrook, who created a video installation to accompany the performance. Another friend, Caitlin Lipinski, who Shoenecker met on a roller derby team in Milwaukee, partners up with Schoenecker in the piece.
Much of Schoenecker’s art centers around painting and animation, so even though she is used to skating in front of others, the idea of creating a performance piece still pushes her outside of her comfort zone. “This is new for me; it’s something that I am totally terrified of,” she says.
Another friend, Lee Knauer, thinks that this performance is a way for Schoenecker to continually grow as an artist. “It’s cool to see her in this realm because it’s unexpected,” she says.
When the nine-minute performance begins everyone quiets down and huddles on one side of the gallery. Schoenecker and Lipinski glide out in white capes and platinum wigs with felt eyes sewn into the back. They look like a cross between a Stepford wife and a B-movie sci-fi queen. The futuristic tone becomes more apparent with a video projection of six eyeballs “judging” the performance. Both skaters mirror each other’s routine and remain completely void of expression as they bow to their mock-judges. “In the end we’re surrendering to the gaze,” Schoenecker says.
Though this is Schoenecker’s first foray into performance art, she’s planning to continue exploring this medium. “I don’t know what could be next,” she says, “but I’m starting to get all of these ideas.” (Katie Fanuko)