Beach Balls and Paper Planes: Contemporary Art Month, San Antonio’s “Recess”

by Seyde Garcia March 30, 2024
Photo of performance participants running through a field

“Breakout III: Recess” at Ruby City, curated by Martín C. Rodríguez and Verena Gaudy for CAM San Antonio

The grass was green and the sun shone brightly on a windy Saturday afternoon at Ruby City in San Antonio. You could see colorful beach balls flying around Nancy Rubins’ sculpture as kids were running in circles around it. There were families lying on bamboo mats over the grass, all in a chill mood. You could also get your face painted with colorful figures and receive a mini portrait drawn by an UTSA art student while waiting for the happening to start. 

The idea of visiting a contemporary art museum for the first time can be overwhelming for some. Often, people ask themselves, “What if I don’t understand what I’m seeing?” and “Why is it called art?” But instead, what if our experience in a contemporary art museum could be as fun as when we were kids playing on our elementary school patio? This was the feeling that permeated this sunny Saturday, during the Contemporary Art Month’s (CAM) Breakout III: Recess, a performative act by New Media Collective, formed by UTSA art students. There were simple rules for viewers and participants to follow: 

If you see a stranger, talk to them

Eating and drinking were encouraged, and gorditas, kombucha, and beer were provided

Be cooperative, kind, and inclusive to everyone

Look for win-win situations when playing with others

We started to hear hands clapping. Called by Martín C. Rodríguez, one of the curators of this first act, the performers started to play. Then the clapping stopped. One performer screamed, instructing the crowd: “Those who are here for the first time, say WOOHOO!” A loud and energizing yell resonated on the red walls of Ruby City’s patio. Most in the crowd were relatives of the students participating in the performance.

Photo of performance participants standing amongst two sculptures and against a red wall

“Breakout III: Recess” at Ruby City, curated by Martín C. Rodríguez and Verena Gaudy for CAM San Antonio

With the backdrop of “Can’t Stop” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the players made a circle around Marina Abramovic’s Chair of Man and His Spirit, a sculptural piece consisting of two black chairs made of iron. One chair measures 197 inches tall, and the other is normal sized. When the music stopped, one of the players took a seat on the normal-sized chair and read a line of Abramovic’s An Artist’s Life manifesto, which was written on a piece of paper held by another player. 

Photo of performers holding hands in a circle

“Breakout III: Recess” at Ruby City, curated by Martín C. Rodríguez and Verena Gaudy for CAM San Antonio.

Playfulness can be an important element in an artist’s life at the time of creating a work. But many artists also pause for introspection, just like the performers did when, in the middle of the game, they took a moment to reflect on Abramovic’s words. As the manifesto states: “An artist must make time for long periods of solitude.”

Later in the day, the pieces of paper with Abramovic’s manifesto were used to make origami paper planes. The performers ran towards Rubins sculpture, entitled 5,500 lbs. of Sonny’s Airplane Parts, Linda’s Place, 550 lbs. of Tie-Wire, launching paper planes around the metal aircraft parts. The action was a reminder that there is a difference between discipline and devotion in the approach to work in the life of a creative. While discipline might sometimes be rigid, as is the iron of Rubins’ sculpture, I was also reminded that this discipline can take different forms, just like the piece itself. The paper airplanes were also reminiscent of the place of joy and playfulness from which an artist can approach their work.

Photo of the author getting a miniature portrait drawn

“Breakout III: Recess” at Ruby City, curated by Martín C. Rodríguez and Verena Gaudy for CAM San Antonio

The difference between discipline and devotion relies on the joy with which we commit to our duty; Recess reminded me that life doesn’t have to be that serious and that art can be joyful. It also reminded me that looking at new experiences with a childlike wonder can fill us with bliss, just as that sunny Saturday afternoon did. 


CAM Breakout III: Recess was curated by Martín C. Rodríguez and Verena Gaudy.

The players that participated in the performance were: Eli Bernal, Maria Brown, Lydia Brunson, Ashley Bueno, Eli Canales, Ruby Coker, Michelle Delgado, Cordelia De Luna, Alejandra Esparza, Alyssa Gaitan, Benito Guerrero, Carmen Montoya, Kara Mosley, Lauren Munevar, Aaron Olivarez, Ryssa Orozco, Gloria Rosado, Erin Stanley, Breanna Villela, and Gary Young.

Recess is part of Contemporary Art Month (CAM), San Antonio’s programming and activities. Seyde Garcia is the third recipient of the annual Contemporary Art Month Writer’s Fellowship.

0 comment

You may also like

Leave a Comment

Funding generously provided by: