Alex Wong Reframes Virtual Performance Experience with Collaborative Benefit Series

Like several other panicked creatives, last March, Nashville-based artist and producer Alex Wong was throwing everything against the proverbial wall to see what might stick. Livestreaming was not initially something he was comfortable with. To break that, he attempted a daily session. As virtual fatigue took over, Wong became obsessed with the word “value.”

“Especially now, when time is so precious—and everything feels particularly precious—I’ve been re-thinking what value I am bringing to people with my live show, even a free one,” he explains. “What’s the intention behind doing it? I opened the geeky part of my mind to broadcasting possibilities, and the quality technology can control over that. I grew particularly interested in the idea of presenting a show that was very deliberate.”

What he landed on lives within his artistic language. Wong’s first series, Wherever You Are Virtual Benefit Tour, began November 13. For six weeks, each show featured the artist and two of his favorite songwriters—like Eric Holljes and Vienna Teng—performing in the round, as well as one non-musical guest that specializes in various disciplines.

“I feed off of other creatives, maybe even more than music,” says Wong, who is entranced by YouTube channels of other creatives. “The best way I work is through analogy, watching everyone experiment. I wanted to reframe this streaming thing.” I wanted to present something more of an experience rather than a concert. Almost Since we can’t see each other, what could we do here that we could not do on stage?”

Over the summer, he came up with the concept resembling a variety show, which eventually shaped into the Wherever You Are, and now the follow-up Show Yourself Virtual Benefit Tour. Each of these titles represents tracks from his 2020 album, The Elephant and The Seahorse, which landed just ahead of pandemic-forced lockdown.

This past fall, Wong invited craftspeople ranging from painters, to chefs, to photographers on his digital stage to cross-inspire each other’s work, breathing new life into the previously separate entities. All proceeds from tickets sold went to impacted causes, including Hate Is A VirusSunrise Movement, and Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective

After what proved to be an initial first attempt, Wong excitedly announced his second run that began the weekend of March 26 and 29. He kicked off the secondary event series with “bucket list guests” like songwriters Melissa Ferrick and Mary Bragg, a ballerina, and a local woodworker. The diverse lineup highlights this medium’s advantages in the absence of traditional gathering, strengthening this “deliberate” event concept.

Last fall, a painter wielded one of Wong’s songs and painted time passing from dawn to dusk, portraying how the light changed over a street the lyrics of his song described. On screen, the audience watched a stop-motion time-lapse video of a process that is typically geared toward the final product. Wong feels this addition of “time-based art” exemplifies the parallels that emerge during this type of artistic crossover. He adds, “When I watched a process unfold with the music, I realized that the final product, the dry top layers of paint, is just a byproduct of the art itself.”

For the upcoming virtual tour dates, Wong invites Amulets—the solo project of Portland-based audio and visual artist, Randall Taylor—on April 11, LA-based singer/songwriter and producer Garrison Starr with sculptor Brian Dettmer on April 16. Kentucky-based cellist, Ben Sollee will join the virtual tour with poet, Ciona Rouse on April 18 before Ruthie Collins‘ appearance on April 25 featuring painter, Kenny Harris.

The artist will donate all the ticket revenue to The Quiet Voice Fund. This organization distributes proceeds to several nonprofits dedicated to fighting against Anti-Asian violence and advocating for Black/Asian solidarity.

The Chinese-American artist says, “‘Show Yourself’ took on new meaning within our current situation. ‘Wherever You Are’ was intended to be maybe short-term when it was possible this would be ending. We picked this because it’s a celebration of coming back out, of reemerging. Unfortunately, it’s coinciding with everything happening in the Asian community anti-Asian hate, as it relates to the title.”

The next show dates are Friday, April 9, and Sunday, April 11. Tickets will be available for purchase per show here. Subscribers of Alex Wong’s Patreon Campaign and attend all remaining events at no additional cost.

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