Friday, February 25, 2011

Climbing Everest

Posted By on Fri, Feb 25, 2011 at 11:24 AM

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When you head out to Main Street for tonight's Trolley Night, be sure to stop by the Memphis College of Art Graduate School to witness the first woman to climb Mount Everest without ever leaving Memphis. Julie Smetana, an MFA student at MCA, will climb the 6 flights of stairs at the front of the building 498 times for 25 hours until she reaches the height of the summit of Everest.

"I calculated out the elevation of Everest and how many laps it would take for me to get to that elevation," she says. "People climb stairs every day but not for 25 straight hours. All of the work that I do I try to make a little ridiculous and absurd and seemingly pointless, but it's really about the conscious decision I make to do that work and spend the time doing it."

Smetana began her work at MCA as a student of painting and sculpture, but has become increasingly involved in performance and video art, which will make up the bulk of her thesis. As for the endurance-based performance, the 25 year-old artist says she was happy to combine her art with her passion for endurance sports. "I've run triathlons and last year I did an Iron Man," says Smetana. "I was going to make it kind of a private event and use the back stairwell in our new building, but when you run an Iron Man or a marathon, people can watch you and people can see you. So, that's why I decided to use the front stairwell in our building which has giant windows."

She's filming the ascent, which she calls "a mundane, repetitive, sometimes horrific act."

"I'm going to try to go straight through without stopping," says Smetana. (She will eat and drink while climbing, but plans on taking the occasional bathroom break.)

I ask if anyone will join her. "I've been thinking about that. I hope so," she says. "It would be kind of funny and cool. It would probably distract me a little bit."

The performance begins tonight at 6 p.m. and will continue until tomorrow evening.

MCA Nesin Graduate School, 477 South Main

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