Public Program

Performance: A Day of Meaningless Work

Join the Menil Collection for an afternoon of interactive performance in conjunction with Walter De Maria: Boxes for Meaningless Work. The museum’s main building will be activated by artists and musicians interpreting and realizing rarely presented scores and experimental actions inspired by the work of Walter De Maria and his peers in the New York City avant-garde scene of the 1960s.

While De Maria is best known for his contributions to minimalism and land art, he began his career as a jazz drummer and developed his practice as a visual artist in conversation with Fluxus, Happenings, and musical minimalism. Participatory and theatrical, works from this time activate the beholder’s awareness of space and time in entirely new ways.

A Day of Meaningless Work will reconstruct an experiential context for De Maria’s work. A program of piano-centric works will recur in the museum’s foyer throughout the afternoon, while scheduled and spontaneous activities will unfold outdoors. Visitors will be able to handle exhibition copies of the artist’s interactive boxes and participate in many versions of “meaningless work.”


12 p.m.–5 p.m.
Interact with exhibition copies of Walter De Maria’s sculptures Move the Ball Slowly Down the Row and Toss Ball in Box both 1962.

Visit Gabriel Martinez’s sculptures Sound Bed, 2019, and The Tempest, 2020.

“Digging a hole, then covering it” (visitor participation encouraged) plus other ongoing and/or spontaneous actions with Saran Alderson, Zoie Buske, Olivia Ek, Randi Long, and Zulma Vega.

Mieko Shiomi, Event for the Late Afternoon, 1963.

1 p.m.–1:30 p.m.
Ethan Adkison, Sonia Flores, and DACAMERA Young Artists Andrea Benabent Follana, Arthur Gilligan, and Pablo Martínez Martínez present a program of works by George Brecht, Philip Corner, Walter De Maria, Alison Knowles, Mieko Shiomi and Emmett Williams.

2 p.m.–2:30 p.m.
Justin Jones responds to vocal scores by Takehisa Kosugi, Jackson Mac Low, and Benjamin Patterson.

2:45 p.m.–3:15 p.m.
Gabriel Martinez performs Cleaning and Polishing a Drainage Grate.

3:30 p.m.–4 p.m.
Ethan Adkison, Sonia Flores, and DACAMERA Young Artists Andrea Benabent Follana, Arthur Gilligan, and Pablo Martínez Martínez present a program of works by George Brecht, Philip Corner, Walter De Maria, Alison Knowles, Mieko Shiomi and Emmett Williams.

Attending the program:

This program takes place at the main building, located at 1533 Sul Ross Street. Additional information regarding accessibility and parking can be found here. As always, Menil programs are free and open to all.

About the participants:

A Day of Meaningless Work is co-curated by art historian Natilee Harren and artist Gabriel Martinez. Participating performers include Ethan Adkison, Saran Alderson, Andrea Benabent Follana, Zoie Buske, Olivia Ek, Arthur Gilligan, Justin Jones, Randi Long, Pablo Martínez Martínez, and Zulma Vega. This program is presented in collaboration with the DACAMERA Young Artists Program and the University of Houston School of Art.

Natilee Harren is an Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Houston and author of the books Fluxus Forms: Scores, Multiples, and the Eternal Network and Karl Haendel: Knight’s Heritage. She is writing a book, featuring Walter De Maria, on the relationship of drawing to experimental performance, sculpture, and conceptual and land art of the 1960s and ‘70s.

Gabriel Martinez was born near an atomic blast crater in the New Mexico desert. He attended the Whitney Independent Study Program before moving to Houston as a Core Fellow and artist-in-residence at Project Row Houses. He is the director of Alabama Song and the author of A Student’s Guide To Stealing.

Additional Participants:
Ethan Adkison (he/him) is an improvisor and songwriter, exploring the intersection and extremes of both domains. He has created spontaneous soundtracks, accompanied poetry, and performed music programmed for acoustically unique spaces. He played baseball as a kid.

Saran Alderson is a visual artist whose work uses bodily abstractions to celebrate all that is weird and wonderful about our corporeal selves. She holds degrees in fashion from the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York City, and Nottingham Trent University and is pursuing a Painting MFA from the University of Houston.

Andrea Benabent Follana, a prizewinner in international piano competitions, is pursuing her DMA in piano performance at the University of Houston. Andrea holds degrees from the Royal Higher Conservatory of Madrid and Sam Houston State University. Founder and artistic director of the Elkins Lake Performing Arts Series, she is a member of the DACAMERA Young Artist Program, Texas New Music Ensemble, Archer Piano Quintet, and the Levante Piano Duo.

Zoie Buske is an artist and MA candidate in Art History at the University of Houston. She holds a graduate internship in the curatorial department at the Menil Collection.

Olivia Ek is an MA candidate in Art History at the University of Houston. She is a curatorial fellow at Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (CAMH). Previously, Ek was a curatorial intern at Blaffer Art Museum. Her writing has been published in The Theatre Times.

Sonia Flores is a multidisciplinary artist from Houston. She is an alumna of Texas Southern University, where she received her Bachelors in Fine Arts with a concentration in Jazz Studies. Flores is active in experimental music, performance, music composition, visual art, fiber art, and floral design.

Percussionist Arthur Gilligan grew up in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, where he attended the Villa-Lobos School of Music. In 2015, Mr. Gilligan relocated to Houston. He received an Associate of Arts degree from San Jacinto College and a Bachelor in music education from the University of Houston, where he is currently pursuing his master’s degree. He teaches at the Vivace School of Music and performs at the Music Box Theater and as a DACAMERA Young Artist.

Justin M. Jones is an improvisor, singer, and keyboardist based in Rosenberg, TX.

Randi Long is an artist based in Houston, Texas. She enjoys manipulating physical and nonphysical objects, performing sonic experiments, and enacting positive forms of mind control. She is also qualified to administer a healthy dose of anarchy.

Spanish pianist Pablo Martínez Martínez has performed in the National Auditorium of Madrid, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and Mozarteum Wiener Saal in Salzburg. He is a laureate of the Neue Sterne Piano Competition in Germany and the Concurso Internacional de Piano de Campillos in Spain. He is a DACAMERA Young Artist and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance from the University of Houston.

Zulma Vega is a Houston-based sculptor who combines experimental processes that incorporate organic materials with manmade ones. Her art is influenced by the fragility and resilience of humankind. More than cathartic, her pieces invite us to ask ourselves about our ancestors, intimate inquiries, hidden feelings, thoughts, and the dynamism of the psyche.