Another huge thank you to all my listeners who helped me raise $1800 on a hungover Halloween morning. And if you'd still like to pledge you've got until midnight tonight before the fundraiser fades into the mist for another year.
Last Tuesday after work I made my way to rad indie book store The Green Arcade for a reading by Buzz Alexander, who was there to celebrate his new book Is William Martinez Not Our Brother? Twenty Years of the Prison Creative Arts Project. The title refers to an Oakland native and inmate at the California State Prison at Corcoran who in 1989 was shot and killed by a corrections officer after a fight in the prison yard. Alexander did not know Martinez personally, but as co-founder of the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) at the University of Michigan Alexander has worked with hundreds of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men, women, and youth and asks us to examine the phenomenon of mass incarceration that exists in our midst. From an interview Alexander did with Inside Higher Ed:
I call PCAP a little edgier, more angry, and combative because we are looking at a national policy of mass incarceration for the purpose of social and economic control. Particular groups of human beings – sometimes referred to as a “caste” or as “the mass incarceration generation” – are dumped into incarcerating institutions and emerge so many years later that it is nearly impossible for them to function economically in their communities or as caregivers in their families. In my opinion this is a great evil. Not everyone in PCAP is edgy, angry, and combative (nor are those who are either simplistic or thoughtless in their analysis or behavior). Everyone in PCAP brings energy and joy into their workshops, and the work is beautiful. It is all we ask of each other.
PCAP fights to break down stereotypes about the incarcerated, mounts a major annual exhibition of art by Michigan prisoners, and provides assistance and mentoring programs outside the prison walls to combat recidivism. Above all they believe in the power of art to transform lives. It is vitally important work, and it is Alexander's hope that Is William Martinez Not Our Brother? will be used as a guide for other programs across the country, that they may learn from PCAP's successes and failures.
Cliff Hengst and Wayne Smith both have shows up in Gallery 16 right now, and while each one maintains the unique voice of its creator the two exhibitions together create an incredible dialogue. Hengst has long been one of my favorite local artists (I have a piece of his hanging right above my bed at home), and at Gallery 16 he displays recent work in which he has started with newspaper pictures of protesters and then blacked out everything except the signs and the occasional raised fist. The words left to float on their own mirror the words and phrases he has painted directly onto one long wall in the gallery, block black characters against the white wall with letters sometimes overlapping or again blacked out entirely. The meaning is sublimated into pattern. And where Hengst erases, Smith superimposes, floating his cut-out humans and animals in glass in front of found thrift store paintings. He creates some wonderful juxtapositions and tableaux that way, like a sea of detached heads bobbing against painted waves or a stack of packing boxes standing alone in an idyllic forest glen. However, the piece of his I was most drawn into was the one he too put right on a gallery wall, an undulating stream of small excised heads all facing away from the viewer. They formed an attractive cloud-like shape from far away and then resolved themselves into their individual personae upon closer inspection. Meticulous and hypnotic work.
Recent Bay Area appearance: First Church of the Buzzard, Oakland; Sunday, October 17, 2010
Next gig: 455 Abbott Street, Vancouver, BC; Thursday, October 28, 2010
Notes: I've been impressed recently with a lot of the bands I've been seeing who come out of Vancouver, groups like Shearing Pinx and Nu Sensae and Sex Negatives and now Cowards. Good gritty-growly post-punky tunes. Makes me want to road trip on up the coast.
Buy: Contact Cowards through their Myspace for merch
Incredibly huge thank yous to everyone who listened and donated this morning! We made over $1500 in three hours, and you have no idea how good it feels to have the phones ringing off the hook. Be sure to tune in next week for my Halloween fundraiser shift when I will be DJing in costume. Mmm hmmm.
It wasn't until I was driving away from the Headlands Fall Open House last Sunday that it suddenly hit me that I probably wouldn't be out there again until 2011 since I have to miss the only remaining public program of the year before the Center shuts down for winter. It made my heart hurt a little, but then it just made me appreciate all the more the bits of work from the current artists-in-residence I'd glimpsed on Sunday. Here are my very brief impressions:
Paolo Salvagione - Serious engineering chops on display in his kinetic and perception-altering art. Great sense of humor too, like the hopscotch of IKEA bathroom scales designed to show your weight getting smaller with each step.
Iris Charabi-Berggren - Crates and crates of apples lined up in the center of the room, each with a tag tied to its stem bearing the word "single?" and free for the taking. Sculpted paper bird heads, and then videos of people interacting and playing games while wearing the heads. Small paper bird sculptures, a black-and-white drawing right on the wall.
Nate Boyce - I know Nate through the video projections he's done for Matmos, and he had more of his brilliantly warped geometries on display in his studio Sunday. With the shades down the colors seemed that much more luminous in the dark room.
Meng-Chin (Derrick) Huang - A web of multi-colored yarn sculptures hanging from the ceiling. A paper scroll unrolled on the floor, with the word "love" written over and over again. Little imperfections showing where the artist had been. Simple but incredibly affecting.
Anna Orlikowska - Cut-paper collages melding Victorian imagery with insects to unsettling effect. Loved her work table strewn with the detritus of her work. Her videos too are darkly engrossing.
Kevin Thomson + Joe Goldring - Turned the entire gym into a self-generating noise landscape with a veritable orchestra of instruments, speakers, and pedals triggering feedback and just having this crazy sonic conversation. Mind-blowingly cool, and I pray the gods they find a warehouse in Oakland they can replicate it in.
It's the KALX fundraiser! Be sure to listen in this week and next to snag one of the awesome packages I'll be giving away and support the best radio station on earth. I promise to play some good music too.
Recent Bay Area appearance: Stanford House, Oakland; Saturday, October 16, 2010
Next gig: El Meson Viejo, Oxnard, CA; Friday, October 29, 2010
Notes: Whitman is Chris Payne, a one-man acoustic dynamo and the mastermind behind the Folktale Records label which has put out records by everyone from Gowns to No Babies to John Thill to No Paws (No Lions). Payne steers well clear of singer-songwriter sappiness even when his lyrics are about depression and broken hearts and instead brings a sharp punk edge to his music. See him live once and I swear you'll be smitten too.