From the archives: Performed at Intersection for the Arts last year, Erik Ehn's Dogsbody is not an easy viewing experience, as Intersection's description of the play can attest:
Ehn takes us deep into a meditation on war through the eyes of child soldiers as they grow up. Set in Uganda and in an imaginary future war in Texas, Dogsbody asks us to undertake a “revolution of the heart” and reach for understanding and healing.
It's just one of seventeen plays that comprise Ehn's epic Soulogrophie cycle, all of which deal with genocide and race politics around the world. The trailer above provides a glimpse of Erika Chong Shuch's beautiful choreography created specifically for Intersection's production, and you can also get a sense of the power of Ehn's cryptic and poetic script.
Whenever I encounter Richard T. Walker's video work I invariably sit in front of it for several loops, so how appropriate that he literally looped himself for his performance The Speed and Eagerness of Meaning (Longer Longing Version) at SFMOMA last week. This was the last in the Stage Presence performance series that would take place in the fourth floor gallery (Rashaad Newsome's Shade Compositions will be performed in the atrium next month), and for it Walker stood with his back to us and became the live third channel of his video piece.
As you try to assemble what is now before you, you mourn a little for what you have lost, for you could never again acquire the not knowing that so beautifully placed you in the center of it all.
As he addressed a series of wild landscapes, first through a recording and then with spoken word and finally through song, I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. He could have been talking about love, or death, or an epiphany that shifts your perception. The frisson, no matter what it was about, was undeniable.
He occasionally experiences feelings that are associative to the things in front of him but they exist between and beyond emotions, so translation is impossible.
Walker repeated the piece in its entirety four more times, a study in the subtle differences that occur during live performance. And it only gained power with repetition. As I left the gallery I was handed a letter labeled "to whom it may concern". I purposefully saved it and am only reading it for the first time right now as I write this. I will not summarize its contents, but I'll leave you with the same benediction that Walker does:
I wish you well, and that your relationship with nature remains as it is.
Flash back to last weekend when I took an afternoon break at SFMOMA for the latest in their Stage Presence performance series. This time D-L Alvarez and Kevin Killian with the help of the San Francisco Poets Theater were in the house to present their collaborative work The Visitor Owl. The piece integrated video and live performance as Alvarez and Killian reinterpreted Blackboard Jungle and To Sir, With Love, emphasizing some of the films' hidden and not-so-hidden themes of homoeroticism, racism, and Cold War angst. The acting and dialogue were reliably over-the-top with many shocking and laugh-out-loud moments, and there were scads of familiar faces from the local art scene both onscreen and onstage including Karla Milosevich, Wayne Smith, Cliff Hengst, Christian Nagler, and Anne McGuire. The whole thing was wonderfully confounding and exhilarating both.