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.
The Stage Presence performance series continues to be some of the best public programming I've seen at SFMOMA with each week bringing new live art and new surprises. Last Saturday LA trio My Barbarian hosted a classical dance party in the fourth floor gallery that involved some snippets of their longer piece Broke People's Baroque Peoples' Theater as well as heavy audience participation in the form of games and even some costume dress-up. At one point I found myself embodying Medusa and then later rocking a striped toga that earned me the moniker "The Tigress." There are still three more weekends left in the series with some serious local talent on the performance agenda, namely D-L Alvarez and Kevin Killian, Richard T. Walker, and Rashaad Newsome. There will be poetry, there will be music, there will be drag. Do not miss out.
This week is brought to you by this postcard I received of a giant cat in Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes. Thank you, Logan and JD!
Nate Boyce has two of his wonderfully strange constructions that combine video and sculpted metal installed on the third floor of Japantown's New People building. See them before the show closes tomorrow.
Anne McGuire was predictably amazing at SFMOMA last weekend performing alongside electronic musician Wobbly and a video doppelganger of herself. The museum's Stage Presencelive series continues to blow me away, and Cliff Hengst's performances this weekend are not to be missed either.
The Headlands talk about creating social space last weekend started late and so I was only able to stay for John Bela's and Yukiko Bowman's portions of it, but I'm sure Matilde Cassani was equally as fascinating as those first two based on what I've seen of her work. Now I'm very much looking forward to Sandra Ono's drop-in workshop on Sunday. Bioforms ahoy!
This week I finally made it to the Contemporary Jewish Museum's small-but-mighty group exhibition Do Not Destroy, worth seeing for Zadok Ben David's enchanting Blackfield installation alone. The show is themed around trees and has many other sublime moments too. It closes on September 9.
Meanwhile over in Oakland an old house at 1506 Peralta is currently filled top-to-bottom with art installations for the appropriately-named House Show. Many artists I like a whole lot are involved, including Facundo Argañaraz, Sarah Bernat, The Center For Tactical Magic, Matthew Draving, Aaron Harbour and Jackie Im, Cybele Lyle, and Zachary Royer Scholz. To say anything more would ruin some of the site-specific surprises, but do try to visit before the show closes next weekend and at night if you can.
Things have been crazy busy around these here parts, but just because I don't have time to write a proper post doesn't mean I can't dump a bunch of links on you:
Lin Yilin's recent show at SFAI is now closed, but you can visit his website here and watch him interviewed by Hou Hanru here.
SFMOMA is presenting one hell of a performance series in conjunction with their current Stage Presence exhibition. So far the last two weekends I've seen Shana Moulton coat her face in peanut butter and birdseed and thrilled to Margaret Tedesco's narration of the 1963 film The Haunting, all on Tucker Nichols's beautifully-wallpapered stage on the fourth floor of the museum. Next up: Anne McGuire!
And last but definitely not least, Headlands Open House was chock full of inspiration last Sunday with plenty of art, music, dance, and Mess Hall food to go around. Upcoming events out there include a talk this Sunday by Matilde Cassani and Yukiko Bowman entitled Creating Social Space (followed by dinner on the Parade Ground under the fog) and then a hands-on class next weekend with artist Sandra Ono. Both are highly recommended.
I had just been on Alcatraz this summer and genuinely had not expected to go back for a very long time, if ever, but suddenly there I was on a ferry Thursday evening on my way to attend the first evening of We Players' weekend-long symposium on justice and freedom. The Players have been staging events on Alcatraz for the last three years (I'm still chastising myself for missing their production of Hamlet there last fall), and this symposium wrapped up their time on the island with a series of performances, discussions, and art installations. On this particular evening things kicked off with a jaw-dropping dance performance that literally used the entire main cell block as its canvas, and then we moved up into the old prison hospital for a blues jam intermission complete with a variety of cozy beverages. Finally we ended up on the parade ground in the wind-whipped dark, and with the lights of the city winking and blinking behind them two dancers clad head-to-toe in protective suits spun baskets of live coals and hailed down the spirits amidst the flying sparks. I felt nothing short of pure searing catharsis.