Whenever I do one of my long weekends in another city I always come back to the Bay Area with a renewed energy for all the amazing art and culture going on right here in my own backyard, and the way I'm feeling post-Chicago is no exception. This weekend I took advantage of the gorgeous weather and hoofed it from one end of the city to the other, taking in street fairs and art installations alike. Because I'm feeling lazy (and a little woozy from all that sunshine) here on a Sunday night I'm distilling the highlights down to bullet points instead of doing full write-ups for each one. You will quickly notice that food and drink constitute a strong theme:
Tour de Fat in Golden Gate Park - One New Belgium Hoptober golden ale. To benefit the SF Bike Coalition and the Bay Area Ridge Trail, naturally.
Expo for Independent Arts in Golden Gate Park - A chatty stop by the KALX table, and a free scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream from Ben & Jerry's thanks to a random benefactor.
Altered Barbie at Shotwell 50 Studios - Always a fun show, but Alis Cumming's creepy-cool voyeuristic photos of dolls in compromising positions (one of which is pictured above) genuinely knocked my socks off.
I am no fan of boxing, one of the most elementally brutal spectator sports, but every once in a while it does spawn something approaching poetry: F.X. Toole's short stories, John Huston's film Fat City, and now Nicolai Howalt's series of photographs of young boxers in Denmark. Taken directly before and after the boys' bouts, the pictures reveal striking physical changes like sweat-soaked hair and smeared blood but also less obvious shifts in the fighters' facial expressions. Author AL Kennedy writes quite movingly about what she perceives in Howalt's photos:
I can only say what I see. And somehow I am only half-surprised that
the first pictures show me boys and the second not men - that would be
inaccurate - but adults. Between the two exposures, in their own ways,
these faces have learned a lesson of reality: that it is full of
physics, torsion, contrecoups, nerves and bones, velocities and meat.
They have learned they are meat, fallible and apt to die. Bad things
will happen - even in victory - and they will be unstoppable. These are
unbearable things to know and yet we should know them, because they are
true. The signs of these hurts are how we recognise each other: that
we're grown- ups, have a human nature. And we can decide whether our
hurts make us predators, or victims, or something beyond those limits -
Kennedy seems to me the perfect person to elucidate these feelings, as her novel Paradise similarly created unlikely beauty for me in the midst of something inherently ugly, in that case alcoholism instead of boxing. And even as Howalt's images hit me in the stomach, I am compelled to look, and look again. You can see a selection in the gallery here.
How in all hell did I not know Jamie Hewlett did a comic adaptation of Pulp's "Common People"? I was even living in England at the time, heavily obsessed with both Jarvis Cocker and Hewlett's comics, so that was a huge miss on my part. You can see a page from it in the gallery here along with a brief taste of Tank Girl and several pictures from Monkey: Journey to the West, the opera Hewlett designed that also features music by Damon Albarn. Hewlett of course also worked with Albarn to form Gorillaz and created the cartoon members of the band. I have always found his characters dead sexy, snaggle teeth and all, and yes I even dressed up in costume to go see the Tank Girl movie when it came out lo those many years ago.
So 8/8/08 is officially over as I write this. Los Angeles and New York? Got a new iteration of the Boredoms's fucking awesome BoaDrum performance today. San Francisco? Got World Hoop Day. Suffice it to say I wish I had been in LA again this weekend.
I also skipped the reception for this year's Altered Barbie show tonight in favor of hanging with friends and watching The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, but the exhibition will be up until August 17th if you'd like to see Barbie and Ken doing multitudes of things Mattel never intended.
I love art and music above all other things, but I am also known to travel to the other end of San Francisco just to watch a footie match with fellow Dutch supporters. Seriously, you should have seen my elation on Saturday at van Nistelrooy's amazing header in the last five minutes of the Netherlands/Russia game turn into slumped-over-the-bar depression when Russia fired two more goals in at the end of extra time. But I digress. My point is that the gap between art and sport appreciation might not actually be that vast, and the Guardian put this theory to the test recently when they sent their arts writers to watch some sport and their sport writers to look at some art. Steve Bierley (above), who normally covers tennis, went to the Pompidou to review an exhibit by Louise Bourgeois and found himself longing for the familiarity of the French Open:
Outside the gallery, on a looped video, Bourgeois speaks about her art as if she were giving a talk to the Llansilin Women's Institute. It should have carried a warning: This woman is deeply dangerous. I go back to the comfort of Roland Garros, though Bourgeois remained a haunting and disturbing presence. I'm still spooked.
I think that's the same reaction I had the first time I confronted Bourgeois's work myself, as much as I love her now. On the flip side of the arts/sport swap rock critic Caroline Sullivan took on that most British of sports, cricket:
If ever there were a sport invented to alienate the casual onlooker,
it's cricket. What is the appeal of a game that grinds on for five
days, has an arcane vocabulary of "wickets" and "overs" and "LBWs" and
forces its fans to sit in sodden stadiums for seven hours at a stretch?
To me, an American, it seems to be one of those "pleasures" that Brits
revel in to reinforce their reputation as connoisseurs of the
inexplicable and the eccentric. As a rock critic, the only parallel I
can think of is a Tindersticks gig I recently saw: it was slow-moving,
went on for about a year and the audience sat in mute absorption all
the way through, like they'd been poleaxed.
I've never attempted either a cricket match or a Tindersticks show myself, and Kennedy's comparison only manages to pique my curiosity. Overall, however, many of the participants found much to appreciate in that which was previously unfamiliar to them, theater critic Michael Billington going so far as to call for more cross-over between genres:
We all know there is plenty of drama in sport. So why isn't there more
sport in drama? It is time to break down the traditional barriers and
recognise the deep affinity between competitive games and the pleasing
patterns of art. The late Johnny Speight once described ballet, with
shocking political incorrectness, as "poof's football". We may deplore
Speight's language, but deep down he had a point.
It helped for the purposes of this experiment that the Guardian employs some of the best writers in the business no matter what their topic, as I've found in the past I'll enjoy even a book about NASCAR as long as the prose is good. Enjoy the many puzzled facial expressions from the sports journalists in a gallery here (including a glimpse of SF's own Davies Symphony Hall), and from the arts critics here. Also don't miss the video of dance critic Judith Mackrell trying to figure out what horse to bet on at the Epsom Derby and ultimately going totally gaga for the gorgeous animals, and of adorable rugby columnist Thomas Castaignède thoroughly reveling in his night out at the opera. I'd be his date for Puccini any day. After all, I used to play rugby too.