Feb 26, 2009

Face Paint Performance

This is how I would like to roll. No big deal.


Last year, I had a debate with the director of a theater group about the usage of popular music in original work - she made the statement that when creating an original work you should also exclusively use original music, or it's like cheating. I disagreed. I am a huge believer in utilizing other sources - sonic or otherwise - as points of departure, and pop music has been incredibly idea generating for me. All the plays I have staged have featured pop music in key ways. Think about it: Where would Wes Anderson or Sofia Coppola be without their soundtracks? Both of these directors use mostly pre-existing songs and they do it well, although both have also commissioned new (largely instrumental, although not exclusively) music as well, something I hope to one day have the luxury of doing.

I attended an early showing of some friends' theater piece last night, and their usage of a particular pop song made me think about this issue. The song in question is both incredibly popular and itself uses a pre-existing riff from another popular band, making it doubly referential. The song has already been used in film and TV soundtracks. Plus, it's a dance song, and its usage in this piece was almost transitional, therefore diminishing the "set piece" potential of such a good track. I think it's important to make really informed choices when you are borrowing, per se - know the history, the past usage, the cultural reverberations. Because any preexisting connotations are going to be conjured for an audience, thereby associating those other sources with your work and potentially distracting from where you are going with it. In this instance, I felt distracted, and it made me doubt the deliberateness of the particular musical choice, thinking maybe they had been simply seduced by the song itself. It is an interesting issue, though...

Feb 25, 2009

Clown Performance, II

I am in love with “Rabbit’s Moon,” a thirteen minute short film by Kenneth Anger in 1950, which you can watch in two parts on YouTube or Netflix it. It stars actors from Marcel Marceau’s mime school in Paris as Pierrot, Harlequin and Columbine performing classic Commedia antics inside a perfectly dreamy world - magical forest with silvery threads hanging from the branches of its spindly trees. The title is derived from a Japanese fairy tale (that I must check out) involving the Rabbit in the Moon - apparently what to the Western hemisphere looks like a “Man” in the Moon appears to the Eastern hemisphere as a “Rabbit.” I would love to see a live version of this.

Look at that amazing tufting behind Columbine!

I was reminded by Anger’s commentary on the disc of an excellent concert I saw at a London church in 2006 that featured as its third act Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, performed by a quartet with a vocal accompaniment. The "narrator" sings twenty-one poems from Otto Erich Hartleben's German translation of Albert Giraud's original cycle of (French) poems of the same name. The poems are performed in "Sprechstimme," a melodramatic recitation style somewhere between speech and song that creates a spectacularly expressionistic mood to go with the the atonal piece, which follows a narrative of Pierrot's moonstruck adventures. Apparently Bjork performed the piece in 1996 - that would have been something to see!

Russian Performance: Gerlovins

(Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Costumes, 1977)
“Since 1977, the Gerlovins have created many performances in which they have participated as actors. The Gerlovins’ performances have no spectators, only participants. One of their basic concerns is the creation of “an atmosphere of a play.” Elements of non satirical (basically moralizing) and entertaining fun are present in nearly all their work.

(Rimma Gerlovina, Combinational Play-Poem (Paradise-Purgatory-Hell), 1976)
In 1976, Rimma Gerlovina created one of her first “poems-constructions” entitled Paradise-Purgatory-Hell, which was hung on the wall like a painting. The honeycomb-like structure was filled with cubes with names of famous people such as Socrates, Raphael, Nobel, Confucius, Lincoln, Alexander the Great, Torotsky, Shopenhauer, Newton, and the Beatles. These cubes were supposed to be handled by the spectators, who could rearrange the cubes, write their own poetry, and pass judgment. The cubes with the names of different personalities drift between “paradise,” “purgatory,” and “hell,” the layers of a final destination, fixed and infinite at the same time.

(Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Zoo, 1977)
One of the Gelovins’ wittiest photo documents of their performances is the famous work Zoo, March 1977. The Gerlovins argued that at birth each person appears in a physical body, which the ancient Greeks associated with a cage. In Zoo the two artists spent a day, naked, in a cage labeled “Homo Sapiens. Group of Mammals. Male and Female.” The resulting photographs (by Viktor Novatsky) were interpreted by the Western press as a ‘symbolic image of Russian artists’ during the 1977 Eastern European Biennale in Venice. According to the Gerlovin, the life of an artist is usually full of deviations from social standards and has many elements of the wilderness of nature itself. As the artists stated, their Zoo experience ‘appears symbolic of social and emotional isolation and introversion to the point of contact with the unconsciousness or the anima/animus structure (which the title suggests).’ The artists believe that it is ‘of of the uneasy points of departure from the life of a regular social man, since visually it looks like a contamination with bestial elements’. Mankind is ‘stuck midway between the gods and the beasts.’ Zoo demonstrates man’s instincts of possessiveness, rivalry, and desires.

(Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, 2+2=4, 1977)
Conversations, 1977, a series of photographs documenting of the Gerlovins’ ‘still’ performances, alludes to the absorption of time, space, personalities, and events. It presents the Gerlovins in coversatino with various important personalities of different ages and laces, including Joan of Arc, Lao-tsu, Leonardo, Catherine the Great, and John Cage.”
And a 2D work:

(Valeriy Gerlovin and Rimma Gerlovina, The Interchangable Graphic of Happiness (The Wedding of Liubov and Viktor Novatsky), photographed by Igor Makarevich, Moscow, 1978)
(text from: Rosenfeld, Alla, "Stretching the Limits, On Photo-Related Works of Art in the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection," pg. 139-144, BEYOND MEMORY: Soviet Nonconformist Photography and Photo-Related Works of Art, edited by Diane Neumaier, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ, 2004.)

Feb 24, 2009

Latvian Performance: A Green Wedding

(Wedding, 1973)
"Grinbergs remained singular among this dynamic crowd {the Latvian avant-garde} in his determination to promote new artistic genres, particularly performance based ones. Beginning in 1969 with a surreptitious, offbeat staging of Romeo and Juliet amid the art moderne sculptural ensembles of Latvia’s pre-Soviet national war memorial, Grinbergs and associates progressed from interpretations of classical drama to performance works that sought the fullest integrations of life and art. To wit, on August 24, 1972, Grinbergs married Inta Jaunzame during Latvia’s first Happening, a two-day event titled The Wedding of Jesus Christ. Held by the seaside with the participation of a dozen or so poets, artists, and musicians, The Wedding made explicit the messianic role that Grinbergs envisioned for himself within a philistine artistic wilderness, while at the same time reveling in conditions of a natural wilderness as only someone appreciative of Latvia’s indigenous pagan heritage could. In the following years, Andris and Inta, with a changing cast of collaborators, organized Happenings and Actions that took, as points of departure, subjects as diverse a Liv tribal music, the Baader-Meinhof terrorist gang, medieval sacral mysteries, and Bo Widerberg’s contemporaneous film Elvira Madigan, all the while integrating such arcane with the stuff of daily living, like the birth of their son."

(Easter, 1975)
Text From the Art of the Baltics, Rutgers University Press.


Feb 17, 2009

Saint Valentine

In ancient Rome a nervy priest married Christian couples behind the Catholic emperor's back, and now men buy teddy bears or Russell Stovers for their wives and girlfriends, and send synthetic lingerie to their mistresses.

Unless you are a very lucky girl, and were quite uncynically surprised by beautiful flowers and a package arranged and couriered by the lovely May, of NATIONALE.

Merci, mon amour. Thank you also to Maggie's thoughtful delivery of two delicious morsels from ALMA.

I observed a very large, yet incredibly subdued, crowd chow down that night on pork loins & duck breasts, items whose aphrodisiacal monikers were overshadowed by the lingering prediction of a wise restauranteur, that Valentine's is only for "fucking or fighting." I myself felt I had the true lover's meal that morning when Willis prepared Laurel and I a bowl of garlic soup a deux with two beautiful poached farm eggs floating like the nipples of Venus herself upon that golden, silky broth. To finish those last sips with your dining companion and not mind that sweet perfume, containing a potent ingredient, "allicin," that apparently actually increases blood flow and libido: To hell with "romance"!

The February 14th meal is supposed to be the feast of Saint Valentine, after all, so how about a long table surrounded by beautiful people, piled mile high with oysters and bottles of bubbly, where a short course-ship of razor clams, sausages and figs is finished with a cigarette?

If you are feeling more romantic, just send your Valentine a natural specimen courtesy of Farmer Laura, like this January treat for two I saved from Navarre demolition.

(Picture taken by Zebradore.)

I heard a lot of people scoff - clearly not in the spirit - that we should act like "Valentine's Day is every day." Indeed, humbuggers, indeed. And what better way than taking a trip a Russian grocery and picking yourself up some St. Valentine tea?

A rich black tea scented with rose petals, my household has been under this love spell since the first cup. L'chaim!

Feb 3, 2009

Cheap Thrill

What to do when you can't afford to drink anymore!

And what to do with that damn Apple before it breaks!

Face Paint Performance. The equivalent of singing in the car or dancing in the mirror, but maybe more satisfying. Starring Sam, Alison, Laura, Eric, Matt and Emma.

RIP Sane World

Domino Magazine has gone under. While this is not a travesty for all humankind, I do find it greatly unfortunate - personally, since it was perhaps my favorite publication outside of the Times, and for the larger indicative state of our creative affairs. Yes, it was just an interior design magazine, but unlike all the numerous other publications in that category, Domino was accessible, democratic and aesthetically forward. Yes, most of the homes they profiled were of people of some means or celebrity, but not so much in the Ralph Lauren's 50th Austere Beach House kind of way. Yes, it was aspirational, but they consistently highlighted actually affordable products, actually helpful green products, and actually interesting homes and lifestyle from people both under 40 and below the top tax bracket - that made it also within reach. From their website, "WE STARTED WITH A REAL IDEA—THAT STYLE IS FOR EVERYONE—AND TRIED TO CARRY IT OUT WITH STORIES THAT PROVIDE INSPIRATION AND EMPOWER YOU TO ACT ON IT. FROM YOUR TREMENDOUS RESPONSE, WE KNOW THAT WE WERE ONTO SOMETHING. IN THIS TOUGH ECONOMY, HOWEVER, WE SIMPLY WEREN'T ABLE TO GET THE ADVERTISING SUPPORT WE NEEDED." Shame on you Clear Channel, and/or Conde Nast, and/or the Dow Jones, and I don't know... Whomever. Fuck the buyers and advertisers of Playboy, US Weekly, O, Soap Digest and any of the other revolting publications still breathing. I for one, am doing my part to put my money where my mouth is, and buy The NY Times, The New Yorker, Gastronomica and other worthwhile literary bastions before the publishing world completely implodes. Jesus, I even bought Vogue this month. Sigh.

Here is a picture from the October issue of Domino, to send her off gracefully:

See?? RIP Domino, may be you be reincarnated shortly.

Also, since I'm feeling so pumped: To the zealous traffic man that game me a $70 ticket for parking in a spot unclearly illegal during the strange time zone of 4-6 pm, I hope you feel the wrath of my karma. This is a recession. I am a DAY waitress. You know what people cut out in a recession? Lunch. I'll see you in court.

To Steve Jobs: Your products are incredibly inadequate. I sincerely hope that by the time I need to buy a new computer (which seems to not be too far off, by the rate we are going), your competitors have swallowed their techie pride and released a sexy model or two that will satisfy my aesthetically concerned heart and be compatible with "art world" software. Because your products are not durable, your staff is not helpful, and I'm sick of your prices.

To everyone who still has money but isn't spending it: You don't get it, do you? It's economics! You must spend! If things really go sour, your money won't be worth a thing anyway!

Feb 2, 2009

Action & Adventure

Last night I attended the first episode of the fourth season of Fall of the House, a serialized, largely improvised live sitcom by the Action/Adventure Theatre, a young company of twentysomethings who comprise a "not-for-profit Portland-based performance collective that collaborates and experiments with local artists of varied disciplines and actively engages and cultivates a new audience base. [They] strive to broaden Portland's supportive artistic network and create work that is inspiring, relevant, and speaks to the universal and the local experience." Lofty. However, they are on to something. Mining the foibles and pratfalls of their own experiences, Fall of the House is about People Like Us, or rather, Portlanders Like Us. A Reality Bites for the Rose City set, it takes place in a House in Portland, or rather one of the many nondescript SE/NE abodes that house five or more unmarried beings and some quantity of substance waiting to be abused, and it stars a revolving roster of any of the nondescript people I went to college with or who work at the bad restaurants around town and have no idea what they are doing with their lives. Indeed, Fall of the House is remarkable in its ability to be about totally unremarkable people in unremarkable situations, and be totally captivating for its specificity. It perfectly captures a slice of Portland culture. The characters and their situations are sometimes really annoying, but they are relatable, and it makes you want to see how they will further screw up or complicate their lives - like a good sitcom should.

Each season of Fall of the House unfolds over four weekends, with each episode performed each night of a weekend. An episode has predetermined plot points and scenes that the actors must go through over the course of the hour-ish show, and presumably they have rehearsed these to a certain extent, but none of the dialogue is scripted per se. It is apparent, however, that certain lines are not off-the-cuff, that the actors have mined them ahead of time for laughs. This makes me want the whole thing essentially scripted, because the funny/well-timed bits are just so much better than the clearly moving-the-plot-along bits. Why not rehearse a few times totally improved, put what works best into a working script, and still leave room for improved funnies if they naturally occur and to accommodate current events? However, I respect the timely-ness of their method, it's like a blog, quick and dirty. It feels relevant to me, as well, like the dramatic medium of the Internet Generation. The inarticulate nature of improvised speech combined with the mundanity of the subject matter shouldn't work, but it is how people talk and live.

Here are photos from last season, taken by Yolanda Suarez:


I have had several inquiries into the identities of the Cheetah Lady and the Jealous Woman, the video stars of my last post. Although I do like a good YouTube search fest, (actually I am so enamored of Youtube that I would dub it the most brilliant and useful addition to the internet of the last five years - waaaay more durable and versatile than social networking, albeit less good for gossip), I spend very little time finding fun videos because of the vortex known as time suckage. These two were found for me, and are actually not merely random loonies of the world wide web, but persons only one step removed from my social sphere. Jealous Woman nee Emma Craig (YouTube ID: ejcraig) lives in Vallejo, California, attended the Oxbow School with friends of mine in Napa where she made a really killer stop motion film about socks running away, and discovered the best Mexican food truck I think I've ever eaten at. She has an assortment of other ridiculous films worth checking out. The Cheetah Lady (cheetahwoman16) was disturbingly my brother's History of Performance teacher at The School of the Art Institute in Chicago last semester, a topic she clearly takes to her unhinged and brilliant heart. Sadly, she has no other films on the Tube, but cross your fingers! When Sam discovered the video it only had several views and 0 Comments - I gave the video it's first "Comment" and "Favorite," which somehow bolstered the video up the viewer ranks to have now been viewed 250,000 times with 1300 comments, like "FAKE!!! She's not a real cheetah. A cheetah would not have looked back just before it sat down. It would have done so instinctively," and "Would it be considered beastiality if I asked her out?"