Friday, December 14, 2007

Is what you see, all you get?

One of the reasons I headed to NOLA last week was to check out a bunch of performance work. A big part of my job is to identify artists/projects/work to bring to the Painted Bride Art Center, a multidisciplinary presenting arts organization here in Philly.

So, in addition to networking with colleagues, eating way too much fried food and checking out the recovery in New Orleans, I also saw A LOT of performance work. In fact, Saturday I spent nine entire hours watching performance after performance. Now, before Saturday, I’d imagine an entire day of watching new, thought-provoking work, without my kids or any other distractions, would sound like heaven, but in actuality, it was hell. It was just too much and by the end of the day, I was ready to run from the theater. My senses were on overload and I was outdone, because there was a lot of nudity, I’m talking butt-naked, or artists in various stages of undress and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. I’m completely over nudity for shock value. Don’t waste my time; find a more creative way to provoke me or turn me on.

I did dig Miguel Gutierrez’s Retrospective Exhibitionist and Difficult Bodies. The hour-long excerpt Miguel presented was fun and engaging, but my boss would argue that he wasn’t completely nude because he wore funky red Converse throughout the piece--- whatever!

The night before this daylong festival of performances, I checked out a cabaret featuring Louisiana-based artists. The State of the Nation Art & Performance Series was hosted by the Ashe Cultural Arts Center. It was a fun night and included local artists of all ages and disciplines. Two spoken word artists in particular blew me away, Sunni Patterson and R. Moose Jackson. Sunni reminded me of my girl, Ursula Rucker. Sunni’s work is dense and should be studied by high school students everywhere, and I’ve been haunted all week by one of Moose’s lines--- “I’m not alright, but I’m upright.” This country boy is BADDDD! Moose remained in New Orleans throughout the storm and its aftermath. You can tell he’s seen some things. Too often, I find spoken word performance passé, but these two artists are the real-deal Holyfield.

Finally, Sunday night I found myself in the middle of Guillermo Gomez Pena’s Mapa-Corpo 2. Listen folks, this shit was deep. The piece included a man wrapped from head-to-toe in plastic wrap, a burka-clad woman who birthed a pork loin, then took a huge bite of the raw meet and ate it, at this point I headed out to the theater and right for the bar, because I knew I need more of a buzz to experience the rest of this piece. Other elements of this interactive performance included the burka babe completely disrobing and laying on a table while an acupuncturist sticks acupuncture pins, featuring flags from nations around the globe. While all of this is going on, Guillermo is walking around adding bi-lingual commentary on the colonized body politic--- like I said--- DEEP. I ended up videotaping a lot of this piece because I knew I wouldn’t have the words to explain it to Loverman. Words don’t do it justice, and I have to admit, I left the theater wondering…WHAT THE HELL?!?!

I often myself in this place, seeing and experiencing new work and not fully understanding it’s meaning or purpose. Ultimately, it’s an exercise of letting my judgments and expectations go and allowing myself to just feel or go with the experience. When I’m evaluating whether or not I’m interested in bringing the work to my center, I just look for the humanity in the work presented. Does it transcend the specifics and touch your soul, and for me, its got to do more than show a little bit of skin.

1 comment:

jillybean said...

Mango Mama,

I remember working at the Painted Bride years ago and thinking about all of the things that were called art. Some were straight forward and "acceptable" to the mainstream. Some were not. Those were the things that often broadened my view of what art was...some, however did not. What I liked about being exposed to all types of "art" was that it moved me. It moved me to think. It moved me to feel. It moved me to accept or deny the piece as art...for me. That is the beauty of art in my opinion.

Now, I'm with you...that shock value naked stuff is often, not always, boring and lacks substance. But, there are some shocking works that are very deep, that provoke emotions to escape from my being. I like those.

Hopefully, you saw some cool pieces to show at The Bride. Keep opening minds! I loved working at the Bride.