RICH GOLD THE FIRST FIVE YEAR PLAN
For two weeks the usual summer art doldrums were broken by a series of four concerts and three installations mounted by 80 Langton Street at the Knights of the Red Branch Hall as a celebration of their 5th Anniversary. Each concert had two performers on the bill making a total of eleven represented artists each representing one of the art forms that had joined in the alliance that spawned the Alternative Space movement of the late 60's and 70's except, surprisingly, there was no video and thankfully, no rock and roll. It must have been a difficult curatorial decision, and with the exception of Eleanor Antin, an excellent one. But instead of leaving me with the expected euphoria, it left me disappointed and slightly depressed. It may be time for a new Five Year Plan.
July 11. Nancy Karp unifies two seemingly disparate art forms with grace. On one hand she is a choreographer whose dances are formal, geometric, minimal and unemotional. On the other, she writes the music for these dances on an American-made gamelan (sonically replicating an Indonesian gamelan) whose mellifluous sounds and intricate patterns seem as lovely as a Javanese rain forest. She tied them together by using the structure of the music--repeating patterns of various lengths--as the structure of the dances. The audience sat in the balconies which lined the old wooden hall and looked down with captivation on the well-rehearsed performers like a half-time show at a Balinese football game. Boy, I liked it.
This was followed after an intermission by Ron Silliman who, though known as a poet, did a performance piece in the classic Alternative Art tradition. There were male performers dressed in white workmen suits who rolled out black tar paper and sprayed white lines on it (a la a highway); there was a guy banging on a piano, inside and out; a guy piling up tires; and a tape recording of five female voices reading deconstructive texts concerning poets. I was intrigued but not caught up.
July 13. Bill Morrison mounted a large perfomed-installation called "I Hate Keno at the Pacific Exchange" which makes more sense if you understand that I Hate Keno is a kind of Keno, not an attitude towards it. It had a large, beautifully built set which "used the space," as they used to say, and combined the raunchy sound/style of Vegas Keno, the bartering helter-skelter of a stock exchange and the back biting of a bitchy telephone conversation. The audience was free to roam in, out and around the citn[?jh] and many wandered right out. It was an idea carried to its conclusion without a waiver of principle and stole my heart away.
Working behind a table piled with electronics, Frankie Mann gave a rather casual concert composed of fragments of her recent work strung together medly-like. The work seemed to divide itself into two parts, the first being a number of quirky songs, the lyrics sung live, the music pre-recorded and the second being a long textural sound piece which combined highly processed music-concrete with live electronic sounds. While the songs were delivered in a naive voice with apologetic patter in between, the concert gelled during the effortless sounding, virtuoso electronics and tape work of the second half.
July 17. Charles Amirkhanian and Carol Law presented a collaborative performance piece in which Amirkhanian's non-syntactical/semantical text-sound poetry was pitted against Law's complicated, composed slide images which were projected over the living room set in which the poet sat serenely (except for a few Dadaist behaviors such as placing a pillow over his head). It had a European elegance to it but not quite enough theatric power to make the weld hold.
Tony Labat engaged in a three part performance: first, a fire eater eating fire (also the operator of the Camera Obscura at the Cliff House which the Feds are soon to tear down); second, a found film of a mobile film theater in a remote Latin American village showing a Chaplin film to the film-virgin villagers; and finally, a performance on stage (the only act, by the way, to use the stage), in which Labat dry-humped a large creaky boat, called his sister on the phone who read him a recipe in Spanish for Black Beans and Rice, took off his clothes, painted himself in blackface, hung a disco ball from his cock, and precariously standing in the boat read back the recipe in English. It had that kind of energy and humor that has given performance art a popular following of late.
July 19. Eleanor Antin performed in her Eleanora Antinova character in which she pretended to be an aging ballerina who perfomed with the greats in Paris 1915. Charmless.
Al Wong projected a loving film on to a large screen at one end of the hall through a metal chair. The shadow of the chair was used as a real chair in the projection and the projections which fell on the chair seemed real. By using trick of the eye techniques and an interesting figure/ground, black/white dialectic, he created a gem of a work.