Posts Tagged 'San Francisco events'

Parting Glance

parting1Has it really been a year since I first started grousing about Warner Bros’ meddling with the first cut of Where the Wild Things Are and puzzling over how anyone could possibly not be crazy about blueberry pie? A big thank you to Visualingual, Engineer’s Daughter, Catherine Clark Gallery, Invisible Venue, San Francisco is Sexy, artist Jon Clary, Intersection for the Arts, Iceberger Gallery (please, please come back) and the Chinese Culture Center for linking to my posts. Go visit them! Thanks also to Marina Cain of Cain Schulte Contemporary Art, johnny0 of Burrito Justice, Resonant Eye, Beverly Kaye of ArtBrut, and DJ from Eighth Art for their comments. Props to Mark McLaren of McBuzz for helping me out with tips to get my sidebar widgets to do what I wanted. And thanks to artist Rie Kawakami for just being awesome overall.

parting2Before I go on, I’d like to invite anyone out there reading to attend the vigil for Laura Ling and Euna Lee that will be held on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco tomorrow evening, Thursday July 9th at 6:30pm. Laura’s husband Ian Clayton has set up a post office box, and we’ll have pre-addressed post cards available for you to send a message to the women, who have since our last vigil been sentenced to 12 years in a North Korean labor camp. The postcards from our last vigil were delivered to Laura and Euna and I’d imagine are a great comfort to them since access even to their family members is limited. There will also be a group photo so you can show your solidarity in a request of amnesty for the two reporters.

Okay, back to the farewell.

If there was anything disconcerting about visiting galleries in the past year, it was arriving to find them empty. From the start, I decided I would only attend shows that were reachable by public transportation and that were open on a weekend day or had extended evening hours (none of this by appointment only). I tended to choose SF venues since I could cram several stops into a Saturday (meaning I missed a wealth of amazing things going on in the East Bay) and to emphasize just how much good stuff was happening locally. I hope that something I posted encouraged someone who would normally feel intimidated by the idea to try a smaller venue rather than making a trip to the museum.

My friend Dave asked me to list the words and phrases I vowed never to utter in a post, so here they are (as near as I can remember):

“problematize”
“What does it mean to say…?”
“notions of”
“in a sense…”
“challenges the very nature of…”
“calls into question”

So if you saw any of them here, it was because I was being lazy or not paying attention or both.

To all the visitors who arrived via a Google image search for James Jean, I apologize that there wasn’t more here for you. Maybe an SF gallery would like to host a showing of his work (hint, hint)?

Since today is shaping up to be the most visited on my blog since I started, I can only assume that this means that you’re all on your way to check out the Present Tense show. Just tracking down all the window displays is an adventure in itself, so be sure to pick up a flyer with locations, available right inside the doorway. I self consciously chose the Chinese Culture Center for my last post since it was the site of the first exhibit I wrote about (and Beili Liu’s artwork still sticks in my head to this day). I thought it would bring a nice kind of closure to the blog. I needn’t have bothered trying so hard. Fate has a way of working these things out for you.

After CCC, I walked down to Meridian and then hoped on BART to catch the final day of the Trace Elements show that was in its last week. I walk inside the Herbst Theatre, head to SFAC’s room and give the door a tug. Locked.
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Despite the fact that there’s a sign right next to me that says it should be open.
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Furious. A guy in a suit approaches, bangs loudly on the door and gives up. I’m reminded that my very first blog post was actually about standing outside Fecal Face with my face pressed up against the glass trying to make out all the wonderful things I could see inside. This happened to me so many times over the past year that I stopped writing about it.

But one thing at least was different this time around…
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…this time, I had my camera.
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Take that Time, you son of a bitch.

Back Stage Pass

A new ShadowLight production is always reason to celebrate, so Saturday found me headed to Yerba Buena Gardens’ esplanade to catch The Marriage Contest for Princess Tatewati.
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On the way, I spied a hijacked Clear Channel billboard with some interesting faces and stopped to snap a few pics.
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Holding the event outdoors as part of Yerba Buena Gardens Festival series allowed ShadowLight to reach a larger audience than usual. When asked how many were attending a SL show for the first time, the majority of attendees raised their hands.
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The night’s performance was a little different from the usual SL fare. Typically, the company incorporates both the new and the old in their work. Traditional techniques are infused with innovation. They’ve created adaptations with unusual sources (Joseph Moncure March’s flapper era poem The Wild Party) as well as produced works from completely original scripts (2002’s 7 Visions).

The Marriage Contest however was an attempt to give Western audiences a taste of Balinese shadow puppet theater (wayang kulit) in its traditional form. Hence, the evening began as is customary with a performance on instruments called gender wayang.
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For a performance, either a pair of the instruments are employed or four at once. The musicians play the bronze keys on top like a xylophone, the sound reverberating in the air through the bamboo resonators below the keys. Stretched out on the grass, we waited for darkness to fall (and the heat to go down) to the sound of the music.
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One of the particular joys of a SL production is the opportunity to see the performers in action. When I attended Monkey King at Spider Cave at SOMArts back in 2007, you had two options: a ticket for the usual bleacher seats in the house of the theater or seated behind the scrim. Either way, you couldn’t go wrong.

For The Marriage Contest, the audience was actually invited to experience it both ways. Spectators could wander freely behind the screen at any point during the show.
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Knowing capturing shadow puppet images on screen was a dubious prospect, especially with my puny SX100 with its interminable shutter speed, I decided to spend most of the time back stage.
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One modern concession that was made to the night’s wayang (aside from the sound system) was the employment of an electric lamp in lieu of a damar (oil lamp).
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It burned with an acetylene brightness as SL Artistic Director and tonight’s shadow master dalang Larry Reed deftly employed the figures.
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Here you can see how the dalang has set up for the performance. To his left and right the puppets are stacked like playing cards (but vertically), so that he doesn’t have to fumble through them while performing, looking for the character he needs.
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Surprisingly, despite the fact that the images the audience sees are in black in white, the puppets themselves are vibrantly painted.
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Perhaps the fact that, as the show notes reveal, “a Balinese shadow play is used to complete a religious ceremony” as well as employed for entertainment that accounts for the beauty of the figures.
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The Marriage Contest of poor Princess Tatewati is between two kings, one human, one a demon, meaning the dalang can have a lot of fun with the voices of the more ogreish characters.
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Interestingly, while the puppets are arranged to either side of the dalang for ease of use, they are demarcated along lines of good and evil. Good are on the right (sorry Lefties).
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Eventually good and evil begin to pile up…
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…meaning the show is nearing its end.
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The lights go up, so it’s okay to use a flash again.
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The electric lamp revealed looks like a dad’s Christmas nightmare with its tangle of wires and bulbs.
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A good look at the gender wayang instruments (sans presumably exhausted musicians).
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Another view.
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Next up for ShadowLight is Ghosts of the River, which I’m particularly excited to see since it will premiere at the Brava Theater on 24 St., just a few blocks from my apartment. Next Saturday, the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival continues with The Sephardic Music Experience. Cool night on the grassy esplanade after a hot day = bliss.