Archive for March, 2008

by the skin of my teeth

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Surprise, surprise: my profound radio silence the past couple of weeks is an indicator of just how hectic it’s been. I’m in the home stretch now, with another week of nuttiness yet to come, but up to today, it’s been ultra-nuts. With whipped cream and a cherry on top, to boot.

The first of the two back-to-back shows I’m in, Make You Notice, opened on Thursday: as I mentioned before, I wasn’t able to go to the opening, but the word on the street is that the reception was jam-packed bubbling good times, and the work in the show has been really well-received.

I was able to swing by the gallery for a minute on Friday, and took a few photos. The show was nicely installed– great choice having Kate Gilmore‘s “star” piece front and center at the entry:

View from inside the space: another Kate Gilmore monitor, with Lisa Anne Auerbach‘s posters, zines, and excellent knit “Independent Woman P II” scarf running around the top edge of the walls:
One of Laura Swanson‘s 7 phenomenal self-obscuring photos:

…and then there’s the Wofford stuff.
I showed 3 videos, 3 color prints, and 3 original drawings:
I made three ink drawings inspired by the ridiculously over-the-top trompe l’oeil backdrops from each level of the triple-decker 1970′s Barbie Townhouse (which is sort of like a pre-pubescent Madonna Inn).

The illustrations as exhibited:
And the illustrations in better detail:
top floor: girl’s bedroom
middle floor: family room
ground floor: kitchen, dining room, pool

I colored the drawings in Photoshop, tinted them a variety of ways, then made each “floor” of the townhouse into a cartoon-ish backdrop for each of the 3 videos.

Video I: Ground Floor
The ground floor became the entrance point for a video piece called “Walking With Coffee“, featuring myself, my girlfriends, and family member obsessively staggering around clutching cups of coffee, set to a jazzy little Filipino cha-cha tune. Most of this piece was shot outdoors, with the ground floor backdrop scenes bookending the other action.

While I’m as guilty as the next person of doing it, I can’t help but find it funny and sad how compulsive Americans are about their beverages to-go. Can we really not just sit and chill for a few minutes? When I was in France on a residency a few years ago, I went to Cannes with an American girlfriend who was consumed with the need to find a cup of coffee to go. We scoured the city in search of one for her, to no avail. Quelle surprise.
Video II: Middle Floor
The middle floor, as purgatory of sorts, was the setting for a video called “Impostor“. I alternated blurring the foreground Wofford and the background room in most of the shots.

The piece is one of my few scripted, dialogue-based works: in it, I play a variety of female characters, all saying things that indicate varying permutations of impostor syndrome/ impostor phenomenon, a condition fraught with unnecessary self-doubt that maddens me when I catch myself, and many many high-achieving women and peeples of color I know, doing it. There’s a lot of “I’m not experienced enough,” “I’m not qualified to do that”-type commentary.
Video III: Top Floor
Lastly, top floor as ivory tower of intellectual non-compromise! The piece I situated in the girl’s bedroom is called “Spellchecker“.

For those of you who haven’t heard my bragging, I was something of a spelling mercenary as a kid (won a lot of bees, that kind of thing. Ahem). I’ve come across a few choice quotes denigrating proper spelling as the domain of nitpicky schoolmarms: it felt time to provide my own kind of surreal retort to such nonsense. Well-spelled words and unusual vocabulary have always been a source of great pleasure: there’s something about the precision and specificity of language in this context that I love. This piece has me spelling out entire lines and sentences by writers I’ve enjoyed as if they were actual dialogue, as opposed to mere strings of letters and spaces. It’s a very private, hermetic language which felt right to correlate with a space made to appear like a child’s private domain.
I feel really pleased about this new work, and there were some breakthroughs that will likely inform the direction of future projects. But. The process of getting this body of work finished in time was harrowing, to say the least.

While I’ve come to accept that I’m an 11th-hour achiever, and that there’s a certain kind of clarity in my creative process that consistently emerges late in the game, I have to confess that this round of frenzied production purt near killed me: the video work was far more complicated than I’d anticipated, and there were several incidents of utter panic that brought me as close to crisis as I’ve been in quite some time. And while yet again, the work got done and looks good, this was a pretty pointed lesson learned in why it’s time to restructure some of the ways that I make art. It’s just too painful to do things this way. Kudos and gratitude to Patricia Maloney, Meg Shiffler, and Dana Hemenway for their consistent grace and patience this past week. Many, many thanks to Max, Rick, Eliza, Michael Hall, and Ken Lo for technical support, and to Christine, Johanna, Mom, Camille, Mr D, Bryce and Elisa for consenting to appear in one of the videos.


Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Okay. So as if it hasn’t been frenetic enough lately, some MORE good stuff has plopped itself on my lap, rendering it even less likely that I’ll have a breather in the month to come. While it’s a relief that my spring break from teaching is coming up next week, it’s pretty much going to be a long work-session on art projects, instead. So much for the M.O.B. reunion in LA we’d been conspiring towards. That’s OK: we’ve got matching tattoos. That’s like a guarantor we’ll see each other soon.

There are two main things soon to be competing with my sleep schedule:

Thing 1:
I’m working on videos again, at long last: it’s pretty fun to be at it again! It works a different part of my creative brain.
It’s for a show organized by the vivacious Patricia Maloney called “Make You Notice“, featuring Laura Swanson, Kate Gilmore, Lisa Anne Auerbach and yours truly. This show opens March 27 at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery. I don’t know Lisa or Kate, but their work looks cool. And I adore Laura Swanson, so I’m thrilled to be showing with her.
Thing 2:
OK, this is insanity. Out of the t.f. blue, I was invited to do an April show with the venerable Frey Norris Gallery. Raman Frey and Wendi Norris and I discussed someone for me to show with, and of course Christine Wong Yap, my dream date of all dream dates, came up. So now she and I have a 2 woman show called “Sorry“, which I think is a hilarious, and highly appropriate, title. It pertains in all sorts of tragicomic ways to each of our works. I think it’s gonna rock.
(No, this isn’t our show.
I just had to throw in a gratuitous image of my favorite game EVER when I was little.)

So here’s the only real buzz-kill about both of these phenomenal opportunities:

both opening receptions for these shows fall on Thursday nights.
when my Filipino Performance class at USF meets.
And both Thursdays are the last 2 weeks of rehearsals before the big PCN, so there is no way I can miss either class, or find a substitute.
So I can’t go to my own openings! Wofferella can’t go to the Ball!

Someone find me a glass slipper, tout de suite.
I’ll make it fit.

cccarlos gets a www aaat lllong lllast

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Ahhh. Finally.
Carlos Villa has a web presence, once more!

Apparently Carlos had a website-type-thing some years ago, back in the bad old days of dial-up and dinosaurs. It’s long-gone, and I’ve been hoping that he’d eventually put something back up again. And lo and behold: it’s here!


(OK. Loooove the chicken bone nuttiness above.)

It’s such a treat to see his legacy made more widely available again: I’ve seen much of this work over the years, but only in rare slide lecture glimpses, and the occasional teeny-tiny reproduction in some publication. It’s great to finally have an elegant web archive to reference, at long last!

I have a dangerous tendency to gush about Carlos. The short version is: he’s wonderful. Carlos is one of the great gems of the Bay Area arts community, and has taught me more about bringing generosity, compassion and diversity into one’s artistic and pedagogical practice than anyone else I know. When I was a young undergrad at SFAI, I was lucky enough to take a couple of classes with him: he inspired me on every level possible to become the artist/collaborator/educator I’ve turned out to be. I essentially inherited his Filipino Arts class at USF, and I still find reasons to call him up and pester him whenever I can. He introduced me to the other members of MOB (like Charlie, and the Angels, y’know?), and he effortlessly created a network of friends and collaborators who all continue to work together in various capacities, ranging from Laurie and Darryl at the Luggage Store, Johanna Poethig, to Julio Morales, to Trisha Lagaso and David Goldberg, to Jerome Reyes…the list is a long one. There are so many of us who owe a great deal to Carlos.

If you haven’t yet been lucky enough to work with, study with, or meet the man himself, hopefully this will be a decent surrogate, of sorts. So check it, and link it: He’s the real deal.


Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

It’s been bananas lately, mes amis. Bee ay en ay en ay ess. Below is the short version, and it’s still long. Laundry lists of duties aren’t particularly interesting, so perhaps some photos will de-snooze my week+ of insane over-committed-ness. Granted, I’m not the most efficient person in the world, so under ideal conditions, it wouldn’t/shouldn’t have been this much work. Ideal conditions are a little thin on the ground, however, so I make do with what I’ve got…

Tu 2.19 the work begins: teaching in the afternoon at USF, followed by a few hours in the evening at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), deciding how best to execute my wall installation in the main floor’s Room for Big Ideas (RBI). I’ve had stuff hanging in the space since September, but the plan, as described in this post, was always to keep my two corner walls minimal until spring, and then install something that would align with the Identity Shifts/The Way We Rhyme programming in YBCA’s main galleries.
wofford as minimalist: what’s been hanging in the RBI since September
bright idea wofford mapped out in photoshop as a wall mural to replace the paintings
We 2.20 spend day at YBCA, measuring and taping out lines on the wall, running around getting paints and other supplies, and then figuring out how to project and trace two large durian forms onto each half of the wall:
RBI corner wall
tracing projection onto wall at Yerba Buena
Th 2.21 start morning off installing at YBCA, rush over to SFAI to collect Carlos Villa so that he can speak in my Fil Am Arts course at USF, return him to SFAI, then drive 1.5 hours out to Napa in rainy traffic to participate in panel discussion at DiRosa Preserve:
carlos, throwing down some wisdom at USF
Fr 2.22 morning meeting at YBCA followed by install at YBCA with help from the wonderful Ibraim Nascimento, then off to Monster Drawing Rally in the evening:
michael, max, me, monstering
Sa 2.23 continued install at YBCA, then over to Southern Exposure in the evening to begin deinstalling (eg, sanding and repainting the ENTIRE rear gallery) my ‘Unseen Forces’ installation, taking all 4 walls of this back to perfect gallery white:
unseen forces, unspeakable amounts of repainting
Su 2.24 continue deinstalling at Southern Exposure all day and night with Bryce, Pirate, and Tully, plus afternoon monthly Creative Capital meeting with Tully and Wong Yap
Mo 2.25 all day at YBCA installing with Ibraim again, then back to east bay to prep for and teach my Arts Ed Seminar course that evening
giant durian wall painting, continued
Tu 2.26 morning at YBCA, then class at USF, then back to Southern Exposure to keep sanding and repainting (4 coats of paint per wall!) My neck and shoulders are a total mess from all of this work.
W 2.27
work at both YBCA and Southern Exposure, then out to WC around midnight to borrow minivan from parents, then back to Oakland
Th 2.28 morning at YBCA, then off to USF to take students on field trip to the Kwatro Kantos exhibition at I Hotel, then back to USF to prep for evening Fil Performance course, then over to Southern Exposure to continue sanding and repainting
kwatro kantos exhibition at Manilatown, I Hotel
Fr 2.29 putting together then delivering fellowship application to SFAI, then over to YBCA to keep installing, then off to an SF Gallery for a meeting, then back to YBCA to work for awhile, then over to KSW for Activist Imagination opening, then back to Southern Exposure to finish deinstalling with P until 1 am
disassembled metal detectors, Southern Exposure
Sa 3.1 breakfast with houseguests Reanne and Mike then off to YBCA in the afternoon to finish the wall painting (yahoo!), then out to WC in the evening to return minivan, then back to Oakland around midnight
corner wall double durians in state of completion
Su 3.2 shell-shocked couch-potato mode. Pedicure and barbecue (not at same time) necessary to alleviate trauma.

I know that there are plenty of people who are equally if not more busy than this, so it’s no great shakes that I managed to get through a pretty hectic spot. Everything I’ve been doing is an amazing opportunity, from getting to teach these awesome classes, to getting the exhibition opportunities at these great spaces, so despite my exhaustion, I really can’t bitch about it. I tend to thrive on these kinds of flurries of productivity, so it’s not as if I’m incapable of handling it. And I’ve known for a while now that this spring would be action-packed, so this is no real surprise.

However. It’s just…I’ve really fallen out of love with the great American work ethic, I think! Like it no longer feels honorable to be compulsively busy (maybe it never did): it just feels compulsive. And it feels more like the insidiousness of late capitalism and the Bay Area’s cost of living making many of us feel like we’re never doing enough. And when I, and many folks I know in the Bay Area, can’t have a casual conversation about how we are without making the “I’m soooo busy” grimace, something’s definitely out of alignment. Time to breathe and reflect and play is absolutely critical to any meaningful practice. So with that, I’m going to go continue goofing around a bit longer, since it’s Sunday evening, and I deserve it.