April 5, 2010
Thoughts about some stuff I did at the weekend:
1. L@TE at The Berkeley Art Museum: The museum turns out to be the perfect place for a casual evening concert, hobnob over wine or beer and visual art tour. Joan Jeanrenaud's cello playing was hypnotic. I could have listened to the ex-Kronos Quartet musician growl and purr all night. Ken Ueno's throat singing went on for slightly too long. I think it makes a better backdrop for strolling the galleries than something to sit and listen to with concentration for 40 minutes. The event was well-attended. Though the acoustic isn't great at the museum, the central sunken indoor courtyard provides a wonderful natural amphitheatre for performances. A huge undulating orange sculpture provided seating for around 70 people. Some people sat against the wave-like structure; others lay on their backs with their eyes shut. Looking down on lounging concert listeners from one of the museum's indoor "balconies" was like looking down at a work of art in itself. Spencer Tunick would enjoy composing one of his naked people pictures in this setting I think.
2. Oakland Art Murmur: Every first Friday of the month, downtown Oakland's art galleries throw open their doors in the evening for prowling and hanging out. The area is usually swarming with hipsters and the air is giddy with the smell of weed and frying hotdog onions. It's a great place to be. The cold weather on Friday kept things low key this time around though. I turned up at 9.30pm and was sad to see that most of the main gallery spaces had already closed their doors.
3. Reggie Wilson / Fist & Heel Performance Group and Andreya Quamba / Compagnie 1er Temps at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts: The union between Wilson's troupe, a Brooklyn-based company, and Quamba's troupe, from Dakar, Senegal, has been three years in the making. The groups' combined piece, The Good Dance, brought together slow, sultry movements that brought to mind desert plains and burning sun, with the cataclysmic flailings of lives lived in the fast lane. The piece made use of dozens of filled plastic water bottles, which the performers spent a lot of time alternately arranging in careful patterns or knocking over with carefree clumsiness. The piece spoke of cultures nurtured and destroyed. It pulsed with the water of life. And yet at the same time, there was a brittleness at its heart. Though much of the movement, drawing on its African roots, was earth-bound and tribalistic in feel, there was a fragility to some of the choreography. In a final duet between two male dancers, this feeling particularly came to the fore. The piece ended so abruptly, with one dancer walking off and the other stuck still in the middle of the stage, that I felt like something had snapped. It was a curious way to end the work. Perhaps not the most satisfying, but definitely thoughtful.
4. Big Idea Party at YBCA: YBCA's occasional parties aren't always galvanizing affairs. People mill around, look at a bit of art, have a drink and go home. But the party on Saturday evening produced in collaboration with the thePeople DJ and artists collective from Oakland was by far the best art institution evening event I've ever been too -- and that includes a "wear a tiara" night at the Victoria and Albert museum which I attended a few years ago and had held in high esteem for so long. thePeople inspired everyone on the dance floor with music that made it impossible for us to stand still -- a great mix of latin and trip-hop-infused electronica and house music. The galleries were full of people who actually seemed to stop and really spend time with the many video art works on display. The campari cocktails and jerk-spiced fish, chicken and veggie tacos were a score. I think what I responded to the most about this event was the combination of watching artists at work and being able to participate. Watching formidable hip-hop dancers on the dancefloor inspired us to move -- and we did.