A Few Notes on Step and Repeat

Posted in reviews and commentary on September 26, 2014 by Carol Cheh

MOCA’s Step and Repeat is a new breed of performance festival that brings together performers from a variety of previously segregated genres and acknowledges the abundant crossover that now occurs amongst all of them. Thus, it’s not Performa, or Coachella, or Poetry Slam, or open mic night at the Comedy Store; it’s a free-for-all in which poetry, comedy, bands, deejays, experimental noise, fashion, and yes, performance art all casually coexist.

On September 20, MOCA presented the second of what will be a total of four Saturday nights of Step and Repeat action. Five different staging areas were set up inside the cavernous Geffen Contemporary, each very clearly marked with a giant numeral and arrows. Stage 1 was the upstairs mezzanine, designated for poetry readings. Stage 2 made use of the smaller, tunnel-like galleries under the mezzanine. Stage 3 was a dramatically lit proscenium in the back left corner of the Geffen, while Stage 4 was a cozier, den-like setup next door. Stage 5 was the grand arena, occupying the open area in center of the building. The courtyard just outside the front entrance was designated for food trucks, drink stations, and general mingling.

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Meg Wolfe, New Faithful Disco, Bootleg Theater, September 13–15, 2014: Q&A with the Artist

Posted in interviews, reviews and commentary on September 22, 2014 by Carol Cheh
All photos courtesy Meg Wolfe.

All photos courtesy Meg Wolfe.

I’ve only seen two dance works by Meg Wolfe, and that’s a shame, because based on those two works, she is easily one of the most intriguing dancer/choreographers working in Los Angeles today. The first was a short solo piece titled calling it something else for now (2012), in which she made dazzling use of a cloud-like costume created by Pat Payne while moving to a hypnotic soundtrack by Aaron Drake. The second was a recent work-in-progress called New Faithful Disco, which Wolfe performed with taisha paggett and Rae Shao-Lan.

Like the earlier work, Disco had an engaging soundtrack, composed by Maria de los Angeles Esteves. This one varied more in mood and tempo, with some slower passages and some driving dance beats. Costumes and props also played a significant role and seemed to carry a lot of symbolism. There was a collection of old-fashioned tape recorders at stage right that were fiddled with at the beginning and the end. There was a small pile of loose dirt and sticks at stage left that seemed to serve as a setting for private encounters.

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Matt Siegle, The Human Potential Movement, Park View, August 11–15, 2014: Interview with the Artist

Posted in interviews, reviews and commentary on September 5, 2014 by Carol Cheh

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One night in the middle of August, I made my way over to Park View, an art space started by Paul Soto in his newly rented apartment in the MacArthur Park neighborhood. Park View was having its inaugural show, a five-night performance by Matt Siegle called The Human Potential Movement. Visitors could drop in on any of the five nights between 7 and 10 pm, and come and go as they wished.

I entered the small apartment to find a simple, clean living room with a single striped couch positioned under the window opposite the front door. Matt was crouching on the hardwood floor, surrounded by gadgets and wires. Two clumps of blue lights lay on the floor. I took a seat on the couch, next to two people I didn’t know.

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The Mountain Bar at Tif Sigfrids, with a performance by Gracie DeVito and company, August 7, 2014

Posted in historical notes, reviews and commentary, upcoming events on August 8, 2014 by Carol Cheh
Image courtesy Tif Sigfrids and Gracie DeVito

Image courtesy Tif Sigfrids and Gracie DeVito

Tif Sigrids, longtime fixture on the early Chinatown scene before she set up her current digs in Hollywood, is paying tribute to her (and our) past with a temporary installation of the Mountain Bar at her gallery. Founded by Jorge Pardo and Steve Hanson in 2003, the Mountain Bar was for many years a gathering spot for the then-hot Chinatown art scene. In 2009, Pardo created the upstairs bar that would become home to The Mountain School of Arts (a free school initiated by Eric Wesley and Piero Golia) as well as various presentations, talks, performances and film screenings. In 2012, the bar closed, and Pardo’s designs have been in storage ever since.

Now, Sigfrids has taken an actual section of the original upstairs bar and installed it on one side of her gallery, where she and various volunteers serve free beer and wine to guests. The beautiful, cinematic design of the bar is served really well by the small, clean space of the gallery, where both its aesthetic qualities and its cultural significance seem to resonate with an extra glow, bathing the entire space in its warm, charismatic light. Perhaps nostalgia and history have something to do with that.

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Q&A with Rebecca Bruno: THE BEGINNING

Posted in interviews, reviews and commentary on July 27, 2014 by Carol Cheh
Rebecca Bruno, photographed by Shani Pak

Rebecca Bruno, photographed by Shani Pak

Over the last few months, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing two iterations of a dance performance by Rebecca Bruno, which both took place at Live Arts Los Angeles in front of a small group of friends and colleagues. Titled THE BEGINNING, the work seeks to engage directly with the energies generated by the people in the room, digging deep into the dancer’s sensory awareness to create a series of responses to the present moment. As Bruno writes in the announcement email: “A couple questions I am asking in this practice: What happens when the exploratory moments in a work’s nascency are performed? What, if anything, can a dancer indicate about collective energy?”

The first half of THE BEGINNING consists of a short participatory exercise led by Bruno. Audience members are asked to choose from amongst a set of essential oils provided for us. Whichever one we are most attracted to, we can apply to our bodies as needed. Properly re-tuned, we are then asked to get into pairs and walk around the studio, one after the other. The person in front leads while the person behind follows and observes the first person’s body and way of walking. After a couple of minutes, we stop and share our experience with one another. Then we switch roles and repeat.

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Q&A with Emily Mast

Posted in interviews on July 9, 2014 by Carol Cheh
Emily Mast directing ENDE (Like a New Beginning) Again. Photo: Will Wright.

Emily Mast directing ENDE (Like a New Beginning) Again.
Photo: Will Wright.

Following Saturday night’s performance of ENDE (Like a New Beginning) Again at Night Gallery, Emily Mast graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions via email.

Carol Cheh: Strangely, there isn’t really any explanatory text available for ENDE (Like a New Beginning). Is this intentional? Or would you like to share some explication or back story with us?

Emily Mast: The title of the piece that’s currently at the Hammer is ENDE (Like a New Beginning), as opposed to the title of the piece at Night Gallery which is ENDE (Like a New Beginning) Again. I wrote a sort of poetic press release that can be accessed on the Night Gallery website. It’s supposed to introduce visitors to a general feeling rather than a specific back story.

All of the iterations of ENDE began with poetry, or texts that I wrote to describe very specific moments in my life. Those texts were translated into gesture with my performers during a series of intensive workshops. And those gestures were named (and therefore re-translated into text) and then juxtaposed and layered to form one large, varied landscape of moments. One of my performers referred to it as a “minefield,” which I think is quite fitting.

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Emily Mast, ENDE (Like a New Beginning) Again, Night Gallery, July 5, 2014

Posted in reviews and commentary on July 7, 2014 by Carol Cheh

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A huge crowd was gathering outside the door of Night Gallery at the amber twilight hour. I spied the faces of several people who don’t really go out much these days, making a rare effort to attend this event. The large rollover gate finally opened with a dramatic bang some time after 8, and people filed in. I pressed inward with my friends and noticed two staging areas stocked with props and semi-separated by a curve around movable walls. At the far end, a band was set up. Two walls at opposite ends of the space were designated for live video projections.

There was space for the audience in the areas around and between the staging areas, which were delineated with tape, and Emily directed us to sit or stand so that the performers would have the room they needed to do their thing. There were over a hundred people squeezed into the space, and wherever you were, you could only see a portion of what was going on. Emily announced that the performance would be run through at least twice, so that everyone could see as much as possible. For the first performance, my friends and I stood at the rim of the first staging area, close to the band, and facing the large video projection wall. We were surrounded by viewers behind us and faced the viewers who sat under the video wall.

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