W.A.G.E. Launches W.A.G.E. Certification—an important step forward in the fight for fair compensation in the arts

Posted in noteworthy with tags , , on October 30, 2014 by Carol Cheh

W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Greater Economy) is a research and advocacy group dedicated to correcting the common assumption that it’s okay for nonprofit institutions to not pay exhibiting artists for their labor because their work will be rewarded with “exposure” and/or “prestige.” Founded in 2008 and incorporated as a nonprofit in 2012, W.A.G.E. has sought to educate and raise consciousness around economic inequity in the arts through giving speeches, making videos, holding open teach-ins and workshops, and “W.A.G.E. RAGING” in panel discussions and symposia around the world.

After several years of intensive research and dialogue, W.A.G.E. has now launched W.A.G.E. Certification, the first program to publicly recognize nonprofit arts organizations that demonstrate a history of, and commitment to, voluntarily paying artist fees. With its clearly defined, sector-wide, minimum payment standards, calculated according to an institution’s annual budget, W.A.G.E. Certification is designed to be a tool for systematically creating a more equitable playing field for all cultural producers.

There is a lot of work ahead, as the W.A.G.E. team prepares to move forward with their goal of negotiating with and subsequently certifying the thousands of nonprofit art institutions throughout the country. For that reason, they’ve launched a funding campaign to pay for their direct overhead costs and their own labor, which up until this point has largely been done on a volunteer basis. Their goal of $75,000 is modest when you consider the amount of work that has already gone into this project, and the extensive and real impact it could have on American artists’ income for a long time to come.

Donate today and show your support for the cause. Every little bit helps!

Art, Education & Justice!—Art school faculty across Los Angeles are organizing. – by Marco Franco Di Domenico

Posted in guest blog posts, reviews and commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2014 by Marco Franco Di Domenico
A solidarity spell led by the Oracle of Los Angeles, Amanda Yates Garcia. Photo: Concrete Walls Projects.

A solidarity spell led by the Oracle of Los Angeles, Amanda Yates Garcia. Photo: Concrete Walls Projects.

On Sunday, October 12, Human Resources in Chinatown was bustling with the energy of solidarity. Art, Education & Justice! brought together all types of art laborers: teachers and students, art handlers and artists, to meet and start a big conversation across Los Angeles and the country. It was both a social event and a short informal conference with several speakers, a few performances, and an endless supply of Chinese food, which was nice. The main purpose of the event was to raise awareness of the poor treatment many art faculty have to live with. Poverty wages and lack of job security has led many to organize with the intention of forming a union with the Service Employees International Union. But the room was also filled with numerous related and allied organizations.

While you are here, sign this petition.

There are a lot of problems in higher education these days. It’s a complicated organism, and each school has its own unique issues, but the general trend is that schools have gradually adopted a corporate operating model. Administrations continue to grow along with their salaries while full-time faculty positions are disappearing. To make up for this, part-time or adjunct faculty have been taken on in droves. In some cases, adjuncts outnumber full-time faculty—a severe irony since “adjunct” means “additional but not essential.” Of course, part-time faculty are paid less and don’t receive benefits, but what is most troubling is that in many cases, adjuncts live from class to class in a state of complete precariousness with no assurances for the next semester.

“In one day—a 24-hour period—I was let go by two schools simultaneously, without any kind of respect,” recalled Jessica Rath. The crowd at Human Resources immediately responded with a chorus of boos. A poignant statement for the first speaker to stand in front of the eight-foot-tall silver letters spelling “UNION NOW.”

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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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