Bonus photos and thoughts from Perform Chinatown, July 21, 2012
Reviewing this year’s Perform Chinatown for the LA Weekly gave me a chance to reflect a little on the history of the event and the reasons for its various successes and failures. First of all, curatorial vision really matters here. The organizers need to get along with one another, they need to know the field intimately, and they need to have a discernible vision. A large public event like this veers too easily into chaos, and the brains and the dynamics behind the scenes have a direct effect on the strength and cohesion of the final product.
Second, context and framing are everything. The first two glorious years were serious presentations that aimed for a literate crowd and produced memorable works. The last couple of years have suffered from a RenFayre-like quality where family entertainment seems to be the aim and random people are invited in to check out what those weirdo artists are up to. There is nothing wrong with opening up performance art to a wider public, but I’m not sure that the casual, slapdash quality of the festival was a help to either the presentation or the appreciation of the works on view.
This doesn’t take away from the quality of performances that were presented by NICK+JAMES, Kate Gilbert, Alise Spinella, Karen Finley, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle (who actually fared the best in this environment, garnering tons of enthusiastic responses to A Knee Grow Contract), and many others that I missed. I just wish that the overall showcase was more savvy and proactive.
I am thankful that in both of the last two years, Small Form Space has acted as a hidden sanctuary in which to escape the weirdness of what’s going on outside, as it played host to the gentle beings benevolent association’s Perform Wow! event. It was such a relief to walk into a cozy living room, be welcomed by a designated hugger, and engage at leisure with a series of modest, intimate performances presented by artists with a long history of social and performative practices. It was a home in more than one sense of the word, perhaps proving yet again that no matter what misguided shenanigans may take place in our midst, we’ll always have safe spaces to return to.