KATE-CHUNG and Perform Chinatown 2013
This year’s Perform Chinatown looked to be a significant improvement over the two previous years’ editions, both of which I panned here on this blog and on the LA Weekly’s blog. The element that really made a difference was the installment of wooden cubes or pyramids, painted either white or black, to act as frames for individual artists. These served to set aside a certain amount of much-needed sacred space in which magical things could occur; lacking such spaces last year, the festival took on too much of a chaotic street fair quality, with pedestrians and onlookers stumbling into performance space and impeding the intended flow of energy.
Co-organizer Jamie McMurry, who put together this year’s edition with his partner Alejandra Beatriz Herrera Silva, also noted that the structures functioned as a satirical play on the art world’s ubiquitous and much revered/reviled white cube/black box. It worked on that level too. Not to mention, they just looked cool. The festival was not relegated to these structures, however. They simply served as anchor points, housing the durational performances that lasted for the entirety of the event. Performances also happened on an open central stage, inside of a few galleries that line Chung King Road, and randomly roaming about the area, making for a nice spatial balance.
As is usually the case, Samuel White’s work really stood out for me. He took a cube at the far end of the road and made a cozy domestic environment out of it, installing a couch, rug, table, shelves, blinds, etc. He then spent his five-hour performance slowly tearing everything down and feeding the pieces into a wood stove, which emitted a steady stream of fragrant smoke into the air. His intention was to end the performance with just him, naked, and a pile of black ash. As of this writing, I don’t know if he achieved that goal or not.
I can’t say much more about the festival, as I was only able to spend about half an hour looking at everything. My time was taken up by KATE-CHUNG, a special six-hour KCHUNG Radio broadcast that I organized and co-hosted with John Burtle, in conjunction with Perform Chinatown. KATE-CHUNG gathered amazingly diverse contributions from 13 artists that we know (or were recently introduced to) named Kate, plus a special Kate-themed edition of Yelena Zhelezov’s Tractor show, remote performances from Dutch artist Renée van Trier, and a live festival report from Adrienne Walser and Stacy Elaine Dacheux. I have to say I was really impressed by the quality of all the offerings, which you can now listen to at the KCHUNG archives.
It’s always good to do a community debrief after an intense performance event, so I’m going to try to organize a roundtable discussion on KCHUNG with key players for some time over the next week or two. Stay tuned to this blog for more details.