Archive for the photo essays Category

homeLA, Mount Washington, May 4, 2013

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary with tags on May 7, 2013 by Carol Cheh
Absence: A History, performed by Sarah Jacobs, Aaron Kahn, Carol McDowell, and Madison Page

Alexandra Shilling’s Absence: A History deconstructed, performed by Sarah Jacobs, Aaron Kahn, Carol McDowell, and Madison Page

There’s a grand experiment afoot; the pioneering dance maven Rebecca Bruno, in partnership with the folks at Pieter and the Dance Resource Center, is seeking to infiltrate private homes throughout Los Angeles with a “site-sensitive” dance series called homeLA. The concept is a mutually beneficial one; the city’s small but scrappy experimental dance community opens up new performance venues for itself, while the sites themselves are enhanced by evocative dance works that play off their unique architecture.

The first installment of homeLA took place this past weekend at the home of Chloë Flores and Tim Lefebvre—a stunning, custom-built modernist compound nestled at the top of Mount Washington. The four-story main house and adjoining guest house, which sit elegantly on a hillside and deftly engage indoor/outdoor dynamics with elements like sliding glass doors and hidden patios, offered many unique spaces for dancers to experiment with movement.

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Bonus photos and thoughts from Perform Chinatown, July 21, 2012

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary on July 23, 2012 by Carol Cheh

Kate Gilbert, Lucy

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.

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Scott Benzel, (Threnody) A Beginner’s Guide to Mao Tse-tung—for 2 tape loops, dancers, cello, viola, violin, and percussion and Math Bass, Brutal Set, both part of Made in LA, at the Hammer Museum, June 22, 2012

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary with tags on June 23, 2012 by Carol Cheh

Two intriguing performances happened at the Hammer Museum last night, as part of the Made in LA biennial. If you missed them, Math Bass’ performance will be reprised tomorrow (Sunday, June 24) at 3pm, and Scott Benzel’s will happen again on Thursday, June 28, at 7:30pm, as part of the Hammer Bash announcing the Mohn Award finalists.

Benzel’s work takes its inspiration from a bizarre 1967 Esquire magazine photo essay in which doomed beauty Sharon Tate was used to illustrate aphorisms from Mao’s Little Red Book. A collection of beautiful people of both genders models each of the looks adopted by Tate in the essay, using the symbolically-charged implements (farm hoe, shotgun, etc.) to compose noise on a tape loop while moving around and striking poses. Their movements are accompanied by musicians improvising a score. Since the original essay doesn’t make sense and is blatantly exploitative to boot, it is a logical move to take the eye candy it provides and dissipate it into an experimental noise composition. I found it dramatic, evocative, and lovely to watch.

Scott Benzel, (Threnody) A Beginner’s Guide to Mao Tse-tung—for 2 tape loops, dancers, cello, viola, violin, and percussion

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Chinatown openings, November 5, 2011

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary, reviews of literature on November 7, 2011 by Carol Cheh

Micol Hebron refills her crystal vagina

Just when you thought vagina art had been exhausted, Micol Hebron, the undisputed queen of the genre, steps up and takes it to yet another level. Her new show at Jancar Gallery—titled Sisterhood is Powerful and partially done in collaboration with her sisters Siobhan and Tiernan—is all vaginas, all the time, all in your in face.

There are exquisite vagina portraits in the front gallery and glittery vagina drawings in the basement. There is even one genius painting that repurposes Jackson Pollock’s and Lucio Fontana’s iconic gestures to create an AbEx-Spatialist vagina canvas. But the centerpiece, a true showstopper, was a huge crystal vagina grotto that secreted a steady stream of delicious (and quite strong) piña colada, which guests were invited to help themselves to. I had two cups, garnished with cherries and orange slices, and was buzzed for the rest of the evening. This, on top of the retro-feminist high of hilarity that I always get from Hebron’s cheeky, cheery, and totally unapologetic paeans to the beauty and power of vaginas. Go sisters! (You can read Hebron’s own detailed commentary on this show here.)

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3 x 6 x 3 #3, live works curated by Dino Dinco, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), October 20, 2011

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary on October 25, 2011 by Carol Cheh

Samuel White at LACE

I always love Samuel White’s works. He puts so much of himself into them. From naked conversations with visitors, to wrestling matches with romantic partners, to riding the mechanized bulls of Los Angeles, White always puts his psyche and his flesh on the line, as he probes the boundaries between self and other.

In response to my questions, White sent a description of his LACE performance that is so beautiful, I’m just going to paste it here: “i love LA. this was the inspiration for piece in a sense. this city is so mechanical in way yet controlled by people. as much as the bull is sensual and erotic, it’s still mechanical. and so i thought the LA industrial background would highlight this. a bull ride in the LA sunset. what can be more romantic and real than a physical whirlwind in such a beautiful place. LA has everything this performance did. a sensual ride if chosen, or a crazy spin. the situation is both set-up by the performer yet controlled by the audience. similar to everyone’s experience here in Los Angeles. you can only choose to place your selfhere. the struggle is staying on top op it, often seemingly controlled by outside forces. i say seemingly because in he end, you realize how much control you actually have had the entire journey…”

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Perform Chinatown, July 30, 2011

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary on July 31, 2011 by Carol Cheh

Artists prepare for The Saffron Green

I might not be the best person to write about Perform Chinatown, as I had one of those fuckup nights where I didn’t get to see some of the things I really wanted to see, and I didn’t stay as long as I should have at things that I liked. Said fuckups also put me in a cranky mood, which might have colored my experience. Still, impressions are impressions and I do generally trust my instincts, as well as the opinions and stories of several people I talked to, so here goes.

Good performance art for me is about concentrated applications of energy accompanied by well thought out sets of ideas, and sadly both of those elements were largely missing from last night’s event. The organization of the overall event was obviously haphazard and disjointed, which affected the feeling that it conveyed. Performances and attention felt scattered, not adding up to a substantial experience. It also didn’t help that a couple of performances of the tired retread variety were showcased in the open areas of Chung King Road, sometimes overshadowing the better work.

An interesting/controversial touch this year was the appearance of several Viking character actors from Hollywood Boulevard, who were asked to donate their time and roam the streets during the event. On the one hand, I really hated the immediate impact that it had, which was to make the event feel like a cheesy, child-oriented Renaissance Fair (I spotted one Viking woman handing out her business card to a child and telling her that she was available for parties). On the other hand, I do admire the conceptual audacity to venture into truly forbidden territories of uncool kitsch. They would never, ever do this in New York, and that’s a good thing. Mixed in with Marnie Weber’s offbeat animal creatures, who also roamed the area, the Vikings were almost acceptable… but really, not quite. Maybe our city just isn’t ready for this level of irony. Next year, perhaps.

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Chain Letter, organized by Christian Cummings and Doug Harvey, Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica, July 22–August 26, 2011

Posted in noteworthy, photo essays with tags , on July 25, 2011 by Carol Cheh

The end of the line to deliver/install artworks

Chain Letter was a pretty nutty, sometimes euphoric affair. Check out my blow-by-blow account on the LA Weekly Style Council blog, and see below for pictures and additional details that I couldn’t squeeze into that article. There are also tons more postings from various peoples on the Facebook event page. And, check out the brand new Chain Letter international website.

Eamonn Fox's contribution

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When in Rome, opening night performances, Hammer Museum and Istituto Italiano di Cultura, April 20, 2011

Posted in photo essays on April 22, 2011 by Carol Cheh

Luigi Ontani (center) and performers, AmenHammerAmeno

Los Angeles got a strong taste of Italian performance at the opening reception for When in Rome, a survey of works by artists with ties to the Eternal City, currently on view at Instituto Italiano di Cultura.

The festive evening was kicked off by influential artist Luigi Ontani, who presented a new site-specific work, AmenHammerAmeno, in the courtyard of the Hammer Museum. The piece began with a procession from the Hammer to the nearby Istituto and back, and culminated in a 20-minute tableau vivant accompanied by live Balinese music. Ontani was assisted in his project by performers he had recruited from the local art community; everyone wore costumes and carried large ornate masks with amazing designs derived from Balinese folk traditions. The performers’ places in the courtyard were marked by flower petals laid out in the shape of a giant painter’s palette.

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Renée van Trier, A LITTLE BIT OF TASTY CHINA, OH MY GOSH!!!, California State University, Long Beach, April 10, 2011

Posted in photo essays, video footage on April 13, 2011 by Carol Cheh

The amazing Renée van Trier gave her final West Coast performance (for now) this past Sunday at Cal State Long Beach. If you missed it, treat yourself to complete video footage below, as well as some great still photographs after the jump.

On YouTube, you can watch all of her Spring 2011 California performances—at HiLite, at Pieter PASD, at Human Resources, at CSULB, and at two venues in San Francisco—along with others she’s done all over the world.

Renée returns to her native Holland today. She will be missed!

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BIOS_FEAR: Self Expression Night, The Hi-Lite, downtown LA, March 17, 2011

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary on March 21, 2011 by Carol Cheh

BIOS_FEAR, a gnarly collection of performances by about a dozen artists, was organized by Nathan Bockelman and Eric Svedas to coincide with Dutch artist Renée van Trier’s residency at Eamonn Fox’s in-studio Neon Gallery. It included artists from both the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, and “toured” from downtown LA’s Hi-Lite studio and project space last Thursday night, to San Francisco’s Bay Area 51 the following Friday night. According to the press release, this event was an extension of Bay Area 51’s Self Expression Night, an ongoing experimental platform for performance.

I know it’s tacky to quote press releases, but theirs was not widely distributed here and has a pretty cool paragraph that I want to reproduce: “Humankind shares the narrative of ‘the End’ across centuries and millenniums, cultures and creeds. As the spiritual morphs into the internalized space of the virtual, our society seems stupefied by a fear of what is to come. It is no longer important to meditate on the nature of the apocalypse as an event of the future; it is a process whose mechanics are in full view for all those who care to look. Unable to deny the consumptive and exploitive role that we have been born into as westerners, as Americans, we consume the momentary without the tangible ability to question or access its consequences. Without agency to effect the path which humanity continually determines and reinforces for itself, how do individuals express?”

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