Archive for the reviews and commentary Category

Emily Lacy and Carmina Escobar, “The Voice Precedes the Word,” Bronson Caves, June 13, 2016

Posted in reviews and commentary, video footage with tags , , , , , on June 15, 2016 by Carol Cheh

Hey y’all what’s up. Been a while since I wrote in here. Yesterday I made my way up to our Bronson Caves to catch Emily Lacy and Carmina Escobar doing an experimental vocal recital. It was site-specific, in the most beautiful and sensuous way; the two of them felt their way up from the floors and walls of the caves, uttering small sounds that seemed to emit from the rock and earth around them, slowly and steadily building in frequency and volume and then moving from separate tunnels toward each other and improvising and bouncing off each other and gaining momentum and weaving in and out of one another until finally they crescendoed together, their voices bouncing off one other like sonar bats and ascending into the skyline, thick and ragged and free. Few performances have taken me to into another state of mind and I am happy to say that this one did. Enjoy the final five minutes in the video above! xo Carol

The Voice Precedes the Word was part of Dogstar 12, an annual festival of experimental music around LA.

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Rafa Esparza, bust. a meditation on freedom, near Twin Towers Correctional Facility, Chinatown, April 11, 2015

Posted in reviews and commentary on April 13, 2015 by Carol Cheh

twin_towers from you-are-here.com

Between El Pueblo and the Los Angeles River, in an obscure corner of Chinatown tucked behind the bowels of Union Station, sits the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, also known as the LA County Jail. According to an unofficial website, it is “the world’s largest jail”—a 1.5 million-square-foot complex opened in 1997. Its appearance from the outside, however, strangely belies its true nature. Designed in a bland, unassuming, international/brutalist style, the two buildings could easily be downtown government office buildings; a series of extremely narrow slits for windows are perhaps the only giveaway that this is a prison.

“I’ve never been in there, but I have friends who have,” says artist Rafa Esparza. “They all say the conditions in there are pretty bad. It’s the kind of place where you get staph infections. Everyone is always really happy to get out.” We were standing on the street, cattycorner to the prison, and directly across from Bad Boys Bail Bonds. The Men’s Central Jail, which was built in 1963 and has an even worse reputation than the Twin Towers, was also close by.

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Michael Parker, Juicework, Human Resources, February 6–10, 2015

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary on February 9, 2015 by Carol Cheh

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Money, influence, and hangers-on are descending on the LA art scene these days like vultures, turning it into a place that I barely recognize any more. Openings that were already crazy before are now completely unbearable, and at any given event, I’m more likely to run into wide-eyed escapees from New York crowing about how “things are much more possible in LA” than into the friends of ten years who used to populate the same events. It’s discomfiting, making it easy to think that the good times are over—yet another great grassroots scene ruined by its own popularity and inevitable gentrification.

But then something like Juicework happens and it gives me hope that maybe the truly great, unique, and beautiful stuff—the stuff that to me defines LA much more than any giant-warehouse-turned-blue-chip-gallery—can continue to co-exist alongside the annoying dreck. Michael Parker, an artist’s artist who is well known for beloved projects like Steam Egg and The Unfinished, has made another technically ingenious sculptural installation that also functions as a socially engaging participatory performance. It’s amazing, his knack for doing this, without ever falling into the ineffectual preciousness that mars certain other projects labeled as “social practice.”

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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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