Blog Salon Series
The concept behind these virtual salons is simple. We enlist the time and intention of 10 to 12 artists who, after receiving a prompt, are asked to produce a piece of writing. These writings then get published in rapid succession (2 a day for one week), during which time we engage with the larger community and encourage their participation in the conversation via written comments. By creating this virtual dialogue we hope to document a more grounded and richer critique of the subject at hand and our relationship to it.
The subject of the first Salon is QUEER – queer performance, queer tactics, queer approaches, queer identity. How has this once pejorative adjective, transformed itself into many different meanings?, how do we use something that has yet to find its own definition? how does it use us? This blog has a multi-functional intention: to contextualize Queer and, by process of listing local contexts, to expand on what community is for us. Who is currently adding to the conversation? What is shaping it in the here now?
We aim for a diversified mapping – mapping of meaning, of syntax, mapping of usage and through that a mapping of community. Robert Avila, friend, theater critic and writer for the BAY GUARDIAN, gave way to this conversation, in the April 12 issue in an article titled Outside and Inside. He stated that “there is a burgeoning queer performance scene in the Bay Area, creating new zones” and I couldn’t agree more. Maybe as a result of performance spaces being lost right and left, or maybe because technology and our understanding of the tools available to us have shifted, whatever the reason there is a sort of renaissance happening here. In this Salon we want to expand on the idea of zones by creating a virtual platform where dialogue is vital and critical exchange holds space for as many voices as possible. I invite you to add to it, to challenge yourself, me and each other, and make for an even queerer zone.
Contextualization of our current ecology is important, not because it lists names but because it informs realities. Let us take a look then at what is written, and add to it. This is a document, our collective document. Let us join and help inform. Let us get stronger.
A Note from Robert Avila
The origins of the Bay Guardian article were pretty innocent. A little while back, I accepted an invitation from Counterpulse’s Jessica Robinson Love to come see the results of Counterpulse’s 2010 residency and was in that way introduced to work by Jesse Hewit and Laura Arrington. Needless to say I was very impressed with what I saw. Friends who are serious about theater and performance heard me talk about it for weeks. The work of these two young artists and their collaborators seemed to bode so well for the scene generally. A short while later, after he’d been recognized with the Bay Guardian’s Goldie Award, I had the opportunity to talk with Jesse Hewit. In our discussion of queer performance in the Bay Area, it was he who pointed out to me that the work I was seeing and responding to at Counterpulse—as well as at Mama Calizo’s and elsewhere—was part of a larger related scene, a fairly tight-knit community of artists, one he had high regard for and encouraged me to keep an eye on.My editor at the Bay Guardian, Johnny Ray Huston, in turn greatly encouraged me to go beyond the usual theater-column treatment and really highlight what we both suspected was a rare and important burst of activity in the local cultural landscape. We wanted more people to know about it, and not miss it. And I personally wanted to understand it better—the lineages, assumptions, expectations, and broader visions behind work that seemed to be coming from and heading elsewhere than much else I’d been used to seeing.
The scene or moment I tried to sketch in the paper had to do with a lot of things not entirely, or always aptly, conveyed by the “queer” rubric. But queer, it seemed, was the term of choice. And given that queer—as adjective and verb; identity and tactic—was often associated with the new work I’d come to regard as among the most potent and intriguing being produced in the Bay Area, it also seemed especially alive: expansive, unstable, more inclusive than exclusive, but also challenging and charged, full of associations, affiliations, subcultures, and even contradictions (or at least fuzzy and sometimes uncomfortably overlapping definitions). While the article did not rigorously explore the deployment and permutations of the term, it’s gratifying that it could still play a modest part in an ongoing discussion of the aesthetics and politics of queer in this time and place.
Various friends/colleagues and I have for a while gotten used to complaining that there is too little discussion of ideas, definitions, and positions (aesthetic and political) in the theater scene in general. In the end, of course, the work speaks for itself. But we suspected that the paucity of open and passionate dialogue was a serious limitation on the development of work. That this online salon provides an opportunity for bringing together many informed opinions and conversations around art, identity, subjectivity, oppositional subcultures, institutional authority, or the role of community—while opening it all up to a larger audience—strikes me as promising and healthy.
Blog Salon Release Schedule
Anna Martine Whitehead utilizes video, puppets, sound, and movement to address queer, deracinated, disremembered histories. She has shown and performed internationally in as many galleries as public parks, as a solo artist as well as a collaborator and facilitator. She can be seen this summer in Queer Rebels of the Harlem Rennaisance and This Is What I Want – both part of the 2011 National Queer Arts Festival.
Jai Arun Ravine is a mixed race Thai American artist. Ze is a Kundiman fellow and the author of the chapbook “Is This January” (Corollary Press, 2010), “The Spiderboi Files” and a full-length book of poems forthcoming from Tinfish Press. Hir short experimental film on Thai trans-masculinities, “Tom/Trans/Thai,” is currently on exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, Thailand. Upcoming performances include Restacking the Deck: a Cave Canem and Kundiman poetry reading in Berkeley on June 5, The Ms. TangTang Show in San Francisco on June 23 and the Red Rover series in Chicago on July 16. Find Jai online at jaiarunravine.wordpress.com.
Jesse Hewit is a choreographer working primarily in San Francisco, and the leader of Strong Behavior, an ongoing performance project and company. Additionally, he curates and facilitates original performance and discussion through Dancer’s Group, CounterPULSE, and the National Queer Arts Festival. In the past year, besides working with his extraordinary company, Jesse has collaborated on original work with Erika Chong Shuch, Catherine Galasso, Sara Kraft, Travis Mathews, and Keith Hennessy, and was the recipient of the 2010 GOLDIE award for performance. He holds a BFA from Tisch’s Experimental Theater Wing (NYU) and an MA in Sexuality Studies from SFSU. To learn more, go to jessehewit.com, and come see Dog, premiering at Z Space in December of 2011.
Matthew Milo Sergi is a logophile and philologue. Inspired by the history and future of words, he generates performance, poetry (especially for use in performance), playscripts, and scholarly publications. BFA: NYU/Tisch (Drama and English, Minor in Applied Theatre). Ph.D.: UC Berkeley (English and Medieval Studies). Soon to be an Assistant Professor of English at Wellesley College, Sergi is in the process of turning his dissertation (recipient of the Medieval Academy of America’s Schallek Grant) into a book on medieval religious drama. Sergi is a founding member of Front Line Theatre; he is now resident poet and performer for Front Line’s newest text-and-movement project, RARE EARTH, part of CounterPULSE’s Summer Special (early July, SF). Sergi’s previous play, GLORY GLORY, received the Fort Mason In Performance Grant for production in the Northside Theatre. Meanwhile, especially in collaboration with his partner Ara Glenn-Johanson, Sergi has contributed (as a textmaker and performer) to a series of short dance-theatre performances in the SF Bay area.
m. a. brooks discovered magical San Francisco in 1995 and began performing solo, body-based performance work at venues like Luna Sea and The Lab. Since then, m. a.’s work has expanded from solo performance to film, aerial dance and circus. m. a. currently dances with San Francisco aerial dance company, Fly Away Productions and is in residence at The Tenderloin National Forest with Dirtstar–an interdisciplinary group of artists focused on radical sustainability. In June of 2010 was granted a Djerassi choreographer’s residency.
Mica Sigourney As a student of theater and performance for 25 years, Sigourney has specialized in physical theater, improvisation and site specific performance. 6 years ago he fled the proscenium stage and traditional venues and refocused his energies on go-go performance installations and the populace stages of the nightlife. 2 years ago he created drag persona VivvyAnne ForeverMORE! and since has performed on stages and festivals in San Francisco, L.A. New York, and London, and in the deYoung, the New Museum (nyc) and Yerba Buena Center for the arts.
Sigourney produces the WORK MORE! series, a twice a year drag production featuring nightlife performers presented in a “real” theater context, where their processes are exposed, and their boundaries pushed. As a writer his work has been featured as part of the Radar Reading series alongside San Francisco’s Poet Laureate.
Michelle Tea is a writer and literary performance curator.
Rotimi Agbabiaka moved to the Bay Area about a year ago after receiving an MFA in Acting from Northern Illinois University. Before Illinois he lived in Texas and Nigeria. In the past year he has performed with the San Francisco Mime Troupe and joined the cast of Beach Blanket Babylon. Last September he wrote and performed in the solo play, Homeless, which won the award for best solo performance in the 2010 San Francisco Fringe Festival. He has also workshopped and performed at Queer Autonomous Zone (QAZ), Yerba Buena Center (with Jess Curtis) and at various locations with The Off Center. He’s even popped up on a drag stage or two around town. He’s excited to dive into the world of blogging with such fine company.
Philip Huang is the founder of the Home Theater Festival and the author of A Pornography of Grief. To see Philiips work visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/spider75berkeley?feature=mhee
Tessa Wills is a a choreographer and live artist with some success behind her as an artist and arts leader in Brussels, London and Vienna. She has chosen to live in San Francisco because of the sensuality of the city. Her background comes from Music through Ballet and Contemporary dance training to Live Art, and now moving back into an interrogation of dance, and its inherent value/not. Her current concerns in practice are around wounds, punctures, liminality and the movement organizational principles of birds.
Recently Tessa has completed the solo, “bird and person dyning” performed at Too Much!, a commission for the Meridian Gallery, Union Square San francisco called “flicker/follow”, and an 11 minute dance film funded by the British Council called “mine/scratch/mine”. She is leading a Bay area dramaturgy group to investigate and reflect the cultural identity of the area in an international context. She recently completed her Masters in Choreography from the University of Middlesex, and is very proud to be a participant in Counterpulses ‘summer specials’ program on the 17th of August. www.tessawills.com