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My Performance Festival Itinerary

I have long been anticipating the Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival that started yesterday in Los Angeles and continues through the 29th of this month. Challenging as it is to attend art events, especially indeterminant, sometime outdoors, mostly evening events with a 6-month-old baby, I am determined to make the most of this performance smorgasbord. So bring on the good, the bad, the ugly, the old, the iconic, the young, and the daring. Comb your beard, break out your hipster glasses and suede wedges and big flouncy scarves and industrial rope jewelry, and let’s see some time-based art!

Spine of the Earth, 1980, Lita Albuquerque. Ephemeral installation at El Mirage Dry Lake Bed, CA  Photo: Lita Albuquerque © Lita Albuquerque Studio, 1980

Spine of the Earth, 1980, Lita Albuquerque. Ephemeral installation at El Mirage Dry Lake Bed, CA Photo: Lita Albuquerque © Lita Albuquerque Studio, 1980

Here’s my itinerary. It barely scratches the surface of the offerings, so check out the website, but this is my plan so far:

Sunday January 22

1) Pack up the stroller and sweaters, and cart the baby to Lita Albuquerque’s Spine of the Earth at noon on the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. Who can pass up the chance of seeing a reinterpretation of this seminal 1980 land art piece?

2) After putting baby to bed, change into my party pants and hit up Liz Glynn‘s Black Box. Liz is all over the place these days with an exploding career, yet her work remains thoughtful, poetic, and stunningly smart. I can’t wait to see what she’ll do with a space all her own, albeit temporary. Also, I’ve gotten word that Emily Mast is premiering a new piece called Birdbrain that night – not to be missed.

Thursday January 26

I know, I’m missing a lot on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. But I have to work, you know?

3) I can’t miss the amazing OJO at LACE, though, Thursday at 7pm.

Friday January 27

4) I plan on getting home early from work, and hopping the Red Line downtown to make it to the 7pm closing candlelight reception for Suzanne Lacy’s iconic Three Weeks in January at the LAPD. A re-iteration of her Three Weeks in May performance, this is sure to be a powerful, moving, terrifying, and ultimately redemptive piece. Needless to say, baby will stay home.

Myths of Rape , by Leslie Labowitz-Starus, Performed for Three Weeks in May, Suzanne Lacy, 1977  Performed for Lacy's series Three Weeks in May. Photo: Suzanne Lacy

Myths of Rape , by Leslie Labowitz-Starus, Performed for Three Weeks in May, Suzanne Lacy, 1977 Performed for Lacy's series Three Weeks in May. Photo: Suzanne Lacy

Saturday January 28

5) I can’t wait to attend the Ball of Artists at Greystone Manor. CAN. NOT. WAIT.

So, those are my 5 picks. I would love to attend Andrea Fraser’s new performance on January 23rd, and the very amazing but woefully under-recognized Channa Horwitz’s event on that same day, and Eleanor Antin’s performance at the Hammer on January 29th, but I’ve got to be realistic. See you out there!

The More the Merrier, but the Deeper the Better

There are too many events for me to keep track of. My Facebook events page, my calendar, my mailboxes are overwrought. I have stacks of printed calendars on my desk that remain unopened from various arts institutions. Such choice, such variety is wonderful on the surface! Why, just this weekend, I have to hit up the LA><ART opening of two solo exhibitions by Kelly Barrie and Terry Chatkupt; Edgar Arceneaux’s opening and dinner at Suzanne Vielmetter (both Saturday at 6pm); and the Fallen Fruit Let Them Eat LACMA event on Sunday. And I will miss three cool-looking events at LACE (especially the interesting Museum of Public Fiction panel) and a friend’s sketch comedy show. And these are just the events in which I feel a real investment, those I am truly interested in and want to attend for my own edification. And these are only the ones I know about.

But with this overabundance of endless panels, participatory artworks, workshops, presentations and performances comes a heavy pressure on limited time, with the reciprocal need to feel a part of the various temporary communities produced by such events.

I know I am not alone in this contemporaneous moment, as colleagues and friends have complained of the same slightly distressing pull on their time. Some are masterful at balancing children, relationships, jobs, friends and art world events – but surely there are others like me who feel constantly overwhelmed. In many ways, we can chalk this up to the increasing ease of information distribution – and thus perhaps overdistribution? I was recently clued into the block of html code that allows one to invite all of one’s friends on Facebook to an event without discriminately selecting each invitee.

Perhaps because of this knowledge, I get the feeling that I am sometimes invited to events not because I am necessarily expected or even desired at the event itself – if I were to go to [cite potentially uncomfortable art event], I would feel out of place. Rather, these forms of distribution are yet another way in which to increase one’s cultural capital – to show that one is active on the scene, out there, working and gathering and networking and advancing one’s creative agenda.

There is nothing necessarily bad about this at all, but I do find myself overwhelmed at times by the reciprocal expectation – ostensibly to enjoy, but also to attend, to be seen at, to expand my own network, to enter new communities, to advance my own creative agenda at such events. This circulatory system of venues, people, organizers, producers, audiences, and artists is an excellent vehicle through which to increase presence and thus capital – and the expansion of synapses within such a system speaks to a dynamic art world and is indicative of current modes of operation.

These events share the “situational characteristics of contemporaneity” defined by Terry Smith as “prioritizing the moment over time, direct experience of multiplicitous complexity over the singular simplicity of distanced reflection.” As Claire Dougherty explains in her introduction to the anthology Situation, “these properties are displayed by a complex network of artworks, projects, events, interventions, happenings, small gestures and spectacular intrusions over time.” There is great slippage between artistic and political concerns that demand engagement, participation, conversation, and pedagogical situations as modes of working, and the importance of the social event to fundraising, marketing, and self-promotion.

Yet, I find myself wondering as I consider the increasing demands on my time – does the frequency and overdistribution of such events present dangers of dilution and a resulting lack of “distanced reflection”? Is there a destabilizing effect on the fragile produced communities of small experimental spaces and oft-marginalized cultural producers? Or, because of the rapid expansion and increasing professionalization of the art world, heightened in Los Angeles because of the presence of half a dozen world-class MFA programs in the immediate vicinity, is there a never-ending capacity to absorb such events? An ever-flowing stream of new art students and new work and new experimental spaces, a constant refreshment of the circulatory system of this event-driven cultural production?

I worry that scholarly reflection and distance will become impossible (or at least, difficult) with such oversaturation, and that too many critical projects simply die away without hardly a peep. I also worry that this lack of distance and criticality inevitably leads to a constant reinvention of the wheel – regurgitated events and concerns that are continually cycled through instead of built up and studied and critiqued. These worries are probably somewhat unfounded, and the proliferation of artists also means a proliferation of engaged critics and writers and publications through which to address such projects. The more the merrier, but the deeper the better. For myself, I must become okay with my own discrimination, and define how I want to function tactically in this swirl of constant production.