Blue Avocado’s Jan Masaoka tells it like it is.
Blue Avocado’s Jan Masaoka tells it like it is.
The other day I was scrolling through Harvard Business Review podcasts when an interview with Muhtar Kent, CEO of Coca-Cola came on. He was talking about doubling the size of his company, but what amazed me was his double-speak: soda became a “full calorie beverage.” The nation’s obesity problem became an opportunity for philanthropists to promote “energy balance.” The content of the interview was normally something I’d skip, but I found myself transfixed by Kent’s style in answering the tough questions he was being asked about water supply, the environment, obesity and his first years as CEO. It reminded me of the story of how Steve Jobs lured John Sculley from Pepsi, saying ”Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world?” What can those of us who want to change the world for the better learn from a CEO of Coca-Cola? CONTINUE READING ]
On Friday I went to see Picture Jasper Ridge Ann Carlson’s 70-minute performance hike through the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve near Stanford University. You could not have asked for a more beautiful day to see art outdoors. As we passed through the gates of Jasper Ridge we were divided into smaller groups and asked to hold silence. This was my second “no speaking” performance this year, the first was Sleep No More by Punchdrunk Theatricals, where the audience followed—sometimes ran—after the performers, who ate and sang and danced and seduced one another through several floors of the McKittrick Hotel.
In Picture Jasper Ridge, the performers do not move or speak either. Visitors come upon them in tableaux vivants recreating archival images on or near the spot they were taken. Using a printed program, we were able to identify the images, along with some images of nature that indicated the passage of time: a skeleton of a deer who died giving birth, a rare leatherwood flower, a tree that had grown over the “No Swimming” sign affixed to its trunk.
One essay in the program addressed the experience of photographing a living image of an archive and many people brought along cameras. It is rare for an audience to be allowed to photograph work by someone as acclaimed as Ann Carlson. I brought my Nikon SLR but at the last minute decided against it and left it in the car. Even though I love taking photos, the thought of being an audience member with a large camera is intimidating to me even when given permission. So I didn’t bring my camera, but when people began taking photos I couldn’t resist taking several (including the one above) on my iphone instead.
For the first 20 minutes or so, it was impossible to silence the part of my mind that incessantly chatters white-paper jargon about “audience engagement” an “manufacturing meaning” because it was such a unique experience but one that seems tailor-made for community-based, neighborhood-based work. I was not surprised when, following the show, I learned that Picture Jasper Ridge was informed by Carlson’s earlier work Night Light, which was performed at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in 2002.
After the hike the audience and performers gathered around picnic tables to share a meal before taking the shuttle back to Stanford. It was opening night (afternoon?) so everyone was buzzing about the experience. I overheard one of the performers talking about how some of the groups seemed more “generous” than others because they took in the tableaux, while other groups—clearly the lesser groups according to the performer speaking—were busy snapping photos.
As someone who performed as an actor on stage every year for 20 years, I get what he was saying but I had never thought of it that way. It has been eight years since I performed and in that time pro-am photography and smart phones have become part of the live art experience. So, I’ve had the experience of being an audience member with a camera. And I’ve had the experience of being an administrator enforcing camera/no camera rules and conferring with artists about it. But until yesterday I hadn’t put myself in the shoes of a performer in the sense of what it feels like to perform for an audience who is actively engaged—with their cameras, or with some other activity that calls upon the audience as a creative or curatorial participant.
Of course it feels better to see emotion on the face of your audience, to hear them laugh and cry and gasp and clap. When the audience is active the rules change, the usual cues of an audience who is enjoying the performance are gone or different. After this experience I will be more mindful of that in my own work.
For Picture Jasper Ridge, I really enjoyed having permission to participate in a small interpretive way by framing and editing and sharing the beautiful images created by Carlson and her collaborators. And a “performance hike” was well suited to this type of participation. The performers were still and we were not rushed from place to place. Because the hike was 70 minutes there was a lot of time between the performances to take in the experience with all senses and let one’s mind wander. As we got deeper into the hike I thought about my own history and how it connects with the natural world.
The morning after the performance, I enjoyed looking back at the photographs and recalling the whole experience. Picture Jasper Ridge was an experience that will stay with me for a long time.
It has been a while since I picked up a camera for a purpose other than Instagram. At SOMArts there is usually something else I should be doing, but Tuesday we were a little short-handed so I snapped some pics of our queer performance series The News, hosted by Kolmel WithLove. This pic is of Aurora Switchblade. The whole set can be viewed here.
A flurry of articles have popped up about the Outer Sunset over the winter, in travel magazines and fashion sites and other unexpected places.
Surf ‘N Turf: S.F.’s Coolest Artist Couple Shows Off Their Beachside Crib
Apartment Therapy-esque slideshow that captures some of the neighborhood’s strong visual themes (waterproof boots, weathered wood, succulents, surfboards) in a home setting.
Street Date: Judah and La Playa streets, Outer Sunset
Being new to the neighborhood, I didn’t know the story of La Playa Park! Now I do, thanks to this article.
A Culinary Revival in the Outer Sunset’s Mist
Dan and I are pretty excited about this, for obvious reasons.
N-Judah to be shut down for six consecutive weekends
Less excited about this, but I didn’t know the N-Judah carried more passengers than any other Muni line.
While my Massachusetts pals are posting hauntingly beautiful snow pics to Instagram, my seashell collection is growing from winter walks at Ocean Beach. We’re gardening at SOMArts. And I saw a naked guy on my way to work yesterday.
Temperature aside, though, San Francisco is hot right now in the art world. The Walker Art Center is running a film series today highlighting Alternative Film And Video In The San Francisco Bay Area. HowlRound’s new City Series is highlighting the City by the Bay first, kicked off with a beautiful and personal description of the city’s art pulse by Deborah Cullinan.
February is not exactly a quiet month in the city, but it is definitely a time of year when I see friends a little more. My new year’s resolutions are still fresh and it feels like a good time to take risks and explore. I would love to go to Minneapolis and see how people are responding to Cadillac Ranch/Media Burn and others.
Which makes me wonder … if I could choose three contemporary artworks I saw last year in SF to get national attention, which would I choose, and why?
What would you choose?
Okay, so use of “epic” is a little dramatic. Dan makes a Top Ten list every year and I thought I’d try it.
1. Bought a home
Home ownership is something I’ve wanted for over 10 years. Then we moved to San Francisco. A lot of friends told me it couldn’t happen here, but we stayed in our tiny studio and started saving and looking at every possible lending and homeownership program. I read every blog by anyone who might have helpful information, and trekked to dozens of open houses in unfamiliar neighborhoods.Working it all out was a minor miracle, but if we can do it then other people can too. Housing affordability across the US is at a record high but San Francisco is #1 (above NYC) least affordable rental and ownership market. I personally feel this is one of the most urgent problems facing our city.