Sunday, May 01, 2011

Birthday, Transmodern, Sweatpants tonight, New song

  1. My birthday on Wednesday was cool. So many people sent Facebook wishes and who would have thought that feels nice? I spent the day with Xav, a filmmaker from Milwaukee, driving around to get supplies for his video performance piece. Then Chris Toll and I went to Frasiers and watched the O's beat the Red Sox 5-4 and I ate meatloaf. Chris gave me Palo Alto by James Franco. Then back at home Joe made me a chocolate cake, which was an unexpected surprise. I ate it standing up because I had a bad headache by that point. Then I went to bed and read the first story by James Franco and was amazed by how many mistakes there were in the book. Not mistakes really, but bad sentences. For instance, "We were all sitting in the backyard on a little picnic table that you might find at the park." Actually, to be honest, that sentence doesn't seem too bad to me and when I just reread the story trying to find some good bad ones they all seemed okay. So, sorry Franco, all is forgiven.
  2. The 8th annual Transmodern Festival started on Thursday and ends today. Thursday night is always my favorite; it's the night that is focused on art more than hanging out and being youthful and creative and drunk. This year's Thursday show was called "Mediations." Stephanie Barber curated it. There were five performance installations. Kirsten Stoltmann's video "Post-Nothing" was first, and it was a room delineated by crappy folding chairs and a coffee machine with cookies, so that it looked like an AA meeting in a church basement. The video was three minutes long. It was Kirsten out for a jog, and then she gets shot four times and hit by two arrows. The special effects were funny. Then in the video Kirsten's neighbor says, "Hey Kirsten, what are you doing?" and Kirsten looks up and says, "Um, making an art video?" She looks dejected. Then the neighbor walks away. The neighbor was in the gallery, too (though it was a different actor) telling everyone how proud she was of Kirsten for being in the art show. That was funny. Next was Smelling Salts Amusements, who are Peter Redgrave and Heather Romney. They built a train cabin, complete with a video monitor installed in the wall which showed footage recorded from a moving train. That was a neat effect. Their performance, which lasted over two hours, just featured them riding in their cabin, interacting and being bored by the journey. They didn't speak, just sat across from each other on their benches and looked at each other lovingly, or staring into the middle distance, or doodling, or playing that game where you draw lines and close off boxes, or stretching, or taking something down from the overhead compartment. They wore European-looking clothes and wigs and looked really good in them. The piece was simple but compelling, and I think they had the most people watching them. Then there was a tent constructed by Jesse Stiles and Olivia Robinson. It was a really amazing thing, probably 10' in diameter, built from several quilts which had words sewn into it and cut out of it. The words weren't readable until a light would shine from the inside of the tent and light it up. Then you could walk around it and try to pick up a story as the lights went on and off in random patterns set by a chord organ. I'm not sure how it worked, but it was an impressive thing. Michael Kimball pointed out that the words were written in part by Jesse Ball. The artists were sitting with fabric masks on their heads right outside the door to the tent. Michael asked them questions but I felt queasy talking to people in masks. KimSu Theiler's installation was next, and featured an actor playing KimSu in a very small room with a fireplace. The girl was waiting for a pot to boil so she could cook her ramen. She wore a black dress and a towel on her head. On the mantle to the fireplace was a video monitor showing KimSu doing the same thing. Sometimes in the video she would be eating the ramen, I think. On the wall facing the actor was a projection that switched from a camera recording the audience standing outside the room to a camera placed directly over the cooking pot, to a camera facing the actor. At one point I stood outside the room and asked questions to a guy named Mick who was standing there too. Once I started asking questions -- like whether or not the fireplace was supposed to be real, and what the timer was for, and whether all the wires ought to have been hidden -- I couldn't stop thinking about the mechanisms of the piece. I found it very compelling that way. Finally, in the last spot of the room, Xav Leplae showed his 3D video Rasmalai Dreams. He didn't just turn on the projector, though. He constructed a frame which held the projector, so as he moved, so did the video. Sometimes he would turn completely and the entire projection would move to a different wall. The frame that he constructed basically made it impossible for him to stand still, so there was constant wobble. He said he was interested in this because when holding a camera there is always some of that motion, and he wanted to reverse it a little and introduce that sort of personality to the showing of video, rather than just the making of it. Xav also mounted a microphone onto his frame, and he used it to create another narrative onto the documentary he was showing. Rasmalai Dreams is footage of Indian actors in Bombay showing off their chops, sometimes with dramatic monologues (really, really dramatic one, over the top), sometimes dancing and sometimes just mugging for the camera. They were sensitive, beautiful shots at times, and funny. The soundtrack was incredible local music. So while the movie was playing Xav would point out things in the video and pretend he was trying to sell them to you on the stock market. He also had a fog machine that he would spray sometimes, and he hung two boxes of flower petals that he could shake with a string and they would pour down. It was immersive. 
  3. On Friday Joe and I went to see Xav and Kirsten talk at Johns Hopkins. Xav showed Rasmalai Dreams again from his frame, but this time he didn't talk. It was a completely different experience. I had to run out to pick up John Dermot Woods at the bus stop so I missed Kirsten's talk. But then John and a his old friends, Ben and Dan, and some people from my team played softball. I was good but I got sore really fast. Then John and Ben and Dan and I went to Swallow at the Hollow to eat and watch the O's beat the White Sox 10-4. Then we went to Transmodern and saw Mucca Pazza, who are a very exciting marching band from Chicago and I really recommend them. Then John, Ben and I got really drunk, which meant that --
  4. -- I was no good all day yesterday. I didn't go to bed until 5:30am and then had a hangover so I spent much of Saturday moaning through it. I rallied in time for Transmodern last night, where I watched an incredible play by the Missoula Oblongata. The play was called The Daughter of the Father of Time Motion Study and featured three women playing several different roles, including Lillian (the daughter), her mother, her boyfriend Beebee (sp?), a robot, a walrus, a bridge and a hole in the ice. I might be forgetting some. The performers operated their set with numerous ropes. The set was a large wooden box that included several doors, silhouettes, puppets, lights and music. Each performer played a song on the guitar. Scene changes were delineated effectively by romantic keyboard music played by one of the actors who had the keyboard attached to her costume. Interestingly, the play was about efficiency and every single action that took place was a perfect example of efficiency in practice, like when someone moved a light it wasn't just to shine it on a portion of the play, but also to make room for a door that was about to swing open. These quick changes moved the story, too, like when a long strip of fabric with a series of paintings on it was pulled slowly over the set like a film projection. You had to be there, I guess. It was a miracle. Then I went to Rooms Play, which should have been more miraculous but there were too many freakish characters crossing my boundaries and exposing ones I didn't know I had. Rooms Play is a series of rooms (22 in total, I think), exquisitely designed (one favorite was the sideways room, where the floor was the wall and the wall was the floor) with a couple actors in each room. They usher your small group of 4 people through and then send you on to the next room. In Theresa Columbus's room she had us wait in front of a curtain and told us to start talking about each of our first kiss. Then she opened the curtain and revealed that we were on a stage in front of an audience of her drawings. In another room we were rafter through a waterscape that was projected on the wall. In a brothel-themed room five or six girls in their underwear surrounded me, led me into a private area which was actually back into the same room, where they literally spun the floor and spat us out into a radioactive room that was humming. The rooms were amazing, but I didn't like how much I had to participate and how little the actors had scripted and how one guy took my M&Ms.
  5. Sweatpants! Tonight! At Golden West. I'm excited for this show because it's our last time, I think, as a loud rock band. After tonight I have goals to make us more performance-oriented and more adventurous musically.
  6. That said, I just wrote a new verse-chorus-verse type song that has the chorus "Life, it's my favorite thing, it's all I have, I need it -- that's what Camus said but he was dead when the book he said it in saw the light." Which is a reference to The First Man.

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