October 23, 2014

Hope Mohr Dance / Have we come a long way, baby?

The Bridge Project 2014:
Have We Come A Long Way, Baby?

Hope Mohr Dance
in association with Joe Goode Annex

Sep 26, 2014

From the program:
“For its fifth anniversary, HMD's Bridge Project presents Have We Come A Long Way, Baby?, a program that celebrates and explores a West Coast post-modern dance lineage through an intergenerational lineup of female soloists.”

Anna Halprin
The Courtesan and the Crone (1999)

Anna Halprin, one of the most innovative, experimental and influential of dance artists, performed a mime piece; a five minute dance-theater work wearing a Venetian mask that was a gift from her daughter and a floor-length gold cloak that she previously wore to the White House. 94 years old. Fragile. Eager to make contact. To move. To move us. To touch. I felt lucky to share this moment that vastly transcended the actual choreography and yet of course was deeply implicated in its embodied narrative and mimicry, desire and nostalgia, power and loss. Halprin's courtesan was articulate and unabashed. She presented the mask of a younger woman and the body that still remembers her, at least in gestural fragments. Her crone fluctuated between grief – what have I become? – and a calm resolve or affirmation. We applauded. Anna smiled and bowed and exited carefully, each step significant.

Simone Forti
News Animation (1980-current)

An improvisation about water, Syria, cockroaches, a baby... is also an improvisation about Simone Forti, aging, improvisation, politics, and art. A way or reading and re-reading the news, News Animation, since 1980, has modeled a creative process for bridging the many gaps between Forti's (and perhaps y/our) lived experience and the political realities presented and framed as news. White haired and 70 plus, she knows her body, how it can get to the floor and back up without excessive effort, how it feels.

Meandering movement – she reveals an artist looking and finding – but then the mood shifts sharply as she walks directly toward us, speaking, “So we're bombing Syria. And we don't know why. And they tell us it's to protect the homeland. (pause) The homeland.” It's easy to say that of course we should be talking about Syria today and of course we don't know how, especially in public. Forti accepts this ethical challenge gracefully. “We want the borders that we established after WWI to hold.” Is it her age, her quivering gestures, the humbleness of the situation (a small studio theater, an audience of dance people) that help us to see the tragic absurdity in this statement? With her head gently bobbing beyond her control, she gestures, “If I'm the map, Iran is on this side (right thigh), and Saudi Arabia is on this side (left thigh), and Iraq is here (hands form a triangle over her crotch).” I'm reminded of Deena Metzger's late 70s or early 80s efforts to map the world onto the body, a feminist imaginary that recognizes the many resonances between one's body and one's world, between one's perception and one's projection. Considering her own body/mind/self, Metzger asked questions like, where are my borders open and where are they fortified? Where is there starvation or drought? Where are the rivers dammed and where are the war zones?

Forti emerges from a similar era of feminism and an art scene whose political critique of art and society led them to share creative process as “product” (Prioritizing “practice” as Arrington and Hewit might assert). For News Animation, Forti reads a newspaper and takes notes in the form of poetic journaling. In tonight's performance the notes were read live, an exposure of process but also a deepening of the material, revisiting it but from the past, rewinding time to reconsider the now. “Colonialism. I can never remember so I reach for my colon.” Her body grounds and recontextualizes language, perhaps patriarchy and its logic as well. Reading from a notebook, head bowed to the page, white hair vibrating with her shakes, she recounts a dream of power men and their penises and closed sexual circuits that exclude everyone else.

A dance with a white sweater and scarf shifts unexpectedly into a story of fish that know how to organize in solidarity and resistance. Forti is a gentle master. Using the tactics of innocent (or is it subversive) children's theater, she transforms the clothing into a snowy Montana horizon along her body (mountain), and then admits to failing to represent the milky way... Perfect and imperfect, her imagination always in process of both refinement and wilding, an ethical feminist artist researcher child whose failures are gateways to magic.

Lucinda Childs
Carnation (1964)
Performed by Hope Mohr

White chair. Black table. Red leotard. Blue jeans. Her right foot in a blue plastic bag. A kitchen sieve treated as an iconic or holy object. Carefully she constructs sandwiches from green sponges and pre-cut carrots that fit the width of the sponge. Color and form redux: Fluxus tasks, Dada disruptions, Judson deconstructions. Carrots ceremoniously inserted into sieve create an altar of orange radiance, then a crown when place delicately on her head. Many sponges are stacked vertically and one end inserted into her mouth. The mask is further manipulated by cramming the fanned gaps of the sponges with the carrots from her crown. The game ends by spitting everything into the blue bag removed from her foot.

At the back wall she does a headstand. In precarious balancing she performs a circus act with socks and a white sheet and she disappears. Ta da! It recalls certain actions/images in Xavier LeRoy's Self Unfinished, created 34 years later.

She captures air in the plastic bag and it stands unsupported. Another circus act with magic fully exposed and yet it's still magical, that is, whimsical, unexpected, and previously unimagined. She looks at it. Stomps it. Smiles. Proudly. The smile turns on and off. Then she cries. Steps away. She performs tasks with arbitrary rules that must be obeyed. If this isn't the essence of art, it's one of them.

I propose this work for an Izzy: best reconstruction of 2014!

Hope Mohr
s(oft is) hard (2014)
Performed by Peiling Kao
Sound by Ben Juodvalkis, Video by David Szlasa, Costume by Keriann Egeland

We hear the sound of writing, by hand. A mix of knocking and scratching. Peiling faces away from the audience but her face, in close up, is projected, large, as if staring back at us. She is wearing black tights and a blue crocheted top. A voice over, Hope I presume, tells of writing 89 journals in 20 years. She recites specific dates but not the entry that follows... After reading through the journals while making this piece, the voice tells us that she recycled all of them except the first and the last, numbers 1 and 89. I believe her and vow to hold on to my old journals even tighter.

There is a more complicated relationship between text and movement, or language and embodiment, than in the previous works tonight's program. More dates. More sounds of writing. More silences. More shapes and gazes and self-touching gestures and other dancing movement. Minimal piano accompanies the continued chronological progression of dates...we're in the 90s...then 2000s. Video is intermittent. We switch from face cam to feet. Peiling's breath becomes the dominant text as her movement increases in vigor. Today's date. Tomorrow's date. She rolls and jumps repeatedly. A virtuosity that impresses, viscerally. On her back, the lights fade, slowly.

Deena Metzger
I can't find the actual reference that was a radio piece from the 80s but here's her current work:

Xavier LeRoy, Self Unfinished (1998)

I am an enemy of the slow fade to black at the end of a dance. Also the device of the blackout to begin a piece, to tell the audience that it has begun, and to allow the dancers to enter the space unseen (or the suggestion of unseen since I can almost always see and hear them). The framing of the stage or the theatrical moment with darkness is a cliché, a trope emptied of any specific meaning that carries more ideological weight than dancers in the US are taught to consider. In San Francisco I witness these devices at almost every concert I attend. In the “contemporary” dance scenes I frequent in Europe or New York, they are extremely rare, and when they occur they are more likely to be conceptually integral to the work.

October 10, 2014

This Is The Girl / Funsch Dance Experience, Sep 2014

This Is The Girl

Funsch Dance Experience
Sep 12-14, 2014
Dance Mission, SF

Observations and opinions by Keith Hennessy
followed by a comment by Christy Funsch

Choreographer Christy Funsch enters to give the (now) compulsory pre-show announcement that unnecessarily frames dance performances in SF... but with a twist... when we realize that the announcement is (integrated into) the performance. Information about exits and cell phones erodes into awkward silences and unfinished statements, until finally Funsch states, “I am nothing” and exits as if lost... This opening action reveal's Christy's dry (or is it wry?) sense of humor that threads through and sometimes even structures her work.

A woman in a red dress plays electric guitar with five young, fit, multiculti, dancers. Christy and Nol (Simonse) are the seasoned performers in this work, sometimes exaggerating their “experience” by playing old farts who need help from the young whippersnappers. When they chat, the text and performance are so unforced. The audience relaxes. It's easy to laugh along and enjoy. Later Christy tells me that the conversation is improvised. I say it's like watching old friends play together. Super charming. Amid family tales of sisters and coming out, they talk about story versus nonlinearity and ponder the relationship between construction and imagination.

SF choreographers never got the memo that unison movement is “out” or at least should be questioned and not assumed as integral to dance making. But then I think about how many companies based in SF (at least 5, maybe 6...) employ photographer RJ Muna to make them look practically indistinguishable, their (wannabe) sexy lithe bodies revealing lots of bare skin, leaping. Add some flying fabric for extra drama. Neo-classical modernism thrives here. That's not what Christy's doing with her young dancers, but it's a meandering rant that follows my questioning of her use of synchronized ensemble movement. What is possible to communicate, invoke, or inspire with dancing and when is unison the best tool or sign for choreography?

The next section involved the Dance Brigade's Grrrl Brigade on Taiko drums, led by Bruce Ghent. I thought Bruce's role was perhaps too big for a young female empowerment project but my main experience was of the joyful power of the taiko, and the particularly feminist approach to taiko that the Dance Brigade, with Bruce's coaching, has brilliantly pioneered. I don't know whether it was the thrill of the precision drumming or the ubiquitousness of teen girls in daisy dukes but I didn't notice at first how short the girls' denim shorts were. But when I did, they distracted me. How does fashion happen? Can shorts be too short? And would I be a terrible parent of a teenage femme?

The young dancers help out the fake-old dancers and everyone plays together – electric guitar, taiko teens, big showy dancing. What does dancing do? It invites me to ponder issues of age and power, of gender and sexuality, of color and racism, of the relationship between individual and group, of the invisible exchanges and collaborations from which choreography emerges. Maybe a better question is, “what does dancing want?” or “what do dancers and dance makers want?” But maybe not.

Nol joined the quintet for encounters of touching and measuring. I'm writing this in Rome from notes I scribbled in the program's margins three weeks ago. And this note doesn't trigger any memories. I wonder how long I've been watching Nol perform... more than a decade I'm sure. He's a generous dancer who plays well with others in so many different contexts. I loved seeing him outside a sprawling warehouse in Oakland in the work of Mary Armentrout and I remember being provocatively surprised when I finally saw him in his own work.

My notes kinda fall apart. I noted three slow pods, cuddling but not ________ then simply “taiko + dance” and an observation about recurring cross generational themes that made me re-assess my earlier comment about Bruce and the Grrrl Brigade.

The emotional tone of the work coalesced with the entrance of a team of young girls from the SF Community Music Center's Children's Chorus. The vibe intensified – I don't know how to describe it but something was happening – to all of us it seemed – the energetic-emotional field intensified when Christy and Nol started dancing, fierce at first and then in unison. “Horses in my dreams...” the girls sang. Teens hung out in the back, looking out windows, and although the image was 'staged' it didn't feel fake. It just felt good, like how it's supposed to be, and I mean the whole thing, all of us, sitting there in the dark and light. The person beside me started to cry which simply seemed like part of the plan, or part of the potential of the plan, as if (Christy's) choreography is not a plan but an invitation for an experience to happen, inside and among us.

The song ended. A light, fast, repeating dance moved upstage, with one dancer downstage center focusing our gaze into a four-generational world of music and dancing, in the Mission, where many of us live(d) and work(ed). And this history of place and creativity, while delicate, seemed neither precarious nor exceptional but just right, just right now.

Response by Christy Funsch, choreographer of This Is The Girl

One of the most difficult decisions I made in my recent full-length work, This is the Girl, was how to costume the teenage women of the Grrrl Brigade (who accompanied several sections of the work on Taiko). I allowed the six 8-year old girls from San Francisco's Community Center (who sang to accompany the last section of the work) to dress as they wished-why wouldn't I offer the same freedom to the teeagers?

Perhaps because it isn't so simple. Questions of who is in charge and in control of their presentation in public beleaguered my wrangling. Do they realize that they stand on the brink of our culture's vapid insistence on objectifying them? They study dance and music (and some have for ten years or more), with Krissy Keefer's Dance Brigade, a crucial, strident collection of women who have pushed back against mainstream depictions of femininity for decades. Surely some of this counter-cultural politic has rubbed off? Why, then, when given the choice of costuming, did they all decide to wear revealing, tight-fitting clothing very similar to each other's and very much emphasizing their physiques?
Should I have asked them to wear pajamas? Or martial arts clothing?

Most disappointing to me is owning that when I was wrangling over this decision I did not set aside time to have this conversation with them. I should have made it as much of a priority as getting their music rehearsed. It also brings up for me a larger query which served as subtext for the work, subtext that was latent perhaps but nonetheless alive in my decision to assemble an age-diverse cast for the work. Is there a time when we realize our place in power's structure? Does this happen at different times depending on where you are in the structure? How does our confidence shift when we grow from young girls into teenagers? What happens when we come into sexual awareness and how can we cultivate autonomy in young women when it happens-not just inside the household but all of us, culturally? Is provocative dress a sign of empowerment or compliance with expectations and objectification? Is it the height of conformity or a bold act of rebellion and resistance?

I don't know and will now have to (sadly) file under "conversations that didn't happen." I was so focused on the power implicit in the choreography (what I call "who is lifting whom"), that I missed an opportunity to engage the extended cast in this troubling, rich discussion.

August 22, 2014

Cop killings in the SF Bay Area, a small list

Cop killings in the SF Bay Area, a small list

I have just returned from a march in solidarity with the Committee for Justice & Love for Alex Nieto, who was killed by SF police earlier this year. Alex was unarmed, eating a burrito in a local park before going to work as a security guard. Inspired by the national uprising in response to the unjust and racist killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, I decided to take a moment to familiarize myself with a few of the many non-threatening people shot and killed by local police. Street protests and riots, in addition to legal and bureaucratic activism, are shifting the public discourse, building communities of resistance, and will hopefully result in more indictments and imprisonment of police. We have to increase the costs and consequences - lawsuits, civil unrest, imprisonment, public relations - for police brutality, racial profiling, and murder. And we have to increase support and respect for the families of the victims, those who have to deal with the ongoing insult of being denied justice and honesty from local police, judges, media, and government.

No justice, no peace
No racist police

Killing children is a crime
Frisco Ferguson Palestine

Idriss Stelley
23 years old
June 13, 2001
Idriss' girlfriend called SFPD from the Metreon (a multiplex cinema) requesting 5150 (medical care for a mental health emergency) for Idriss who was having an emotional emergency/breakdown. 9 SF police officers arrived, emptied the theater, and killed Idriss, shooting 48 bullets.

Gary King Jr.
20 years old
September 20, 2007
Stopped for questioning upon exiting a North Oakland store, Oakland police shot Gary twice in the back after he attempted to flee. .

Oscar Grant III
23 years old
January 1, 2009
Killed by BART (metro) cop Johannes Mehserle, while already laying face down, hands cuffed behind his back.

Kenneth Harding Jr
19 years old
July 16, 2011
Killed by SF police for running away from cops asking him to show his $2 transit fare. Police report says that Harding shot himself. Harding lay bleeding for nearly 30 minutes and was denied immediate medical care.

Alan Blueford
18 years old
May 6, 2012
Shot 3 times by Oakland cop Miguel Masso. Blueford was hanging out with friends at night in East Oakland, when an unmarked car without lights approached. As cops emerged to question them, Blueford was shot running away. Last words, “I didn't do anything.”

Mario Romero
23 years old
September 2, 2012
Killed by Vallejo police Sean Kenney and Dustin Joseph who fired over 30 bullets into the car, 11 which hit and killed Romero. An additional 5 bullets hit but did not kill Romero's brother in law Joseph Johnson.

Andy Lopez
13 years old
October 22, 2013
Sonoma county deputy sherriff Erick Gelhaus shot Andy seven times because the 8th grader was carrying a toy gun designed to look like an AK47.

Errol Chang
34 years old
March 20, 2014
Chang, who had documented mental health issues, barricaded himself in his house in Pacifica. A SWAT team broke into the home. Chang stabbed one of the team and was then shot and killed.

Alejandro “Alex” Nieto
28 years old
March 21, 2014
Shot at over fourteen times and killed by the San Francisco Police Department, on Bernal Hill Park in San Francisco, without justification.

Yanira Serrano-Garcia
18 years old
June 23, 2014
Killed by San Mateo county deputy Mehn Trieu who was responding to a call for fire department paramedics. Yanira had a history of mental health issues and was extremely agitated.

Jacorey Calhoun
23 years old
August 4, 2014
Shot in the head by Alameda county deputy sheriff Derek Tomas as he fled, unarmed, in East Oakland.

To confuse, coverup, and deny their illegal and deadly actions, the police have withheld reports, denied family access to the body, presented conflicting stories about the incident, tried to protect the identity of the cops, slandered and blamed the victim, and/or tried to sabotage investigations of the death. In multiple situations the police have lied about what happened. In several situations the victim had a known history of mental health issues which was communicated to the officers. These cop killings, and thousands of others, are instigated by chronic, structural practices: racial profiling of young black or brown men, police violence and other militarized responses to non-threatening situations and mental health emergencies, and a total lack of accountability for police brutality, racism, and murder. Oscar Grant's killer, thanks to intense street protests and bureaucratic activism, is the only law enforcement officer to be jailed for unjustly killing an unarmed person.

What is remembered lives.

May 23, 2014

Notes on the T-word Debates of 2014

Notes on the T-word Debates of 2014

Heklina was a tranny.
Justin V Bond and Auntie (Kate Bornstein), too.
Ru Paul was a tranny.
Tranny, tranny, tranny, tranny,
tranny, tranny, tranny.

That said, and following this post, I intend to never use the word publicly again. The battle - and why it had to be a battle I don't know - is over.

I was called a fag at least weekly for most of high school. It hurt. It sucked. It was violent. Sometimes I fought back (e.g., "you're just mad cuz I came in your hair last night," was a favorite retort. Then I ran, into a classroom or the library.) When I moved to SF and met self-identified radical faggots I delighted in referring to myself and my gay buddies as fags and faggots. I still use the term to promote intimacy playshops when I want to invoke a particularly fierce energy of my/our history and to challenge the gentrification of the mind that continues to erode radical solidarity.

When queer emerged as a collective name, I finally came fully out, and fully home. I had been waiting for an anti-assimilationist identity that separated me from Castro clones and capitalist gays and linked me to a motley crew and their dissident differences. Queer was an intersectional action poem of punk rage and gay liberation and lesbian feminism and SM dykes and bisexual playparties and trans visibility and radical faerie and poly hippy and AIDS activism and genderqueer body/fashion poets... and all kinds of dissident, fierce LGBT and POC identities and scenes. Queer was intensely debated during its rise in popular and academic use, especially by old school gay men who had been cut, bashed, and terrorized by the word, and the legalized violence that backed up that insult. Perhaps if transpeople had been the most vocal (or most heard) in rejecting the term queer, it wouldn't be in use today. But we recognized then that the effort to freeze the word queer as an insult, as embodied pain, would be a conservative mistake, a reactionary misstep in the movement towards our healing and liberation. We could compare the strategic re-appropriation of queer or tranny to the movement around the slurs faggot, nigger, and dyke.

What's new about today's debate (besides that it is happening online where folks can dismiss or insult anyone they disagree with, without having to look at them or learn anything about them), is that this time, the folks who want everyone to agree on a single meaning and a single history for a word, are winning. Of course, one could also recognize that the folks that speak from the margins, from the place of hurt, for the (most) oppressed, are winning, finally, one small battle among thousands.

Those who defend an immediate stop to the queer use of the t-word cannot accept or even acknowledge that several high profile, pioneering, transgender artist-activists reject the 'censorship' of tranny. They use tranny on themselves, and their friends, and accept it almost as a term of endearment. Is it really that simple to call these people blinded by privilege and out of touch as if aging made them stupid instead of wise? Multiple generations and diverse communities do not always share a word's value, meaning, history, uses, habits, or intentions. I wish that was OK or that we had more strategies for dealing with paradox and difference, and that includes the asymmetrical power dynamics that structure so much violence in and around difference. Violence for some, privilege for others. That's what difference is. How could we possibly agree on a single language or tactic for confronting that violence? And why would anyone, familiar with the violence of exclusion or social death, take a prohibitionist or censorship stance towards a word used more within their communities of solidarity than without?

I'm going to miss the détournement of slander and I await the blooming of a new Q generation's action-poetry of identity, healing and solidarity.

The issue about drag queens not 'entitled' to 'appropriate' the word tranny is messed up in all kinds of ways, especially if you've been to SF Bay Area drag clubs where transgender, cisgender, crossdresser, transvestite, butch, femme, and genderqueer have all been involved in various approaches to drag performances. I've seen many trans people in drag in SF, and many a drag artist has transitioned genders after making community in queer drag scenes. It's complicated, and I mean the intersection of our bodies our lives our experiences our suffering our vision our social death our resistance our creativity our options our lack of options our solidarity our alienation...

I am not a 'fan' of the t-word and I rarely use it. And only after it's prompted or already part of the conversation, and never to name someone I don't know. 

Camp and transgressive humor are healthy and subversive responses to pain and insult, violence and inequity. Trannyshack is a club where a lot of great things happened for a lot of people. Integral to the club's charm was the (lite) transgression of the borders and rules that queers have set up to protect ourselves from further harm. Gender was not the only 'situation' that was re-framed, satirized, toyed or fucked with through drag. There was race and ethnicity drag, dis/ability drag, age (too young, too old) drag, celebrity drag, and more shit jokes than can be counted... As fast as queers could come up with new identities, fashions, sexual habits, STDs, and political issues, they would be imitated, appropriated, and clowned at Trannyshack along with politicians and pop stars. 

The name of the club was part of that clowning transgression. It was post punk Camp. We knew it was wrong but we smiled inside when we said it. And we knew that we were participating in a temporal yet crucial experiment in queer culture, the kind of ritual that, yes Dorothy, actually creates a better world than the one we grew up in. But all naming is political and I guess the powerlessness of being unable to change mainstream culture's naming (sexist and racist sports naming, pop culture naming, official history book naming...) leads us to practice on smaller targets like a drag club. Unfortunate.

Heklina has asked for support and patience as s/he rebrands the club - Trannyshack - that gave many of us more life than we knew was possible. The fucked up and campy name was part of the charm, and I mean charm politically, aesthetically, and spiritually. If you want some queer-is-supposed-to-be-disturbing nostalgia, watch the documentaries I Am Divine and Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger, or read Philip Huang's notes on the importance of being offensive.

The opening poem is a reference to/appropriation of Patti Smith's Rock n Roll Nigger.

For further discussion, I recommend this excellent short video by a smart young queer/trans activist:
as well as FB posts by Annie Sprinkle, Justin V Bond, Heklina

April 16, 2014

Watch your mouth!

Watch your mouth!

White and straight teeth are over-valued. We accept a level of unnecessary, violent, medical intervention in our mouths that most of us would not tolerate anywhere else in or on our bodies. In fact we voluntarily pay for it. And we subject our children to it, with whiter ideals and more intervention and expense normalized for each new generation. In other areas of health care and healing there are more options, rooted in traditional and/or holistic paradigms that tend towards less intervention, less hierarchical relationships between doctor/healer and patient, and less involvement in big pharma or the medical-industrial-complex. In medical dentistry we have once again nurtured the worst of our religio-racist ideologies by fusing 'cleanliness' and 'purity' with 'healthy' and 'privileged.' And like most body-fascist ideals, we have obediently pursued (and demanded of our Hollywood and pop stars) straight white teeth beyond our limits, both pain and financial. Too many dentists (and too many car mechanics) try to sell more services than are necessary just to make more money. This happens so often, it seems normal, like bleached teeth. It's called capitalism, and it's happening in your mouth. Strong, healthy, long lasting teeth do not need to be pure white or straight, and neither do you.

Brushing immediately after eating sabotages your mouth's built in cleaning and healing mechanisms. It is now recommended that we wait at least 30 minutes. It's unlikely that your dentist told you that, and if they did, it was less than 10 years ago, and they definitely didn't apologize for giving you bad health advice for the previous years. Maybe the medical research is recent but the knowledge, or perhaps wisdom, that our bodies have self-cleaning and self-healing mechanisms should not be news to first world people with university degrees. But the history of the university, despite its brief flirtation with alleged universal access, has always been to institutionalize hierarchies of knowledge and create a sect of wealthier, more privileged, more powerful 'leaders.' You do not deserve to be hired or kissed because your teeth are bloodily scraped and toxically bleached. And you look ridiculously unbelievable playing 'real' people on TV. Again, strong, healthy, long lasting teeth do not need to be pure white or straight, and neither do you.

April 4, 2014

Paid Jobs I've Had

Paid Jobs I've Had
(loosely in order of appearance)

1. Summer Camp Counselor-In-Training
2. After School Tutor
3. Lifeguard (Sudbury, Montréal)
4. Swimming Instructor
5. Uranium mine demolition crew (Labourer's International Union of North America, Local 493)
6. Highway bridge building crew (ditto)
7. Street Performer (Montreal, Vancouver, Burlington, New York, New Orleans, Boulder, San Francisco...)
8. Bagel Baker
9. Assistant to Probation Officer (SF Juvenile Hall)
10. Dance teacher
11. Political street theater teacher
12. Dancer-performer (Contraband)
13. Elevator operator
14. Produce worker
15. Janitor
16. House painter
17. Performance Artist
18. Choreographer
19. College Teacher (New College of California, now defunct)
20. Artist's Nude Model
21. High School Theater Director
22. Actor, TV Commercial
23. Ritualist/Witch
24. Minister/Priest
25. Teacher/trainer of gay male prostitutes and sexual healers (Body Electric...)
26. Sex ritualist
27. Co-director of a performance space (848 Community Space)
28. Writer
29. Arts Consultant
30. Circus Artist (Cahin-caha, cirque bâtard, Circo Zero)
31. Professor (Goddard College, MFA Interdisciplinary)
32. Adjunct Professor (USF, JFK University)
33. Choreographic mentor
34. Visiting Professor (US, Canada, Europe)
35. Curator
36. Graduate student, Teaching Assistant, Associate Instructor (UC Davis)
37. Thesis Advisor
38. Panelist / Conference Presenter
39. Actor, queer movies (Trannymals Go To Court, By Hook or By Crook, I Want Your Love, Big Joy)

April 2, 2014

I wanna daughter so I can kill cops

I wanna daughter so I can kill cops
or perhaps,
I wanna die saving a (sexy) woman

Since Fall 2012 I have watched a lot of action films. I would type searches like: best political action films, best action films of all time, best political thrillers, best action films with a female lead, then make lists and start streaming. I was annoyed by tired tropes of cold war fantasies and racially or ethnically defined “bad guys” but I kept watching. I took delight with the number of cops and government agents killed in these movies and how often cops, CIA, FBI, and anyone who worked for the government were portrayed as corrupt, profiteering, racist, and inept. I also became curious and critical in learning how US nationalism could be salvaged, manufactured, and glorified in these narratives through the use of morally correct rogue agents or cops, i.e., through handsome butch white masculinity, excellent fighting technique, and insensitivity to pain. Pride in country, faith in war, and acceptance of torture and murder went hand in hand with demonstrating that cops and government are both dirty and stupid. This combination cynically seduces populist success while avoiding the dangerous political critique that seems always just outside the frame (of the picture, of our imaginations, of the industry). 

I barely know how to address the sexism and racism in most action films and I'm sure that many have done it already, even if I'm not aware of their work. Very few action films can pass the Bechdel test: Do two women talk to each other, about something other than a man? The Bechdel test emerged as a satirical joke and was not intended as rigorous analysis. There are similar “tests” questioning whether a film has two people of color or two African Americans who talk to each other about something other than race. That these tests do not provide a complete analysis of a movie's treatment of race, color, gender, and sexuality, does not deny the foundational supremacist structures - male and white - that are firmly in place in way too many action films. 

Anyway, I'm more of a performance artist than a film critic, so I wrote a speech to address the overwhelming narrative tendency of man-saves-woman, or man-revenges-woman's death, to justify massive human, environmental, and architectural carnage. These exhausted and exhausting narratives frame white woman and girls as weak and vulnerable so that we (an image of) the heroic macho and morally righteous white man and the country he stands for can recuperated or salvaged. Both white man and white nation are crippled by the end of the movie but on the mend. Racialized representations of evil are so banal in these films that the popular imagination has been molded into a catalogue of types reinforced by TV news, courtroom proceedings, and popular history books. 

In “Why are women always being kidnapped in films? ( UK Guardian, Nov 2013), Anne Billson refers to female kidnappings as “the laziest of flimsy plot devices” that reduce the female character to a chattel, tied to a chair, dragged screaming across a warehouse or a fancy office or a bourgeois home, “a crime of theft committed against her husband, boyfriend, or father.” These movies don't get awards from the Academy or in Cannes but they make shit loads of money for a really small number of people, most of whom are straight white men, or can play one in a movie.

I wanna daughter so I can kill cops
or perhaps,
I wanna die saving a (sexy) woman

I wanna daughter so I can kill tons of people to protect her.
I want the roles that Liam Neeson gets to work out his grief and rage.
I wanna kill people and bash their brains in and blow up their houses to save my wife or daughter.
I want the roles that Jason Stathem gets because I wanna kill tons of people to protect a nun or my wife or my daughter and her best friend.
I wanna perfect that look that says: I don't want to kill people unless I have to.
I want an amazing gun with unlimited bullets or cartridges so I can kill people while saving women from asshole guys who value profits more than female lives.
I wanna be a rogue cop, a good guy cop, in Baltimore or New York or LA or Hong Kong,
in a TV series, in which avenging the death of women gives me license to rough guys up, punch dudes in the face, and break every kind of law ever written.
I especially want someone to kidnap my daughter so I can kill cops.
Tons of cops.
I wanna kill inept cops, stupid cops, corrupt cops, racist cops, and the cops who are always protecting the newest gang of Russian or Serbian or Chinese criminals.
I wanna learn to kill with my bare hands, throwing knives, shooting guns, cross bows, artillery of all kinds.
I wanna play a trained killer with post traumatic stress.
I wanna play an elite Navy seal with paranoid delusions and a broken heart.
I wanna play a black ops assassin with amnesia.
I wanna play a trained killer, an elite super soldier, who has such intense amnesia I can't even remember my name or my wife's name, but I can meet new women to protect and then be confronted with hundreds of stupid cops that deserve to die because they're corrupt and have terrible aim, and FBI agents that deserve to die because they're corrupt and know more about me than I do and they're running dirty black ops that should have been shut down in the 50s or the 80s but after 9/11 are more funded and more dirty than ever.
Yah give me a woman to save from the clutches of evil and I will kill as many cops and FBI agents and ethnic mafia and Arab terrorists as you can throw at me.
I wanna play a highly trained killer with amnesia who can somehow find my stash of fake passports and stacks of dollars, yen, and euros.
I wanna play a frighteningly traumatized straight guy with nothing to lose because it's already all been taken.
I wanna play a drugged and disoriented professional assassin with such crazy embodied intelligence and blood memory that I can remember anything about any weapon ever designed but I can't find my name or my parents or my girlfriend.
I wanna play the badass good guy that bad guys provoke by kidnapping my mom or my girlfriend, and then torture her just to get me to respond.
I wanna play a crazy post traumatic stress super soldier who can't remember my name who goes on a terrifying revenge tour around Wall Street, the Kremlin, the Whitehouse, the Arc de Triomphe, a brand new skyscraper in Dubai or Shanghai, or some gorgeous Greek or South Asian island.
I wanna kill the bad people who killed my girlfriend and then ran my parents off the road to make it look like an accident.
I wanna make the world safe again for good people, and white women, and especially white little girls. I wanna play an ex soldier, an ex assassin, an ex sharp shooter, an ex secret agent.
I wanna play a dude who just wants to be a straight white low key dude again, but who is dragged back into the killing game by bad motherfuckers who just can't give it up, who would get my daughter addicted to heroin or crack or oxy before selling her to a super wealthy Arab or Russian with a killer yacht.
I wanna blow that yacht up after I machine gun 20 hot security thugs wearing excellent sunglasses.
I wanna kill for god and justice and country even if it seems like I no longer believe in anything.
I wanna kill people and know that deep down, with your consent, that those people deserved to die and those buildings deserved to be blown up and that anyone caught in the cross fire or who had to run terrified as my helicopter crashed into their office while they were at work on payroll taxes will totally understand that cleansing the world of corrupt violent men demands occasional waves of intensified and over exaggerated urban massacres.
I wanna be an ex CIA black ops assassin who moves to a small town and tries to have a normal family that can be kidnapped and tortured to get me back into my killing game.
I want Schwartznegger's role in Commando.
I want to save my kidnapped daughter, while taking down a South American dictator and single handedly destroying the drug flow from Columbia.
I wanna kill 150 badass Latino guys in a one man assault at the drug lord's secret jungle hide out.
I wanna kill corrupt politicians and their security team by shooting their escape helicopter out of the sky.
And I wanna free my kidnapped, abused, sexually humiliated daughter as the copter explodes into a fiery tornado and crashes into the secret drug warehouse burning everything to the ground.
I wanna play Nicholas Cage in Stolen, Eric Bana in Hana, and Nicholas Cage in Kick Ass.
I wanna use my advanced killer training to teach my daughter to protect herself and eventually to kill her own evil mother who works for the CIA or the cops or a major financial institution. And I want to kill a bunch of nefarious dudes right in front of her so she knows that she will never be safe without a gun in her hand, a blade at her hip, and hair dye to change her looks.
I wanna play a genetically modified super killer with amnesia who feels no pain and can speak ten languages and knows that all women I come in contact with will either get shot, kidnapped, sold into slavery, or have to cut and die their hair in a hotel bathroom.
I wanna play Matt Damon, Jeremy Reiner, or any other non balding square jaw who will never need to change my look even when my photo is uploaded to every Mi6, KGB, CIA, and Mossad agent in the world.
I wanna play an amazing USAmerican super killer and cyber genius whose bruised and broken faith in his country can only be restored through a fight to the death with zombie Russians or genetically modified Russians or triple agent Russian oil spies, because Russia is still our greatest enemy and without evil Russia there is no democratic USA.
If I'm gonna die, I wanna die saving my own daughter, or any girl, a really sexy girl, or all the girls and bring glory to my country.
If I'm gonna die I wanna die saving all the women of Afghanistan or Libya or Iraq or all Muslim women or all the prostitutes or all the sex slaves.
I wanna kill 100 perps and johns and another 100 dirty cops and politicians so I can save a single trafficked woman in New York or Bangkok or Sydney or Vegas.
I wanna bust some heads and shoot out some kneecaps and burn a few sex prisons to the ground so I can stop an international sex slavery ring run by an ethnically diverse collaboration of evil Chinese, Indonesian, Serbian, and African American criminal misogynists, strip club owners, and child pornographers.
I wanna chase down the top bad guy, I mean the untouchable serial rapist mass assassin who wants to destroy the world in the image of his own destroyed soul and if that means shooting up a Nigerian slum or a Thai slum or a Mexican slum or an African American public housing block or a Palestinian refugee camp or a historic Moroccan market, then I will.
Shoot to kill.
Stab the heart.
Snap the neck.
Save the (white) girl.

(repeat till exhausted)