Thursday, July 14, 2011

kitchen drive

Dicky's work challenges me. In last year, much of it has become performance-based, which is to say that his participation (e.g. projecting slides, playing recorded sound, etc.) has become part of the work. He'll usually leave some elements to chance, rendering each performance unique.

Generally, these performances are long. If he's projecting film, it's not edited. The camera is handheld and sometimes it's out of focus. If he's projecting slides, there are a lot of them, projected for varying durations. The images are often scenes that I find unpleasant: Phoenecian landscapes, the meeting of desert and concrete. If a score accompanies, it is tape-recorded and tinny, projected from a single speaker cassette player, and it often sounds like noise: random sounds, snippets of conversation, rustling, breathing, etc.

Everything about it is defiantly analog. It's raw and without technical sophistication. It tests my patience, and that's part of the point, but it doesn't make the experience any less uncomfortable.

A recent six-hour performance featured the re-creation of a roadtrip in someone's kitchen on a Monday afternoon. I wasn't there. Dicky sat at the kitchen table, projecting slides, drinking coffee, playing his score, making conversation with those who had come to watch and who had become, unwittingly, his roadtrip companions. Some of the images were from trips we'd taken together -- of note, our annual holiday ride to Phoenix, on the I-10 across the most bleak stretches of the Sonoran Desert. I hate that six-hour drive, but I appreciate his rendition of it. Particularly in the form of a six-minute clip where INXS kicks in toward the end.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

two days

July 3:

The yellow dress was a mistake, I think. Biking from Hollywood to downtown on the hottest day of summer so far, it showed every streak of perspiration. When we stopped for iced coffee, I asked Chris if I looked dewy or sweat-soaked.

"A little bit of both?"

He was being kind. We sat under an umbrella and wiped the sweat from our brows with paper napkins.

The dress was a parasail, catching the wind and billowing around me as I rode toward the museum. I tried to contain the skirt with the grip of my legs, but I wasn't always successful, the white of my thighs flashing at oncoming traffic.

At MOCA, I heard my recorded voice come through a single speaker, childish, played on a cassette tape as Dicky projected the accompanying slides onto a screen. We only caught the tail-end of his performance, and I'd walked into the room just in time to hear myself. The images and recording were from Big Family Day a month prior. I remembered following him around the museum that day, frustrated because he seemed to be running away from me, camera and tape recorder in hand.

"What are you doing?" I'd asked.

"Creating documents."

His response had annoyed me because it seemed like ambiguous art-speak, but now it struck me as quite literal.

On this day, the museum was filled with experimental music. In the courtyard, Liam was making noise by touching dry ice to triangles.

Hours later, I was on a rooftop on the edge of downtown, drinking Modelo and Jim Beam. The heat and the alcohol were bringing out the best and the worst in all of us. We told stories from our childhoods and some of us became children. There was crying and hair-pulling. A girl punched a boy. Someone grabbed my head and tried to kiss me as I stood very still, lips clenched, as he pressed his face against mine. When he tried a second time, I pushed him away, saying "NO."

On the plant-covered rooftop, mosquitoes buzzed beneath the yellow dress, sucking on my thighs. Above us, fireworks burst and faded.

July 4:

I love a good fireworks show, and I can't remember the last 4th of July I didn't watch one, but when Dicky suggested an 8 p.m. showing of Tree of Life, it seemed like the right idea.

The film was flawed, but when it worked, it was wonderful, evoking certain feelings from childhood I'd forgotten. It also made me deeply sad to confront the reality of never again experiencing things for the first time.

I'm not planning to have children. As I've grown older, I have a hard time identifying with kids despite willfully living much of my life like one. The film made me recall what it actually felt like to be a child -- not just pretending at it. The truth is that kids intimidate me, and I wonder if it's because I envy them.

After the movie, Dicky and I wandered aimlessly around Hollywood, discussing the film and how it made us feel -- in the language we lacked as children. A single white firework went off above our heads, and I was reminded of a 4th of July years ago. It may have been 2004, and from the roof of the San Francisco Art Institute, we watched fireworks explode over the bay, the bridge. The fog rendered their shapes invisible, so they merely lit up the clouds -- red, then green, then blue -- a Technicolor storm.

On the Walk of Fame, a black woman sat in a plastic chair wearing only a bright yellow bathing suit. As I stared, taking in her outfit, I tripped in my three-inch platform sandals. Then I decided she had the right idea -- the night was an oven.