Category Archives: literature

Art Murmur Tonight!

It’s the First Friday of Fall. Yeah, I know… it’s not technically fall yet. But you can’t deny it certainly FEELS like fall. The leaves are dropping, the naked ladies have blossomed, and the evening twilight arrives far too soon.

While it’s sad to bid farewell to Summer, I have to admit it’s also a time of great excitement for me, as I’ve just begin a two-year MFA graduate program at Mills College. Oakland baby! It’s new and different and thrilling and scary and I’m not afraid to admit that I’m already buried under an avalanche of homework.

I’ve been trying to decide if I could keep the blog going in the midst of this craziness, and while I’m not sure it’s actually a good idea, I’ve decided I’m going to try. TRY, being the operative word. Of course, I can already hear Yoda’s voice in my head, “No TRY, only DO.” Yeah well… fuck Yoda. I’m playing it by ear and that’s all I can say for now.

My future posts will likely be short and scattershot. And in that vein, here’s a quick synopsis of two cool shows to definitely not miss if you’re out Art Murmuring tonight…

Pieces of Oakland at Warehouse 416

Cities are alive. They transform. They expand and contract and decay and renew, and yes, some even die. This show is all about the transformations that have happened, and are happening now, in our beloved city of Oakland. And it’s all happening really fast…

Oakland is on a cusp. We’re a mid-sized formerly industrial city that’s emblematic of many cities across the nation, and many are watching to see just what we’ll do as we grapple with issues of economic development, housing, transportation, education, and crime. There are plans already in the works, and plans now proposed and proceeding through the pipeline, including:

Pieces of Oakland focuses on two of these redevelopment areas: Lake Merritt Station and West Oakland, highlighting their changing “faces” through the eyes of photographers, writers, planners, and neighbors by showcasing over 70 individual pieces from various sources: fragments of policy documents, oral histories, official planning maps, and a unique collection of contemporary and archival photographs.

Conceived and curated by Chelsea Wurms, the show prompts viewers to ask what it means to be part of this city. She says, “This is a unique moment for Oakland. I want to see people talking about their own values, sharing their impressions with each other, imagining other perspectives.”

Don’t miss this opportunity examine, and contribute to, the life story of our great city!

31-Oakland Photo Project_102713_5799 west-oakland-redevelopment

Warehouse 416
416 26th Street, Oakland
Opening Friday, September 5th: 6pm-10pm
Every Saturday in September: 1pm-5pm

Betti Ono’s 4th Anniversary “AMEN”

Betti Ono Gallery is celebrating its fourth anniversary tonight with a forward thinking, culture-shifting mixed media show exemplary of the multi-disciplinary, experimental work it’s been putting forth since it first opened in 2010… the type of work that garnered it the 2014 East Bay Express Reader’s Poll Best Gallery Award.

Titled “AMEN: A Collaborative Meditation for Survival,” the show is an open experiment with language and image, designed to reimagine American mythology with futuristic and visionary depictions of traditionally marginalized groups (especially queer people of color) in culturally recognizable positions of power. The idea is to question how we might be programming existing systems of marginalization into our future society, and to disrupt that process, and envision an all-affirming and inclusive world instead.

Featuring eight 2-dimensional visual works and eight wall texts, the show was developed by two artists:  visual artist Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski and writer Carrie Y.T. Kholi. Gallery owner Anyka Barber had worked with each before and, seeing the resonances in the issues their artworks addressed, brought them together for this special show. Though friends for years, this is Amaryllis and khoLi’s first collaborative artistic project.

I asked about the nature of their collaboration… Amaryllis said, “khoLi and I began a conversation around survival at the very beginning. At that point, we had spoken on surviving academia, both being queer women of color. I had just graduated from the California College of the Arts, and KhoLi is in the process of getting her PhD in English Literature.  Our conversations quickly evolved into a larger conversation around spiritual and mythological survival, and we grew AMEN from that place.”

This show is a celebration for ALL. Don’t miss it!

Amen-BettiOno Instructions for a Storm (closeup2)
Thick Dig (Ghost Sighting)
Betti Ono Gallery
1427 Broadway, Oakland
Friday, September 5th: 6pm-9pm

Celebrating Oakland: Neighborhood Love Today & Lit-Crawl Tonight!

I love Oakland. You do too, right? Here are two fun ways to celebrate your love today…

Love Oakland

Love Our Neighborhood Day – 11am to 3pm

The first is North Oakland’s Golden Gate Love Our Neighborhood Day, an Open Streets event that closes off approximately 30 blocks of Oakland and Emeryville streets from car traffic to open them for walking, dancing, bicycling, skateboarding and all-ages fun from 11 am to 3 pm. Nearly a dozen restaurants are participating and  food trucks will be on site, as well as roller derby, bicycle tuneups, a healing hub, a park zone, music & dance, arts & crafts, and so much more.

The event is part of an Open Streets Initiative, Oaklavia, produced by Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) to encourage people to play, move, and exercise on safe auto-free streets.  It’s a great opportunity to meet your fellow Oaklanders, and get to know local businesses & community resources along the route. Here’s the best map and a list of event activities.

For more info, Oakand Local has a nice writeup about the event and the Golden Gate neighborhood at large: Oakland’s Golden Gate Neighbors Build Community…


Beast Crawl – 5pm to 9pm

Next up is Uptown’s third annual Beast Crawl: a free festival that showcases the literary diversity and talent of performers with deep roots in the East Bay. It takes place across dozens of venues throughout Uptown (map here) which you are encouraged to support with your hard-earned dollars.

The event is structured as three separate 1-hour “legs” and during each leg (5-6, 6:30-7:30, and 8-9) there are nearly a dozen readings to choose from. There’s no way to attend all of them, unless you know how to replicate yourself or time-travel, so check out their list of events to see what interests you most. It should be a ton of fun!

 

SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot at OMCA

We checked out Friday Nights at OMCA last week, spending the bulk of our time at two exhibits… First, Vinyl: The Sound & Culture of Records, which I’m hoping to post about next week. And second, SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot which I’m featuring here…

Now I have to admit that I’m not much of a zine fan. I didn’t know the history of Giant Robot, have limited knowledge of pop-Asian culture, and honestly didn’t think I’d find this exhibit all that interesting. Boy was I wrong. Let’s just say the installation is aptly titled… it IS Super Awesome!

I learned about the history of Giant Robot… its early beginnings in 1994 as an arty pop-culture zine fashioned together on the floor of founder Eric Nakamura’s bedroom, “collage style with text, scissors, images, and glue sticks.” Talk about humble beginnings.

Since then the Giant Robot brand has grown to include retail stores, gallery spaces, and a hugely popular website, extending itself as a broad creative platform that continues “to explore the intersection of contemporary art and the ever-evolving relationship between West Coast popular culture and Asia.” (Carin Adams, OMCA Associate Curator)

Featuring new and recent works by California and international-based artists who have been a part of the magazine’s social and cultural evolution, the exhibit is extensive and includes a wide range of mediums, including mural art, sculpture, illustration, portraiture, large-scale installations, graphic novels, photography, and more.

You really need to allow some time to explore because there’s just so much. I feel we barely scratched the surface… Exhibit is up through July 27th. Don’t miss it!

PS – and if you head over there tonight (Friday, May 30th) there’s a Zines & Print Culture Salon happening from 7-9pm. You can meet Guest Curator Eric Nakamura and pick up rad new reads from a selection of Bay Area zinesters at the zine bazaar organized with Oakland collective Rock Paper Scissors. There’ll be live music, screen printing demos, gaming stations and much more.

SuperAwesome, Giant Robot

IMG_9418

IMG_9400

Painting by Andrew Hem

IMG_9419

Deth P. Sun

Untitled by Deth P. Sun

Deth P. Sun, Oakland by Deth P. Sun

Untitled (detail) by Deth P. Sun

eric nakamura

Curated Collection of Zines by Eric Nakamura

video game car

Custom Scion XB Gaming Car by Eric Nakamura & Len Higa

IMG_9434

Artists’ Sketchbooks I

IMG_9435

Artists’ Sketchbooks II

IMG_9436

IMG_9437

Lazy Eye

Ode to California, Kozyndan

Ode to California by Kozyndan

Some Fun Stuff for your Weekend…

Today you get a list. You love lists. Right?

Here’s a smattering of events happening this weekend. Not comprehensive. Just a few things I thought sounded interesting…

FRIDAY – May 2nd

  • Art Murmur (of course) – It’s First Friday again. With this week of ridiculous summer weather wrapping up, I imagine tonight will be quite a party. For those actually interested in seeing some art, comprehensive list of openings/exhibits here.
  • Project Youthview – 10th Annual Film Screening & Awards Night – At the incredible iconic Paramount Theatre, this event showcases 12 select youth-created film shorts from across the Bay Area, including music videos, documentaries, and animation pieces. The featured 2013 Sundance-winning Documentary Short, Rich Hill, will also be screened. 6:30pm-9:30pm. Cost $20 adults; $7 youth
  • Pro Arts Gallery 40th Birthday Party – a free, inclusive community celebration, kicking off the open studios season with an opportunity to view the Preview Exhibition featuring works by over 400 artists participating in East Bay Open Studios 2014. 6pm-8pm

SATURDAY – May 3rd

  • California Bookstore Day is today, and if you’ve never heard of this before, don’t worry… this is the inaugural event, celebrating more than 90 independent bookstores across the state. Each will feature parties with music, food, drink, and of course authors. I’ve chosen one below to highlight, but do check out your own indie favorite… they’re sure to have something going on.
  • Diesel Bookstore in Rockridge will be featuring one-of-a-kind, limited-edition items like unique books and art, signed prints and lithographs, plus Mac n’ Cheese courtesy of Homeroom, libations from Emma Christensen–brewer and author of True Brews, live vintage acoustic music with Dodge’s Sundodgers, literary karaoke and cocktails. 10am-9pm
  • Linden Street Brewery Feria Urbana – a hip urban fair made up of local artists and designers selling a wide range of items at accessible prices (jewelry, housewares, clothing, ceramics, etc.) Brewery will have beers on tap, local wine tasting, food trucks, and more. Get those Mother’s Day gifts while you’re at it! 12pm-5pm
  • Jack London Square Vintage Car & Truck Show – showcasing more than 60 vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles from the 1920s to 1960s, the waterfront will transform into an auto mecca showcasing rare vehicles. Enjoy live music, delicious eats from Jack London Square’s fantastic restaurants. 10am-4pm
  • Life Size Mousetrap Launch Party at NIMBY – Hosting a kid’s program in the afternoon featuring the Life Size Mousetrap, local gypsy junk rockers Junk Parlor, kids activities, and more. At night doors will open for the “grown-up” kids. They’ll run the Life Size Mousetrap and feature performances from local luminaries of music, dance, aerial acrobatics, burlesque, and more. With full bar, food vendors, a night market and more fun than you can throw a bowling ball at… kid’s program 2-5pm ($5 donation/family); party 9pm-2am

SUNDAY – May 4th

  • Maifest in Oakland – celebrating the cultures of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland through food, beer, music, and dance. Hosted by Oakland Nature Friends this spring festival takes place at our local Tourist Club not far from Joaquin Miller Park (I’ve been to the Marin Tourist Club which is always great fun and can’t wait to check out our local version). Bier, Spätzle, Bratwurst, Kartoffelsalat, and Würstchen. YUM. Bring your Lederhosen! Check here for details. 12pm-5pm. Cost $10

Oakland Tourist Club, Maifest in Oakland, Oakland Nature Friends

Such Singing in the Wild Branches

I recently learned that April is National Poetry Month. Who knew? I didn’t.

I feel like poetry has waned from the day-to-day experiences of most of us. Aside from insertions in the New Yorker or NPR pieces on the current poet laureate, when do we ever hear poetry anymore? It seems as we move farther and farther away from our schooling––studying Shakespeare’s sonnets, writing our own iambic pentameter, or creating simple haikus––our adult work becomes increasingly specialized and often filled with meaningless corporate mumbo jumbo (actualizing monetization strategies, driving bottom line results, blah blah blah). Where’s the soul in it all?

This is why poetry is important. It’s that form of art in which words become more than simply the sum of their parts. More than a bottom line. By strictly constructing with words selected not just for meaning, but also for aesthetic, phonetic and rhythmic qualities, poems are able to vividly convey the deepest experiences of what it means to be human.

Since there are just a few days left in April, I thought I’d post a little something to honor this most refined artistic mode of writing, with a selection below by Mary Oliver. I like it very much.

And if you’d like to actually hear some poetry, there’s a reading this Friday night at Laurel Bookstore in the Laurel district of Oakland. Local writer, poet, and teacher Alison Luterman will be reading from her new collection of poetry Desire Zoo.

* * *

Such Singing in the Wild Branches

It was spring
and I finally heard him
among the first leaves––
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness––
and that’s when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree––
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
stopped
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing––
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfect blue sky–––all of them

were singing.
And, of course, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last

For more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you’ve been there,
you’re there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then––open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

-Mary Oliver

Red Headed Bird

Aggregate Space Gallery: Featherboard Writing Series Reading & Reception – This Saturday 5pm

The second stop on our brief Art Murmur Friday night a couple weeks ago was another West Oakland spot called Aggregate Space Gallery. Though our visit was relatively short, this blogpost is not. I was so excited about this space I needed to know more, and so do you! So here goes…

At first we were enticed by the current Solo Video Show. I thought, video? Not many of the galleries feature video work and I learned in my “prep” for the show that Aggregate Space is particularly well suited because they’ve built a full-fledged screening room. Then I thought, solo? Even when video works are incorporated into galleries, it’s rare to see a solo show where an artist has the quantity and breadth of work to take over an entire space. Or rather, it’s rare to see a gallery allow an artist to do so because, let’s be honest, most galleries are in the business of selling art, and it’s a lot easier to sell a painting than a piece of video art.

But this is just one of the things that makes Aggregate Space Gallery unique. What’s commercially viable doesn’t really interest them. What does, is genre-bending, experimental, boundary-pushing work that has little hope of being seen in more conventional galleries. And this is exactly the type of work they’ve been featuring for over two years now.

I know this because I went back to meet them again last weekend to talk a bit more about how the space came to be, what they’re hoping to accomplish, and what the future holds. And they were kind enough not only to spend a great deal of time touring me through the space, answering all my questions and introducing me to fellow involved-artists, but they also loaded my arms with Chapbooks from their Writing Series (more on this later) and a beautiful soft-cover book commemorating their two-year anniversary show “Not Each, But All.(great write-up of show here)

The title of that show, as well as the title of the gallery itself (aggregate is such a great word: adjective, noun, and verb!) is truly indicative of the collaborative art space its founders, Conrad M. Meyers II and S.D. Willis, have created. The empty warehouse they secured in 2010 was transformed into the stunning multi-functional space it is today by the dedicated work of fellow artists, friends and family, each with a unique set of skills perfectly suited to complement each others’, thereby forming the “aggregate.” I won’t go into the full history here as that’s already been covered in an in-depth interview with Meyers and Willis, which includes photos that beautifully portray the extent of the transformation. Check it out… In Conversation with Aggregate Space (SFAQ).

What I do want to share about is the video show we enjoyed during our first visit (Broadcast Standards by Doug Garth Williams), and its final run this weekend when it will be accompanied by the next installment of Aggregate Space’s Featherboard Writing Series. This I find fascinating and completely unique… they’ve created a format that integrates cutting-edge literature with cutting-edge art in a “cross-genre partnership”. Very cool.

Broadcast Standards

So first the video show… “Doug Garth Williams is a filmmaker and video artist who specializes in creating imagery that is both bizarre and self aware.” His installation at Aggregate features nine short films, all looped for continuous screening. The first to greet you is Black Bars, a clever and funny portrayal of self-censorship that, along with the show’s title, sets some expectations for the viewer before fully entering the main space.

Next in line are the Average series of films, six altogether. Each is composed of layers upon layers of found footage relating to the topic at hand, i.e. Average Car Chase, Average Sitcoms, Average Cats, etc. Through what I can only imagine must be a painstaking editing process Williams weaves together the images by dialing up or down the opacity of each layer to reveal different narrative moments in time. I found these completely mesmerizing and stood transfixed as the beautiful montages morphed before me. Apparently, these were equally inspiring to Aggregate’s current writer-in-residence, Kari Marboe, who’ll be featured in this month’s Featherboard Writing Series, but more on that in a bit…

aggregate-space2

As you continue into the gallery you come to the 3-channel piece Videos for Humans. Though more straightforward than his abstract montage works, I found these videos equally mysterious, but in a completely different way. They’re character driven, featuring a hot Asian woman, an ugly alien man, and some really cute little bunnies. I can’t tell you what it all means, but it’s compelling nonetheless.

aggregate-space1

Finally you pass through a small door into the screening room to see the delightful Wait for It. I actually shot a video of this video to share here, but then thought against it. You should really just go to Aggregate Space Gallery yourself so you can see all of these films in their proper venue–to feel yourself in the space in which these works were spatially placed with such careful intention. But if you want a bit of a teaser in the meantime, they’ve posted a quick walk-through on Facebook.

Featherboard Writing Series

Ok, so the Featherboard Writing Series was started by their friend and fellow artist Steffi Drewes with the idea of promoting a “one-of-a-kind-dialogue” between artists and writers as they share their work with each other. It all began with a poetry reading by Drewes at Diesel Bookstore in Rockridge (note: I wrote about Diesel ages ago here, and one of the things I highlighted was their amazing author events).

This was in the early days of Aggregate Space (December 2011) as they were gearing up to launch only their second show, titled Ostranenie, a multimedia show featuring film, sound, and video artists. Aggregate Space asked Drewes if she’d be willing to curate a poetry reading to coincide with the closing reception of the show. She did, gathering two other writers in addition to herself to perform readings, and the event was somewhat surprisingly a big hit. (This is the kind of risk taking that makes this gallery so cool.)

Meyers said an unexpected benefit of this collaboration was the expansion of their artistic community. By bringing in the literary crowd to join the art crowd, there was a sudden growth and cross-pollination that hadn’t existed before. And hence, the Featherboard Writing Series was born, pairing a literary event with the closing reception of each art show.

Added more recently in 2013 were the Writer-In-Residence Program and Chapbook Series extensions, which further enhance the dialogue between artists and writers. A Writer-In-Residence is selected for each show installed at Aggregate, for the duration of the show, 4-6 weeks usually. The writer is provided keys to access the gallery as needed, utilizing an office space upstairs, but also having unlimited access to the installed artworks themselves. The idea is that the writer’s work will then be influenced by the content of the installation artist’s work.

In addition to reading at the closing reception of the show along with two other selected writers, each Writer-In-Residence gets to produce a limited edition chapbook to be distributed at the event. Now I wasn’t familiar with this term and actually had to look it up, so for those who don’t know… “chapbook” is a term now used for small publications, typically of poetry. But its roots date to centuries ago when the ability to print books first became widely accessible (more history here).

These small books are bound at Aggregate Space and, though consistent in their 8.5″ x 5.5″ softcover format, are truly blank canvases for each writer to “paint” freely. Some choose to incorporate imagery (photos or sketches), some work in prose, or dialogue, and others stick to poetry. All are created with editorial assistance from program manager Steffi Drewes.

chapbook

The Writer-In-Residence for the Broadcast Standards show is Kari Marboe. I was fortunate enough to get to speak with her a bit about her plans for this weekend’s event. She explained that she typically works in site-specific text-based installations, and opted to treat this project the same way, considering Williams’ installation of video works as her site.

She spent time in the gallery and was intrigued by the Average videos, as was I. In interviewing Williams it became clear that there was a “formula” he used in creating these pieces. It goes something like this…

  • Found Content – he worked with exclusively found video, rather than originally created content
  • Layers & Opacity – approximately 30 videos were incorporated into each work, all 30 videos simultaneously layered over each other but only revealed at times through shifts in opacity
  • Timing – each individual layer, or “story”, is revealed for somewhere between 3-5 seconds

She decided in creating her works for the Writing Series, she would apply the same formula. It’s brilliant!

She’s utilizing found texts (handwritten apology letters for example, found through Google images), and is weaving them together in a similar fashion. She wants her process to closely mirror Williams’ process so she’s spending a lot of time editing her text snippets together since she knows his montages were heavily edited.

I asked how she could address opacity with respect to text, especially since she’ll be reading the pieces aloud, and she said she’s interpreting different levels of opacity through the different emotions and intents of the original writer. Fascinating.

If this sounds fascinating to you too, get yourself to Aggregate Space Gallery this Saturday.

Aggregate Space Gallery
801 West Grand Avenue
Oakland 94607

The gallery opens at 1pm. The Featherboard Reading and Reception start at 5pm.