Even things that you're not that excited about can start to seem pretty cool if someone speaks really passionately about them. I never minded hearing Lady Gaga on the radio before, but after reading Emmanuel Hapsis's article about her, I'm a true convert -- a Lady Gaga lover. If you're starting with something great, like a work of art (not that Gaga isn't a work of art), hearing someone talk about it can be moving, memorable, transformative.
In honor of its 75th Anniversary this year, SFMOMA has invited 75 people from the Bay Area art world to talk about pieces from the museum's collection that are meaningful to them, and to share their thoughts with the rest of us. These won't be slide-accompanied lectures in a dimly-lit hall, but quick shots from the Bay's best and brightest: 7.5-minute talks, performances, and ramblings taking place in SFMOMA's galleries every half hour for three days this coming weekend.
"Collection (formerly Untitled)" by Robert Rauschenberg
About 20 museum staff members will be participating in the series, called 75 Reasons to Live, and the rest are composers, filmmakers, authors, poets, painters, curators, and people working in all manner of other media. By not limiting the speakers to people working in visual arts, the series' curators opened the talks up to all types of creative responses. Composer Pamela Z chose Robert Rauschenberg's "Collection (formerly Untitled)," because she says it was "the first big Robert Rauschenberg I laid my eyes on in the flesh instead of in a book" when she moved to the Bay Area. Her 7.5 minutes, at 5:30 on Saturday, will be part talk, part sound collage; a performance piece in itself.
Other speakers include artist Rex Ray talking about Andy Warhol, designer Yves Behar on Barry McGee, and Yerba Buena curator Julio César Morales on Ansel Adams. Carey Perloff, director of the American Conservatory Theater, will talk about a photograph by Robbert Flick, an artist who she says she's known for many years; and author Beth Lissick is also planning on talking about work by an artist she knows, Chris Johanson.
San Francisco's relatively small size can feel claustrophobic sometimes, like a subway platform full of people you hadn't hoped to run into (or a packed museum gallery, for that matter), but events like this, that can draw people in from around the region and across genre lines, are possible because of the city's small size and tangled personal and professional connections. The museum will be crowded, but free -- there's no admission charge for these three days -- and full of Bay Area people talking passionately about art and ideas.
It all adds up to a lot of artists and a lot of minutes, and it's actually impossible to see all the speakers, as they'll be going at it two at a time. But the museum will be recording all the talks, and posting them online later this year; they should make excellent fodder for 7.5-minute eye-opening dawdling sessions.
75 Reasons to Live runs from Saturday, January 16 through Monday, January 18, 2010 at SFMOMA in San Francisco. For more information, visit sfmoma.org.