Extended Play, curated by Exhibitions Manager Maysoun Wazwaz, exemplifies Southern Exposure's growing commitment to performance art. The five-week series of live art performances and workshops provides a unique opportunity to not only see vitally creative performances first hand, but also to interact directly with the talented young artists involved. The artists and works included stretch the boundaries of performance and simultaneously proffer new iterations of tried and true performative tropes.
Southern Exposure has historically shied away from presenting performance work. Founded as part of Project Artaud, Southern Exposure originally acted as a visual art counterpoint to Artaud's performance-based projects. Consequently, the organization rarely exhibited performance pieces in its original space and continued to omit this important art form during the three nomadic years after it was forced to leave that location.
Now that Southern Exposure is housed in an impressive new space, it is making substantial room within its programming for performance. In February, the alternative art space commissioned a new performance work from San Francisco artist Mike Lai. The exceptional piece, entitled The Legendary Lions vs the Fists of Fury, blended Bruce Lee's Kung Fu, the art of disc jockeying, and traditional Chinese lion dancing, to create an epic showdown that will likely live in legend. Even the visual works included in Southern Exposure's other shows reflect a growing commitment to performance. Several pieces in the Alchemy exhibition were not solely objects or images, but either depicted performances or invited viewers to interact performatively with them. Similarly, Alison Pebworth's solo show Beautiful Possibility was simultaneously an exhibition and the launch of a cross-country performance piece. The exhibition itself included several performance events, one of which had the audience helping Pebworth distill liquor.
Extended Play marks Southern Exposure's emergence as a venue fully committed to championing performance art. These performances not only highlight the activities of local artists like Joshua Churchill and Andrew Benson, but contextualize these efforts within expansive national and international networks by including artists like Oth, and Lucky Dragons. This double inscription pays homage to performance art's deeply rooted San Francisco history, but acknowledges the form's current global discourse.
The experimental creativity of Extended Play's performers equals that of their Dada, Beatnik, Fluxist, and Body Art forbearers. Yet, the forms that they employ are decidedly contemporary. Noticeably more musical than poetic, the varied performances collectively tap into a modern zeitgeist of technological alienation suffused by a yearning to belong. Employing layered, at times theatrical effects, they create unexpected environments that equally startle and amaze. Though often technically impressive, each seems intentionally flawed, as if to clearly express that they are not polished products, but rather experiences meant to affect their audiences.
Extended Play continues through the rest of June, and I highly recommend that you take the plunge and experience at least one performance in person. The power of performance art is, at least in part, found in its capacity to surprise. Not knowing what you are going to experience beforehand can be daunting, but it makes the reward that much more substantial. If you cannot make it to the performances, documentation of each will be on view at Southern Exposure. If you want to immerse yourself even further, sign up for one of the series' workshops and take advantage of the unique opportunity to work with these talented artists first hand.
The next Extended Play is Misha Glouberman's Terrible Noises for Beautiful People tonight, Friday, June 4, 2010. The series continues through June 25. For more information visit soex.org. Please note: There are no advance tickets available. Tickets go on sale at 7:30pm on the night of the performance. Doors open at 8:00pm. All performances take place on Friday nights at 8:30pm at Southern Exposure unless otherwise stated.