Perform Chinatown

This browser cannot play the embedded video file.


Perform Chinatown

Saturday July 21st 2012

 Special Thanks to Mat Gleason, founder of Coagula Art Zine now at Coagula Curatorial

 LA's 4th Annual Showcase of Performance Art:


 Over 40 actions, performances, installations, interventions and manifestations from performance artists from around the world.

 Happening in & around contemporary art venues on Chung King Rd., in the Chinatown district of Los Angeles

 Featuring Karen Finley's first Los Angeles performance in 14 years.

Last night, Perform Chinatown  served up a flawless equisite corpse of refined aesthetic measures, gestures bold and narcissistically innocent, unknowable, complex rehersed downloads, swan dives into abysmal pools of cosmic information, loosely knit together diatribes and/or spirited dances, strechting toward ominiscience, absurd monolougues delivered with the ridiculous seriousness of state occasions, irrespective of the lack of tollerance for esoteric musing and bodily action, in society, at large, in the increasingly tattered basket, the catch-all art category: "Performance ART."  

On a “T” of two streets, in a set-like playground of contemporary art galleries, entrenched among Chinese souvenir shops and restaurants featuring large round tables for family style banquets, all in collusion to create an otherworldly atmosphere, of mutual respect and artistic acceptance, which revolutionaries like most humans, crave.  The satisfaction of a unnambable hunger may be found in living art, the experience of it is akin to the pleasure of finding a paradise where the odd, the nude, the strategically unwashed,  the potentially unwanted, the children that scream too much, and yet have rhythm, a voice… they carry a tune, sing a song, write a poem, weave a blanket, paint a pretty picture, roll around on the ground, and look comely, adorable, or not… these artists are the adult children that never stopped playing, never stopped experimenting, and thus dedicate their lives to the exploration of  ideas, and possibilities with whatever materials they define as relevant, the detrius of time and space which they simmer and serve in performances for others to savor or chew over, later.

It was hot and sunny until evening, when it became HOT and dark and sweaty, yet---somehow--- still pleasant, and even then it kept raining men and women, in and out of costume playing and performing for a wandering, blissed-out audience, of art-world folk and dazed passersby.  "This is almost like a carnival."  Somone says.  The work presented varied from the deathly serious, “Erasing Tibet,” a physical ritual reminiscent of yogic practices, and prayer, which had participants performing on mat-sized photographs of Tibet strewn with rice, the food stock associated with weddings in the West, the staple grain of the East.  This work we can swiftly decode as a gesture of solidarity with the people suffering in Tibet.  The physical exercise, the kneeling, the sweeping away of the rice all amount to a dance of morning, a step toward peace and away from the oppression of the Tibetan people.

 The audio-visual-kinesthetic-psychic smorgasbord served inside and just outside the contemporary art galleries of located in Los Angeles’s quaint-tourist attracting restaurant packed, Chinatown provide a psychic nourishment for the savvy citizens of the art universe that floated under the red lanterns and clouds of conversation sipping, perhaps, an intoxicating elixir of promise, talent manifest, and most of all, mutual respect for personal freedom and divergence from convention.  Delightful.

 The feast served all  the ingredients we have come to expect from "cutting edge," performance art:

Performance ART Checklist:


Female Nudity √

Cross-dressing √

Exploration of Ethnic Identity √

Humanistic Political Activism √

Self Revealing Narratives so studied they are nearly embalmed. √

Martyrs in public flagellation √

Feminist critic √

Queer conciousness √

 For spice, a few surprises:

 Karen Finley did not fail to please.  After 14 years without performing publicly the talented medium read her dead-celebrity automatic writings with passion and bite.  She was fearless and willing to kick anyone out that took her picture while performing.   Her "channeled," drawings from netherworld connections with the who's who of the deceased: Mary Kennedy (and her unicorn drawing,)  John Belushi, Donna Summer, Micheal Jackson, Charles Buckowski, Vidal Sasson, Whitney Houston among other notable beloved stiffs, have made drawings through the medium, performance artist, Karen Finley.

La Suzy, artist Suzy Hernandez, opened for Finely, with "No Comas Tortillas," a tightly edited, well timed, stroll through the process of loosing a native identity and becoming one more American citizen, thus erasing a past with the ease of changing one cloak for another.


IMG 4995

 Steve Craig’s Automatic Abstract Drawing Machine, kept the kids entertained at the far end to the "T" that marked the spot, last night. The smoothly operating machine made of wood and bicycle parts holds great appeal and had visitors all evening.  The idea of drawing upon a machine to produce (reasonable) drawings without the baggage, the hassle, the training, and other past narratives clinging to art practice.  

This browser cannot play the embedded video file.

 The artist, Kate Gilbert, affectionately referred as “The Naked Lady,” by audience-bystanders-and impromptu co-performers- that performed nude just outside Colanga gallery from 6-8pm.  Her inch by inch squirm across concrete, unprotected, nude, and horizontal, face mostly plastered to the sidewalk, sometimes facing skyward, rarely looking out… nude except for hot pink heals… danced the edge between purposely provocative, slickly calculated, and masterfully executed fine art performance for the hungry souls that gather at performance art events all over. Gilbert's performance reclaims the image of woman abandoned, abducted, and alone and replaces the icon of devastation with the truth of woman-artist in control of her body, determined, and perfectly comfortable to face the public's greatest fears with horizontal aplomb.  Go to any major museum and the subject matter of so much traditional painting is women’s nude bodies.  The determination to direct the fascination of flesh, rather than being objectified and not given a choice about how one's body is viewed by others, to rebel from the role of decorative vase on a pedestal or  fancy spittoon, is commendable.

For LAUGHS: Margie

This browser cannot play the embedded video file.

Ideal Woman: Outline is a continuation of Allie Pohl’s Ideal Woman series. During Perform Chinatown 2012, Pohl sketched participants’ bodies from waist to knee, similar to the iconic shape of Ideal Woman. Ideal Woman: Outline demonstrates a sampling of the different shapes and sizes of women in the city of Los Angeles, a city consumed by the idea of perfection. By outlining participants’ bodies in her iconic shape, Pohl continues her dialogue, which questions the idealized female form that has been marketed to woman and absorbed by society at large as a paragon of physical beauty.

Allie Pohl 

This browser cannot play the embedded video file.

 Keith Walsh:  cracked it OUT, playing a mean rendition of the Sex Pistols “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”  One Man Band says that when he began playing on his own he thought he was the ONLY ONE.  Later he learned that, “We are legion."  He was featured in a “Encyclopedia of One Man Bands,” out of Chicago. 

Alex Schaefer 

This browser cannot play the embedded video file.

McLean Fahnestock

All in all the event was high quality comfort food for the performance art addicted.

There were too many performances simultaneously occurring for one to cover.   I'm sure I missed a lot even though I darted from one daring  performance to an another.   Forgive me, if I missed you.  Perhaps, next year… I'm looking forward to Perform Chinatown, year five.

Kent Anderson Butler

This browser cannot play the embedded video file.

I agree entirely with Michele Jaquis,  Elizabeth Leister‘s Disapeared was "the most compelling and moving piece," among the many stand-out examples of possiblitiy in performance art served up at Perform Chinatown.  It was, "Haunting to say the least."

 Related LINKS:

Highlights from Perform Chinatown

Audio Recordings

©Frau Kolb 22 July 2012