creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

Sunday, June 30, 2013

FAETOPIA - The Big Joy San Francisco Adventure Part 1

Performing a piece celebrating the work of James Broughton aka Big Joy

During the week leading up to gay pride weekend in San Francisco, I participated in FAETOPIA, a pop-up queer arts, ecology, theater and community center that ran June 21st – June 28th 2013 organized by members of the SF Radical Faerie community (in particular Kyle DeVries, Zac Benfield, & William Stewart). I was honored to perform 3 different performance pieces on 3 different nights in Faetopia and as a result get to connect with and view the work of many wonderful creative people. Faetopia coincided with The Frameline Film Festival, so I managed to also view 3 great documentaries on queer subject matter. Then to cap off this fabulously festive week, the Supreme Court made their ruling on Marriage Equality! It was a thrilling time to be in SF.

Part of my excitement for attending Faetopia was for the opportunity to perform a piece honoring the work of James Broughton. This year the documentary about him called BIG JOY was released in festival circuits, giving audiences a glimpse into the fascinating life of this most unusual filmmaker and poet. I had previously only known a mere sliver of his work, but thankfully the creation of this film brought more of his words and visuals to my attention. I had no idea just how powerfully his poetry would resonate with my being until I started researching his body of work. Mark Thompson, the gay activist-author and friend of James, urged me to focus my attention on a section of his writing titled "Hymns To Hermes." 

Broughton gave up the opportunity to be a Hollywood film director (offered to him after he won the 1954 Cannes Film Festival's Award for Experimental Film, which was handed to him by none other than my favorite artiste Jean Cocteau - I love that connection), and moved to San Francisco to be part of the beat generation of poets. Broughton's poetry is a feast of the senses and a expression of a joyous, witty, free spirit.

I was quickly able to find 5 poems that I felt could be constructed into a short performance piece that had it's own built in story-arc of sorts. I had just a week to work on staging and memorizing the poems I selected from "Hymns to Hermes." I was inspired by the visuals of one of his films, "Dreamwood" and so used images from the film to inform my performance. I made the performance a bit like a ritual, in which I sacrifice a bird that symbolizes my body. I then reach into the bird and pull out strands of colored beads and pearls instead of guts. I then ripped the wings off the bird, turned them inside out to reveal rainbow feathers and placed them upon my feet like the wings of Hermes. I then hoisted my legs into the air and invoked Hermes to make love to me (as Broughton's poem so aptly describes). Finally I rose back to my feet and recited Broughton's passionate piece urging Hermes to "relight our blithe birthright."

The performance went extremely well. I was so lost in the moment, only afterwards in talking with friends did I recognize how much "hissing" there was throughout the performance. Hissing, by the way, is a very good thing for the Radical Faeries, it's a way of subtle cheering without interrupting the flow of energy that clapping would. I also meet Broughton's partner, Joel Singer, whom greatly enjoyed the performance and gave me permission to create a full-length show based on Broughton's works. I had not intended to create a show, but after reading many of his works, I found that they inspired me to create an hour long performance. In the same way that I created "Cavafy's Caress" based on the poetry of Constantine P. Cavafy, I am now excited to develop a piece utilizing Broughton's words and imagery to create a one-man show - a delicious feast of words and visuals. And thus, a new mission is underway to do just that!

with Joel Singer & Mark Thompson backstage after the performance

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Legacy Garden @ INSTALL: WeHo's Pop-Up Art Village

Legacy Garden (INSTALL:WeHo 2013 manifestation) - click photos for larger view
It was a fantastic day under the summer sun on June 2 celebrating One City One Pride month in West Hollywood with INSTALL:WeHo, a pop-up art village of installations inside U-haul trucks and live performances on truck bed stage in the El Tovar Parking Lot behind the West Hollywood Library and City Council Chambers.

Inside the truck one guy helps paint another's nails
I presented a new incarnation of "The Legacy Garden" especially created for this event to represent The Lavender Effect, a non-profit foundation aiming to create a state-of-the-art LGBTQ museum in Los Angeles. I am honored to be a creative Consulting Advisor with the group and look forward to seeing the dream of such a museum existing in LA to showcase our amazing collective history.

Inside detail at night
The theme of this year's INSTALL:WeHo was "Good Queer" asking us to examine what it means to be a good queer in today's society. The combination of words actually makes for a fascinating debate, especially how the meaning of both queer and good have changed over time. My installation presented the images of many LGBTQ icons who may contain traits of what being a modern good queer is all about - however during their time in history may have been considered wrong, bad, evil, perverted, outlandish, or deviant. But does being a good queer in today's time also mean to break the rules of what is considered decent or normal, for it challenges us to reconsider the wide spectrum of qualities that contributes to our collective humanity.

This couple really enjoyed doing each others glitter make-up
In line with how "made-up" the idea of good is, a feature of the Legacy Garden is the Glitter Make-up Mirror Altar, where people are invited to sit down and paint their nails or put on some glittery make-up - thereby showing the world how "good" a queer they are.  But does making yourself up really make you a good queer? Does not participating or avoiding make-up mean you are a bad queer? What exactly is good when it comes to being queer? It can mean so many things, and like all the various and unique historical icons, it covers a wide range of qualities and varies depending on the cultural norms of the time.

Showing off some fabulous nails!
I enjoyed watching people interact with The Legacy Garden in various ways. Some really took their time to meditate within the space. I loved hearing people sound the singing bowl or hit ting-chas together - they were left out to be enjoyed. I caught a few people enjoy touching things and getting tactile! Everyone treated the space with respect and all manner of interactions were welcome. Some people just had a quick look around. I loved seeing people take photographs of certain elements that obviously resonated with them somehow. And, of course, watching people do their make-up, or help a friend do their make-up and nails was so wonderful!

Detail of the Gay Writer's Coffee Table
One question proposed by The Legacy Garden is, if you don't know or recognize some of the historical icons, does that make you a bad queer? Does the installation encourage you to do your own research to find out? In creating the exhibition, I myself am in the ongoing process of discovering who these people were and how they have influenced our collective history. To me, being a "good queer" does involve balancing out your time between our modern life and world and researching the past. Much more to do.

Ramp entrance into truck
The Legacy Garden is constructed of repurposed objects, often found at garage sales, second hand stores, or left on the street to be discarded. I then transform the item, which has its own past history,  and incorporate images of the icons, along with living plants and crystals, creating types of sacred altars. Some described the installation as a shrine, and others as Quintin Crisp's yard sale. I heard comments from one gentleman who wanted me to drive with it across the country and pop up in communities that don't have access to such history and drag - and others who wanted me to do the installation at Burning Man. All options for The Legacy Garden are open - and can be constructed in numerous forms in numerous places. This was the 4th official version of the piece, with a lot of new elements in its own unique manner.

Detail of left side of truck in the glow of night
A special thanks goes to Jol Devitro for the addition of his succulent plants which really added to the living elements of the garden. They were also joined by cuttings from Randy Harrison, Gabe Gelbart, and Ken Symington from the first Legacy Garden installation in 2009. Tyr Geoffrey Jung-Hall donated willow cuttings and helped monitor the truck during the day. Blu Donald Richard Bluestein donated several found objects, along with Dave Clark and Gregory Frye. Also thanks to Blu for helping set up the installation (in particular the parachute cover for the truck), and Rich Yap, Mike Che, Andy and Joc for the tear-down. I owe a big thanks to Andy Sacher of The Lavender Effect for his faith in the project and Mark Cramer and Laura Watts of INSTALL:WeHo.

Welcome - come on into the installation!
Detail of the Glitter Make-Up Mirror Altar

Jol Devitro enters
Tyr and Andy proudly hold The Lavender Effect banner