Politics Motivates Queer Performance Artists in "Political Body"
Posted on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 by Jim Norrena
Performance artists Cecelia Cooper, Tina Takemoto, and Keith Hennessy
California College of the Arts prides itself in the myriad forms of artistic expression that can be witnessed on any given day at either the Oakland or San Francisco campuses. One such form of visual art is performance art, which offers a dynamic means of expression, one that often has at its core a political statement or reaction.
So when three of the most outrageous and influential queer performance artists recently gathered at CCA for Performing the Political Body, it should come as no surprise the evening was ripe with political messaging reflecting issues within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex (LGBTQI) community . . . and beyond.
Political Body, a provocative, queer-centric evening of performance art, featured works by Cecilio Cooper, Visual Studies associate professor Tina Takemoto, and Keith Hennessy. It was far less about shock value as it was about exploring how the sexual can be politicized and, conversely, how the political can be sexualized.
The program took place February 22 at 7 p.m. in Timken Lecture Hall on the San Francisco campus and was presented by Queer Conversations on Culture and the Arts. The President's Steering Group on Diversity sponsored the event, as part of the group's commitment to increasing diversity at CCA.
[Critical Studies] associate professor Julian Carter and Rudy Lemcke, media artist and director of the visual arts and humanities programs at Queer Cultural Center, introduced the program to the chockful audience.
Queer Conversations on Culture and the Arts brings together locally and nationally renowned artists, writers, filmmakers, and scholars for a series of conversations to discuss a broad range of LGBTQI topics in the humanities and the arts. QCCA is an on-going collaboration between the Queer Cultural Center and CCA.
The 2011 QCCA committee includes the following CCA faculty members:
Following the performance, Associate Provost Melanie Corn moderated a panel discussion with the artists, during which each discussed not only their presented works but also the politics leading up to the performance as well as the political inspirations of other works.
About Tina Takemoto
Takemoto's work explores issues of race, illness, queer identity, memory, and grief. The first of two projects was a screening of her video Memoires of Björk—Geisha, a guerrilla performance by Takemoto (aka Björk-Geisha) and Jennifer Parker (aka Matthew-Whaler) during the opening of the Matthew Barney: Drawing Restraint exhibition at the San Francisco MoMA.
Said exhibition featured Barney and Björk as "occidental guests" on a Japanese whaling ship, where they dress in elaborate fur kimonos, participate in a tea ceremony, erotically slice each other's legs off, and transform into whales.
Takemoto's project was in reaction to the exhibition and confused viewers and gallery guards who couldn't determine whether they were part of the hired entertainment. Watch the video »
For her second performance piece, Looking for Jiro Onuma explores the hidden dimensions of queer sexuality during the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. The project speculates how Jiro Onuma survived the isolation, boredom, humiliation, and heteronormativity of internment as a dandyish gay bachelor from San Francisco.
As part of the aforementioned project, Takemoto's Looking for Jiro is a drag king performance and an experimental video that features official U.S. World War II propaganda footage of the prison camps, a Madonna/ABBA musical mash-up, bread kneading, muscle making, and more.
Be sure to visit Takemoto's website to learn more about her work.
About Keith Hennessy
Keith Hennessy initiated Circo Zero Performance in 2001 to make live performance sparked by current and historical social realities. For Performing the Political Body, Hennessy showed a five-minute clip from Delinquent (2008) that featured a collection of youth—all from troubled backgrounds—acting out their emotions through performance. Hennessy choreographed and directed the piece.
Keith Hennessy's work is interdisciplinary and experimental, operating within the tensions between intimacy and spectacle, rhetoric and ritual, personal and social. Rooted in contemporary dance and performance he and his performers engage circus, theater, music, visual, and conceptual art.
Under the influence of queer ideas, aesthetics, and histories, Circo Zero Performance evolves performance language and builds community through collaboration, crossing lines of artistic discipline, personal and cultural identity, and social expectations.
Circo Zero Performance participates in local and global struggles for justice, functioning as a collective space and public laboratory.
About Cecilio Cooper
ThiswayThatway (aka Cecilio Cooper) regards "fabulosity" as a kind of science and sparkle as a high art. As a solo performer and collaborator, Cooper wreaks havoc on stages across the country in art festivals and academic conferences. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Performance Studies at the University of California at Davis, with an emphasis in practice-as-research.
Cooper maintains a scholarly interest in slavery, neoslavery, gender-variance, and sexuality through theories of performance, philosophies of race, and histories of the human. Ultimately, Cooper is a dandified performance artist who enjoys the messy collision of glitter and theory.
About Queer Conversations on Culture and the Arts
QCCA is cosponsored by CCA's undergraduate programs in Critical Studies and Visual Studies and the graduate programs in Fine Arts and Visual and Critical Studies; Q
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