Posted on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 by Joyce Grimm
On Wednesday, September 19, 2012, CCA Film and Fine Arts faculty member Lynn Marie Kirby, together with collaborator Alexis Petty, will present The 24th Street Listening Project at the Brava Theater in San Francisco.
The evening will include the screening of a new video by Kirby exploring the neighborhood through color and language mapping, a musical performance reflecting local stories and topography, a book release, and the launch of the new website, 24thStreetListeningProject.com.
This is Act II in an evening of uncovering echoes -- some present and some no longer audible. The event will begin with Laguna Yellow, an Elastic City-sponsored walk. (Read more about Elastic City and its founder, CCA alumnus Todd Shalom.) Kirby and Petty will guide participants in a meditation on the role of color in the neighborhood: as pigment, as light, and as history.
The walkers will be asked to “be present” to color, to see and hear its frequency, and to explore the languages used to describe its refractions and reverberations. How does Sunbeam play off Fiesta Orange, White Blush, or Desert Tan? The walk will culminate in the creation of a collective pigment poem.
Todd Shalom is Kirby’s former student. He is one of many, many students who not only cite her as a key influence on their creative efforts today, but also have kept in close touch with her in the years after graduation. Kirby and Shalom also have in common a deep commitment to art that uncovers echoes -- some present and discernible, and others no longer quite audible.
The Art of Teaching
As an educator and a practicing artist for more than 30 years, Kirby has developed a keen craftsmanship in the art of connecting with students. She is great at recognizing and encouraging their strengths and skills, and turning classroom and studio exchanges into long-term connections. Kirby’s teaching practice and her art practice intertwine seamlessly. Her passion for uncovering ideas and building relationships has made her a particularly adept conductor of stories in her own creative practice.
Þorfinnur Guðnason (Film/Video 1988), a well-known Icelandic filmmaker, is one of many students who have stayed in touch with Kirby post-graduation. “Lynn opened doors and gave us the opportunity to think beyond what we knew,” he says. “She encouraged us to push boundaries and challenge the medium we were working in. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and she befriended everyone. No one ever skipped class.”
Guðnason organized a retrospective of Kirby’s work, Airplanes and Dust, at Bíó Paradís in Reykjavík, in July 2011. Kirby was flown out for the show and greeted at the airport by four of her students from the late 1980s, all now working in media in Iceland. While in Iceland she also made a video with Guðnason, How green IS my valley.
Traces of the Everyday
Kirby is drawn to traces of the everyday -- materials, anecdotes, knowledge, and stories -- as they reflect connections between experience and place. Her projects are deeply human in the sense that they are manifestations of life and serve as evidence that another human – Kirby -- is out there: attuned, listening, collecting.
Alexandra Grant (MFA 2000), a prominent Los Angeles painter and also a former student of Kirby’s says, “Many of us admire Lynn for taking a stand for things that are inaudible, not visible, or easily overlooked. Lynn doesn’t mind being a maverick. First as her student, and now as her friend and colleague, I admire her patient seeing, her championing of the trace, the gesture.”
For years people referred to Kirby as a filmmaker, and she is, having had her work showcased at film festivals around the world, from Oberhausen to Toronto, London, San Francisco, and Athens. But her investigations take other forms as well: writing, site-based interventions, sound, ephemeral objects. Recording technologies themselves -- interesting to Kirby because of how they create and mark records of time and place -- sometimes feature as subjects in her explorations.
Memorable Curator-Artist Interactions
I have had the pleasure of working with Lynn Marie Kirby for several years now. For me personally, her work Standardized Screen Tests, part of an exhibition I co-curated at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery in 2008, stands out as particularly memorable. In this work she recorded two adolescent boys responding to questions about manhood such as, “What does it mean to be a man?”
Viewers could see the physical manifestations of approaching manhood in the boys’ posture and facial hair, and hear it in the fluctuations of their developing voices. Handwritten pages by the two young men hung on adjacent walls. The gallery is located on the ground floor of the San Francisco War Memorial building, and Kirby was inspired by this history to ask the boys to write their thoughts about war, thus sensitively linking her project to the site of the exhibition.
The work subsequently “traveled” to China when Standardized Screen Tests was curated into a show with the Chinese artist Li Xiaofei. Kirby went to China to meet Li, and while she was there they undertook a project together, a 30-day email exchange. This exchange was featured in spring 2012 in Descriptive Acts at SFMOMA under the title Hello?你好!. The two artists are now working on The Crystalline World, a project exploring the effects of salt mining on economies and sites in the Bay Area and China.
The 24th Street Listening Project is an expansion of a work Kirby began in 2009 for Triple Base, my former gallery. It involved Kirby getting to know people at various locations along 24th Street, focusing on five sites in particular: the 7th Day Adventist Church, Center Nail Salon, the Brava Theater, St. Francis Fountain, the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting house, and the soccer field at Garfield Square.
She collaborated with Alexis Petty to re-present the various forms of exchange witnessed at these sites in ways that mimicked the signs, programs, menus, price lists, and brochures found at the different locations, and then she situated these new materials back into the landscape from which they had emerged.
Return from Sabbatical
Kirby returns to CCA this fall after a year-long sabbatical, an extraordinarily eventful year that included shows and screenings at the San Jose Museum of Art, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Berkeley Art Museum, TIFF Toronto, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and SFMOMA. She traveled not only to Iceland for the retrospective, but also to China and Brazil.
In Brazil she worked with the Sisters of the Holy Cross in São Paulo on Stitching Wishes. Begun as a sewing project, it has evolved into an ongoing collaboration with the nuns, and continues her interest in alternate narratives, site-based collaborations, and the role of the artist as a facilitator. She is currently at work on several new time-based pieces, including a large site commission in Wuxi, China.
Lynn Marie Kirby is humorous. She is a philosopher, an avant-garde filmmaker, and an artist. She is a teacher and an inspiration to many. I am happy to call her my friend, and I look forward to continuing to collaborate whenever possible and to seeing what new and fascinating projects she undertakes in the years to come.
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