Sep 20 2011

Los Doppelgangers: Who Wants To Be Post-Chicano?


“‘Make sex mandatory,’ says Guillermo — now in heels.  Dude’s a phenom, and I for one wonder if he’s banged Miss Ghraib.  Montoya likens him to Gloria Swanson, which is fun. “


She’s eccentric; the kind of gal who stands in the corner at a social gathering, sweating and listening to a Fred Astaire mix on her Droid, encased by a crowd of Los Angeles public radio and museum supporters, watching without watching them.

The evening is a Wednesday, September 14th.  The location is the Fowler Museum at UCLA: a campus so Middle-Earthly charming I almost wish I’d gone to college.  The event is Los Doppelgangers, brought to you by La Pocha Nostra’s Guillermo Gomez-Pena and actor/director Richard Montoya of Culture Clash.

The show’s program informs those of us pseudo-mingling but earnestly libating in a leafy courtyard, wherein stages are set in the three east-most corners (a prompt but subtle nod to the Cholos in East LA, perhaps?), that we are to be regaled by “mean writers and long-time friends” as they go ‘mano a mano’ in “movement, spoken word, and radical storytelling in alternating dialog.”  Yes, it’s performance art, but it’s good performance art.  Particularly as it’s not done by college kids tripping on glue and wrongly distended egos, but men of stout, symphonic culture shouldering the pertinent human appeal.

The surface component of their topical plea is clear, as 2 small posters- erected in North-West and South-East corners of the courtyard- read (in black letters over white): WHAT IS A CITIZEN?  I AM A CITIZEN.  To this effect, the program also promises profanity by way of dramatized border rituals and a look at the “rampant violence” in Mexico today, as well as the “anti-immigration hysteria” occurring in the States.

But before the savage-gasms commence, you can get your picture taken with Abby Ghraib: half-naked, pin-up girl with an American flag at her crotch and a duct-taped sack muting her head.  By her slender, gloved hands she’ll tease you with her rope, or let you put your mouth beneath her Baghdad in a camel pose.  Young, porcelain bark in a polka-dot bikini top and sex-red heels… who wouldn’t want to revel in a torture so handsome?

If it’s further terror you need to get off, there’s a deceptively dormant chainsaw in the corner stage opposite Abby, beneath the face of Che Guevara on papel picado and a round table where a Macbook Pro mimics some invisible, ubiquitous, cyborg DJ.  Watch out for the furries with the microphone and camcorder (these are the conejos: or the simulatedly-bumbling Raul Baltazar & his muy bonita ‘Company Bunnies’).

And now, with some margarita in her system, our socially inept narrator finishes her rounds of the courtyard just as the augmented environment starts to play “Hotel California” for a second time, signaling that the playlist is indeed repeating.  But not for long, for in the middle corner set-up, a band starts to play.  They are Chicano Son, and my first thought is: upgraded Latino Pearl Jam?  Nonetheless, it’s enjoyable; for thus far I’ve had wine, tequila and certain herbs — and also, me gusta to rock.

An older gentlemen thinks I’m a part of the proceedings, with my Transformers notebook and my pedantic photographing of the set.  He asks me if the postcards lining the unseen DJ’s table are for sale.  I say I don’t know, and he answers that he could do without the stop-and-smell-the-roses rhetoric but he likes the images.  More drinking of my margarita.

Next, a voice of verdad antigua wallops the courtyard: “Who wants to be a post-chicano?!”  Enter Richard Montoya and Guillermo Gomez-Pena, squaring off on either side of Fowler Fountain (this, but not the furries, are purportedly on loan from the Getty).  Right now, smack-dab and intra-audience, a Mexican stand-off is in the making, with the ethno-techno extremist sex-bomb (Guillermo) vs. the satirical ‘raceman’ son of a poet (Montoya).  They’re setting me on fire with their full-immersion intro, even if they are speaking in Spanish for some of it, which means I’m entirely ignorant to the spoken text.  When I ask the lady beside me to translate, her and her bad hair and uptight face told me — with mucho disdain — “It’s Spanish.”  Well I gathered as much, Watson.  I know the Spanish don’t speak binary.

Hey, I’m not an asshole ‘cause I ain’t multilingual (incidentally I do speak some French, very little Russian and, often, full-retard).  I’m merely patiently awaiting my babelfish implant.  Anyway, I agree with Guillermo that Spanglish should be the official American language, much the way I believe Marijuana should be legal if fucking tequila gets to be.

Guillermo, the tatted-transhuman who wears a keener rendition of Neo’s Matrix jacket, declares that he “wants [Montoya’s] urgency.”  The mutated-Mexican responds that there’s not enough eyeliner in West Hollywood for the both of them.  Montoya continues with unorthodox praise for his opponent, or “illiterate MacArthur genius Motherfucker,” while Guillermo insists they start to “find some common ground.”  From my post-show research, I note they have plenty.  Both are triple-A cabrones (artists, activists, and anthropologists),  gloriously politically incorrect, mercifully flamboyant, hybrid identities all up in the multicultural experiment.

They posit building borders of sugarwall, that we might lick them (and our xenophobias) away.  They reference the stereotypes they might have to assume to find success, taking jabs at Danny Trejo, Xtina Aguilera, and the Cholo section of Dodger Stadium.  Are they to empathize with “right wing David Mamet” or the governator’s Spanish nanny?  Guillermo smokes the tangent that “art school is the new law school,” and they joke about rehearsing for 6 months or 6 minutes before Montoya suggests they stick to the script, which “writes itself” anyway.  We hear some of each contenders’ past — about Montoya’s father, poet Jose Montoya, and how, in Guillermo’s childhood, all American’s sounded like Donald Duck.

“I’m testing the limits of my intensity.  This is not my real voice… this is a strange malaise and cultural anthology.”  It is strange that we’re encouraged to shoot human beings just for crossing a border when we did essentially the same thing to escape the British.  Still, we “borrowed” from the language of those we bulldozed in naming our new territories- and later in naming our sports teams and urban assault vehicles.  Montoya conjectures whether the Spanish should revoke their contributions to American cuisine and entertainment, seeing as the Teabaggers and friends of Sherrif Joe Arpaio are so averse to considering Latinos beyond having their houses built and cleaned by them and their hedges trimmed (was that included in the Schwarzenegger affair, or was he already manscaped?  And I vomit at the thought).  Montoya references a “Terminator vs. Zorro” situation, and I’m increasingly of the opinion that he doesn’t think much of Arnie.

Anarchism’s in the air, and Montoya’s a Marxist Robinhood — albeit with a Christian tinge (that greasy Mexican you sidestep in Silverlake might be Jesus; would you give him water as you would a dog?).  Guillermo’s the abstract absurdist and futurist, asking us to imagine LA in 2050 and giving speeches (tonight’s is #12) to the green people — or we who baptize in the power of spoken word; we who introspect to our reflections.  He likes the taste of this anarchy, but asks Montoya what they’re offering us: the audience.  Radical imagination?  Marijuana?   Next, Guillermo takes a faux-hit, but I’m affronted that he can’t take a hit IRL (I did, both before and after the show).  Per Guillermo, “[our government] turns us into freaks, and then we act accordingly.”

“Make sex mandatory,” says Guillermo — now in heels.  Dude’s a phenom, and I for one wonder if he’s banged Miss Ghraib.  Montoya likens him to Gloria Swanson, which is fun.  What’s not fun: abiding anti-immigrant fervor on moral grounds.   Bring on the Cholo baptism in the Fowler fountain by the redheaded, Kosher, all-white-virgin Angel of Westwood.  The Cholo is underground hip-hop artist Esteban Luz, and the virgin angel cleanses his Cholo feet “like a mothefucker.”  But for full redemption, he must wash her feet — as if they are the feet of the dead white boy he killed in Echo Park a month ago.  He causes a tingling between her legs, but she doesn’t give a fuck.  Montoya only asks that we respect what’s going on in her mind, and not overcontemplate her wet, supple, and wonderfully tank ass.

It’s a task, to be sure.

But Los Doppelgangers was nothing but a treat — an interactive brain banquet that both challenged and comforted me, tickled and triggered me to do — in whatever way I might to better understand/improve/impact while only slightly reiterating the obvious.  Hey, for performance art — which for me is a medium prone to grievous transparency — Guillermo and Montoya together are as close to flawless as it gets.

And our narrator?  She’s forgotten her neuroses for the moment, drunk on at least three new sexual obsessions (Guillermo, Montoya, and Guillermo y Montoya junto, speaking binary).  She’s also honored to have glimpsed these forces in action, and a little bit changed for the better.

Jun 14 2011

Hipsters Against The Machine. (I Prefer The Machine.)



In a ballroom-for-rent at downtown LA’s nostalgic Alexandria Hotel, Anatomy Riot #42 (brainchild of Show Box LA and Lauren McCarthy) debuted all new ‘machine-inspired’ performance art. The alleged 42nd installment’s premise being invisible computing and the future; ’how aging systems respond to the transposition of more recent technological metaphors and customs onto non-technological environments”   Also referred to as ‘internet aware art’ or ‘neoanologue’, with  the [human] body as the reference point, McCarthy posits the revelation of “adaptive or misplaced behaviors ordinarily mediated by machines.”  Interesting to note that on my commute into downtown last night, some interchangeable DJ for some local pop FM invited audiences (betwixt a setlist of ‘Hey Ya’ by Outkast and Adele’s name-making ‘Rolling in the Deep’) to call in with their stories of ‘mis-texting’, or texts accidentally sent to the wrong person.

Will computers ever watch computers play poker?  Such are the things I wonder about, as I drink a glass of wine at the Mexican joint next door to the performance art venue.

I will soon conjecture about algorithms for anchorites and machine calisthenics, this latter thought occurring as I watch a ‘warm up’ routine performed by a female handstander against the entire length of the foremost wall in the ballroom venue, where anatomy riot #42 starts almost half an hour behind schedule.  Subsequent thoughts go as such… had I known they’d serve drinks here, I wouldn’t have allocated $6+tip at Ensenda, and… I’m one of only 2 blondes here, the other vying to be Debbie Harry; all ancillary females being of the dark, midlengthed persuasion (indie kids).  All the dudes either wished at some point to be David Byrne; with flocking follicles, affected English accents and laughs like an electrically impeding parrot.  As a very recent transplant to the performing arts dimension, what do I expect to witness here, tonight… and why?

All I know is that a delayed showtime breeds anxiety.  I smell my stepgrandfather’s cologne.  The parrot-laugher/Angloid reveals that he’s also a starfucker, dropping Law and Order’s Chris Meloni’s name… like anybody cares.  Is the ambient squealing and external verbal confrontation part of the show?  What about the delinquent trickle of audience moments after the show’s commencement has been announced, as some dude who looks like Project Runway’s Mondo walks out onto the staging area and removes a chair to set up a cheap folding table and stacks of perforated-computer paper?  I’m trying in vain to follow the java-esque program (I am both dyslexic and discalculic so it’s a task to follow type-typical); nonetheless it appears the show eventuates with a certain hipster disregard for printed order.

OK.  This must be the performance of Gustavo Cordova’s ‘Failure to Print,’ as I reflect on what all made the 90’s gay; the foremost being performance art involving table-setting.  Then comes some cryptic note-writing, paper ripping, and primal screaming before Cordova silently implores various audience participants to scribe an original thought by dropping trains of perforated paper at their laps (or in my case, feet).  But he doesn’t even bother to collect said thoughts once they’ve been expunged.  By my count, at least 4 thoughts were thusly born into the universe, never to be rescinded and ostensibly not to be shared; which suits me fine, as I’m the 2nd unwitting spectator given perforated paper to birth on, and my contribution is (as ever) ruefully narcissistic.

Which brings me to my next conjecture: can and will we compute narcissism into machines?  That’s what I’m thinking as Mondo dramatically and incrementally scrawls…  DO / YOU / LIKE / THIS / THOUGHT ?  Of course, I missed the opportunity for a photo op as Mondo climaxes amidst a violent wheel of airborne perforated paper.  Take yourself of it, you self-involved mong; and claps signal the end of this opening segment.

Now we’re treated to a handicapped (meaning, presumably, that the young woman reciting from a book of Marina Tsvetaeva works was restricted to limited touching of said book) rendition of the following:

What is this gypsy passion for separation, this
readiness to rush off when we’ve just met?
My head rests in my hands as I
realize, looking into the night

that no one turning over our letters has
yet understood how completely and
how deeply faithless we are, which is
to say: how true we are to ourselves.

I googled that in about 3 seconds with about 5 keywords…  And it is at this part in the show that my thoughts invariably morph into my own unique breed of cynical feminism, as I watch two young women of muted but indisputable sexual appeal (think Quaaludes for hipster androids) act absently ‘cute’ for our amusement.  For our amusement?

All I can muse on is that clearly such ‘cuties’ ain’t as developed for survival as the toads, at least per Darwin.  So what’s a cutey to do?  Drunkenly film her hands while operating some large, obsolete machine.  I’m more fascinated by what a machine getting moderately stoned would actually look like.  Would it spout semi-conscious streams of intimate human words while giggling at its handicaps?  Would a machine inhibit itself for art?

As I try to visualize what the first 41 Anatomy Riot performances were like, the mumbling performers in the folly before me manage to enunciate LOVE, TENDERNESS, and (curiously in the vein of a recent IEET blog I’d read) EQUALITY.  Provocative words as always, until another artfully asymmetric girl (albeit one who looks remarkably like Curtis Von Trap… also without a bra) regales us with a stripped-to-its-logic board Dance Dance Revolution routine, white and dark blue shadows on her celtic face: a virginal Viking vixen with sideways stomping agility.  After her, some guy calling himself Adam (looks like Aubrey de Grey) tells us he’s going to imagine a future where audiences watch some dude sit in a chair for a proclaimed 5 minutes, feet afloat via hover-shoes.   He says that in the future, our minds will already have been blown, therefore there’ll be no need for the “spectacular,” and that all there’ll be is the present time.  Alas, I have no desire to contemplate the LA hipster’s future, but I’m lead to understand that it will exclude clapping (a rule we’re told will prevail in future performance art by LA hipsters).  I have no time for the modern LA hipster, but I’m also a misanthrope and a cynic.  “Romantic is boring,” Adam tells us, “and this next segment is dedicated to Chet Baker.”  So he sits, and we sit, feet levitating, mine as good as his, though I get no credit for it (but I feel good about my pilates routine at least).

A cell phone rings an antiquated ring sound… is that part of the show or just bad manners?  And is the Aubrey de Grey style facial shawl supposed to be like looking into the face of our creator?  Flanked by our cavemen diet and our increased muscle strength, we acknowledge that stillness is our future… stillness, like a sleeping computer in a clap vacuum.  But this wasn’t my least favorite exhibition.  That reward goes to a segment titled “Kristen Lucas” as performed by Justin Streichman and Danielle Furman.  A cold-reading about an individual’s attempt at self-renewal, a “poetic gesture” where a young woman named Kristen Lucas applies to the courts to have her name changed into the present incarnation of itself.  Yes, this confuses the luddite legalities because her name will be the same, only benefiting from a time lapse that the law of course cannot definitively discern and therefore cannot understand.  The audience around me laughed and loved it, but I failed to see the humor in hackneyed spewing of computing synonyms such as ‘”reboot,” ‘refresh,” “update,” and “emptying my cache”… particularly as said thesaurus-ian  employments detail a stupid joke about being “born again” comparing it with the majesty of a marriage vow.  Marriage?  How is that a forward concept?  Or am I being punked?

My head’s starting to cramp as the bad actors announces to the supposed bureaucrats that he “should have brought a philosopher” to better defend his argument of the legitimacy of a time span.  Was Kurzweil not available or were you thinking more a Yogi Bear type philosopher?  Alright already, the law should let the citizen refresh on his own terms. That’s a duh and that’s also dangerously tempting me into a rant about the current police state of the California province.  Sidestepping such unpleasantness, I’m done with this segment (Christ, it was like snorting anti-hydrogen through my ass) and on to my next unfavorite sketch of the evening… and this was almost enough to make me walk out — a particularly gargley orgasm as experienced by someone who appeared to be Napoleon Dynamite undergoing immersion via head-mounted display.  He rubs a microphone along his pants as he watches giggling young women (yes, again) almost undress and then re-dress each other, spinning and then lying on the floor, redirected in incremental allotments along the floor by what I must assume to be program code, only to stand up again and fumble with their flannel, loose-fitted tee’s again, suggestively wheedling further rhythmic bleating from Dynamite… and I’m left to worry if these people are getting paid more than me to do this?

I depart from downtown LA, where homeless people dance beneath traffic lights, dragging sleeping bags as if they were parachutes, listening to Aciid by Jem.

Incidentally, the Japanese language can be awfully futuristic, no?  And I’m reflecting on invisible tattoo drills, getting tattooed seemingly by thin air, and I’m reflecting on one of the evening’s performances — a dance with a strategically diagonal household appliances and the chick in the bodysuit flapping like a gull to somehow depict a race… but a race against what, machines?  And will machines be ornithischian based at some point?  Nanoparticle foragers of inter-dimensional aerodynamics?  Ms. McCarthy, Anatomy Riot curator, had voiced the terminal plea for humanity to “ditch [the machines] or make them invisible, because the future is ours and the future is beautiful.” Her message must have made quite the dormant impact, for the following desperate

thought literally raised me from impending slumber later that night: but doesn’t humanity currently, already, hinge on wires we can’t see?

If that was too enigmatic, my apologies, but I’m translating from an even less palpable consciousness (i.e., my inherently inebriated mind).  And perhaps that’s what the internet should maintain about itself, routed within its invisible wires.  We cannot possibly ditch the machines now without nuclear holocaust, and they’re becoming more and more transparent.  I actually just saw a headline on about transparent airplanes.  Transparency is it, dude.

So, sorry you progressively luddite hipsters, but pervasive computing is both invisible and here. We’ll adapt with our boo-boos naturally; but so long as technology doesn’t seek to eradicate our race through seemingly-insightful, nonsensical art that shatters all sense of auditory peace with the grunt of a male orgasm, I’ll take my googled chances.