Monday, January 01, 1990

Home On The Range - SFAI

Jeanne Gallo & SM

Polyphonix 8 Festival, San Francisco Art Institute 11.9.84

When Jean-Jacques Lebel & Jacqueline Cahen brought their Paris-based Polyphonix sound-poetry festival to NY MOMA, Ellen Zweig got an NEA grant to bring all the European artists to SF as well. She rounded up a crew of her students as associate producers: me, Marsha Vdovin, Amy Elliott & Andrea Dace. Among other duties, I was stage manager for one or two evenings. We put on a four night extravaganza with over a dozen performances a night by the likes of Carolee Schneeman, Armand Schwerner, Jerome Rothenberg, Jackson McLow, Ann Tardos, Larry Wendt, Eleanor Antin, Bernard Heidsick, Guilia Niccolai & scores more.

The sublime Greg Goodman played piano under a parachute. The monstrous genius Joel Hubaut frantically read from a book in English though he didn't understand the words, eating the pages as he read, till his cheeks were red & distended, bits of paper spitting out with every attempted syllable. I plagiarized this performance (poorly - though the German audience liked its "formal elements") at Der Festival Das Plagiats in Braunschweig, West Germany in 1988.

As the last act of a stressful, exhausting festival, Terry Allen played a couple of songs on piano, one of them about a herd of prairie dogs sucked up by a tornado and slammed into a tall shiny bank tower in Dallas or Houston. The last notes of the song were thunderous minor chords that broke my heart & snapped me in two. The Jack Daniels helped also. I started bawling like a baby, had to be carried to the car, driven home, fed, fucked & allowed to sleep for 22 hours.

The major perk for us student producers was being able to curate ourselves onto the same stage as these major figures. I was nervous, being still more or less a novice, so I sought out my pal Jeanne Gallo, a veteran of experimental theater work. We intuitively developed some core thematic elements through physical experimentation, until at some point I got inspired & banged out a short script in an hour or two. We honed the script & the gestural components & came up with a nifty seven-minute performance. I think this is still one of the best things I've done. We got on stage, did our thing, got off stage. When the lights blacked out after we'd finished, there wasn't a sound in the house for about 10 seconds, then someone exhaled a sincere "whew" that I still remember & feel to this day & that is really all the affirmation & reward I could ever ask for.