Fresh Festival 2014: 17 Days of Dance
Photo by Yvonne M. Portra
The seventeen days of the FRESH Festival, which includes intensive courses on the "metaphysics of the spine" and "performing as sensing," as well as labs and mixers with Keith Hennessey, Kinetech, and more promises cross-pollination among key players in the experimental dance and music community, kicked off on January 3.
Each of the three weekends brings live performances, with the first weekend featuring new works by Christine Bonansea, Sara Shelton Mann, and Alternativa (Kathleen Hermesdorf and Albert Mathias).
Bonansea's Floaters # 1 places audience members in a cluster on the floor of the studio in a blinding spotlight and then plunges them in darkness. The door opens and light plays in a pattern only discernible to a select few in the thin angle of its view. An indeterminable number of people run laps in the darkness, feet and breath audible, the ground vibrating from the movement, and figures you hardly see -- generating an atmosphere of distress and disorientation. When the spotlight hits the wiry figure of Bonansea, dressed in the artist's uniform of black jeans and top with the addition of a sequined swimming cap and aviator goggles on top, she is hunched and crabbed like a reptile, moving her lips over unspoken syllables, moving with inexplicable speed as the sequins throw sparks out like a disco ball or an electroencephalographic apparatus. The images she presents are both primitive and futuristic, like basic elements whizzed inside a particle collider, like cockroaches scrabbling. A dissonant electronic score whirrs and churns. As the audience strains its eyes after Bonansea disappears into another light show in a small room, a second figure, Marina Fukushima dressed in a matching costume, lightly and quietly crawls through, startling and disorienting the audience once more.
Mann, sporting cuffed jeans and a fanny pack, grizzled curls loose around her face, reads poetry inspired by a recent residency at Djerassi. In a smoky voice, she described the ills of our cultural moment ("What do Monsanto and coke have in common?") and the precarious state of the environment ("Have you seen a starfish lately?"). "Here's some personal information that matters to no one, perhaps not even me," she announced before declaring herself sixty thousand dollars in debt and recounting a conversation with her mother. Mann's words are familiar and fresh, filled with hope ("The first star appears in the sky. It is not a plane. I am sure it is not a plane.") and resignation ("The fading of color--you get used to it.").
Hermesdorf, who also served as the evening's MC, came out last, dancing with a cartoon image of herself projected on the wall. Wearing a white jumpsuit that was simultaneously workman-like and impractical for work, she moved in jazzy little bops and proceeded to tear out the pages of a phone book -- the whole phone book -- the San Francisco phone book, with the exceptionally thin tissue-like pages of Bible or a dictionary, occasionally pausing to lick her fingers for more traction as she crumpled out the pages. She sets herself a similar task when she begins unrolling a spool of white thread from a sewing machine, cat's cradling it around her wrists and spinning herself like a bobbin (it must be admitted that this viewer feared she would go the whole 300 yards). The act was both destructive and made to look like labor, possibly futile, certainly wasteful, absolutely an excess. But is excess meaningless or meaningful? Such is art.
Alternativa and The Offcenter present FRESH Festival 2014 January 3-19 at Kunst-Stoff Arts, 1 Grove St., S.F. Tickets to FRESH P.O.V. performances are $15-$20; artsbuildingconsortium.org