6:59 pm - We're back at Space 180 (180 Capp St. between 16th and 17th Streets) tonight for "Express Yourself," a multidisciplinary performance night.
It doesn't say so on the website, but I think Sam, or Ellen, told me that tonight is specifically LGBT performers. Not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, having all queer stuff in one night gives the queer community a chance to rally around one particular event at APAture, and outreach can go farther out into the community than just Asians. Everybody can make an effort to show up tonight, instead of frittering themselves out over several different events and missing each other. It's that much-vaunted term "community-building," live, in the flesh.
On the other hand, it's Monday night, which is a ghetto in itself. Community arts ghetto night. And having all LGBT stuff in one night gives normative folks the opp to just ignore the whole thing. And it probably strips the other nights of queer artists to a much greater degree than otherwise ... although I'm sure not all queer performers are slotted into tonight's thing.
I just asked Ellen and she told me that someone had curated this night specifically. I didn't catch the name (Elokin) but it'll come out when they start, I'm sure. So that makes sense, although my concerns still hold.
7:08 - Thinking back now, we never separated queer artists out, and always had heavy queer presence in APAture. The most obvious one the first year was the GAPA dance troupe, which was, hands down, one of the crowd-pleasin'est gigs of that entire, 14-hour day. But we also had Las Cucas (which, to be honest, was basically a Latino band. Gigi Otalvaro-Hormillosa's Pinay half was the APAture hookup), filmmaker Stuart Gaffney, poet Truong Tran, a video from Sta-Prest (which also was hooked up to APAture through half a Pinay), and a buncha others which I would break out and list for you only I'm feeling uncomfortably ghettoizing now myself. (YOU are a queer and YOU are a queer, and YOU and YOU!)
So this is new, is what I'm sayin'. We'll see how it turns out.
Since I'm at KSW I'm going to post as I go.
7:20 - Ellen opens it up. Who has attended KSW and APAture before? Usual KSW pitch. Shout out to sponsors. Thanks Elokin Cheung for putting this together.
Elokin: thanks blah blah blah. Intros The Rice Kings, drag king troupe.
7:23 - The Rice Kings
Three Drag Kings, one in ordinary blazer and pants and t-shirt with red scarf (Dang Kinki). Play sound: voiceover of a fashion show. This dude is a model. We hear what he's thinking in voice over. Asian women from Asia are great; Asian American women are crazy.
Tito Ray-Ray Pansit On My Face wearing "classic dirty uncle" attire. Leather jacket and vest, cords, fedora, green shirt. Pinoy accent. We hear him thinking. Aggression toward white man with Asian woman.
Big Daddy wearing cheesy hip-hop outfit, badly put together. He's from the M.I.A. school of "fashion." He's thinking: have you ever been mistaken for a tourist? Oh, he's a hapa, cuz he hate da whiteness inside him too.
That was interesting. Mugging to a voice over. Now they're arguing (in real voice) over who's the best cook. Wait, that was it? Wow. That started out interesting, then ... ended.
7:29 - Elokin intros Amir El-Chidiac for a poetry reading.
Okay, we start with pseudo-sensuality, which takes a creepy turn when he remembers the bars of his crib in his lover's arms. Next poem: battle "I know what it's like to be an orphan" ... something about white American dreams. This is better, despite the clichés. "A New Quarterback". Gaza strip. (Ai ya. Just observe that for a second: Gaza Strip. ... Okay, we're back.) Interesting. He has a guy actually being a quarterback on the Gaza strip. Not bad.
Last pome: when you go home google Mahmoud Daweesh (?) one of the most important Arab poets and just passed away this month. "Wayne's Words": poem addressed to "Mahmoud" and evokes him. Oh, somebody's been reading too much Lorca. Maybe it's Mahmoud. Derivative, but lovely.
You can purchase his work in the last Intergenerational Writer's Lab chapbook.
7:37 - Elokin intros Celeste Chan. Usual stuff: MFA, performed here and there. Oct. 5 in Hapa Hard Core
Celeste: trying to channel her Jewish mother. Child abuse story in her mother's voice. Her father beats her up. (Celeste is wearing bright red lipstick and a black, empire waist dress; that's my schtick. She has a rich, low voice that keeps breaking, either because that's how it sounds or because she's nervous. The effect, however, is that she sounds like she's gonna cry at any moment.) Wow, that ended abruptly. And wasn't very interesting. Undifferentiated memories with no arc.
Poem: Ai ya. "press ear to wood ..." What The Fuck Is Wrong With Articles? Dude, articles GIVE ENGLISH ITS RHYTHMS. Damn. Start dropping articles, and you might as well stop busting, as far as I'm concerned.
7:42 Elokin intros Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, queer mixed Sri Lankan high femme powerhouse. Much published, much organized.
Leah: She's been helping med students visualize female genitalia. "Hurricane" spoken word. Uh oh, sensual spoken word about "my lover." Turns it into a discussion of how she learns to speak Tamil. I wanted to call you "lover" in my language. Hmmm.
Here's her hapa family pome. Not the cool family like Obama's. Tells folks' story: working class Mom on Fulbright. Dad is queer. Meet in London 1969. Fucking on a table/a lava bed of empire. Cool. White mamas who are racist. Absentee Daddy. Actually, sounds a little like Obama's family. This isn't a story of resistance, except it is. Those children grow up. To be as untamable as our hair. Typical hapa empowerment structure. But good piece.
Brown Best Friend Femme one: (She's wearing a hot pink flower over her left ear. That's awesome.) Very sweet poem. Liked it.
7:55 - Pause to seat the people standing in the back. Switch it up to nonliterary part of the night. Shout out to folks in audience, who did building work for the queer community. Thanks to Trinity Ordona, who teaches at City College. Also Madeleine Lim.
Intros Amar Puri, who does, among other things, stilt walking. Bet he gets some mileage off of that line at bars.
7:58 - Amar - is in drag. Hot pink polka dots. Dances down the aisle, to a keyboard, where he starts to play, despite the crackliness of the amplification. That is a pretty boy there. Starts singing soul. Nice voice too. Song deteriorates into deliberate chaos, and moves to next song. He should be standing, and not hiding behind the bangs of his wig. And work harder on the voice. Slight oversouling, without the cream. And the mic needs to be closer to him.
Okay, I'm bored. Dude, you don't start out all dynamic, and then make us aware that are butts are going numb in these stupid folding chairs. Get up and DO SOMETHING! Ai ya, now he's singing "My Baby Just Cares for Me" but his voice is actually overwhelmed by the keyboard. Also rushing the tempo a bit. Yeah, a mic with a long arm and a standing position would improve this performance by about 50%.
He gets a lot of love, though. Alright, I give him love, too.
8:07 - Amber Field, queer Korean adoptee, specializes in world fusion music. She's standing right behind me. I'm switching to another screen for a sec.
Oh my, she has a digeridoo. You buzz that thing, girl. (We had an awesome digeridoo musician second APAture. Didn't know there was a basis for comparison, didja?) She's throwing some vocal cries into this. Is that what it's supposed to sound like? It's like when you're playing a kazoo and you don't quite engage the "zoo" part and you can kinda tell it's your voice. That wasn't all that exciting. She learned that in India? Huh?
Now she's reading poetry/spoken word (?). "Boom is the sound of capitalism." "I was the product of capitalism." Blames outsiders for convincing women to sell their babies. Blames the war in Korea on the US. Lotsa unpoetic blame here. Blames the patriarchy. Boom. Ai ya "I am the mirror for your projections." Ai ya "ching chong chinaboy" yeah, she said it. "And we should all be able to freely choose our own identities." Zzzzzz ... *snort* huh? What? Identity what?
Oh. My. God. Her last piece is played on a TAMBOURINE. And she's singing. Mothers ... Fathers ... Thank god she can't enunciate well enough for me to understand what she's really singing. You know, songs generally have structure. I mean, musical structure. Doesn't matter what culture you're in, there's actually a structure. You know, where there's a shape to it? Oh ... never mind.
8:18 - NaR is the first queer Arab hip hop crew. Intros different members. Means "fire" in Arabic.
Awesome. Butch girl and gay boy. Damn, they're cute. "I'm the definition of a Semite." They're a little stiff. Rhymes good so far. Okay, I declare a moratorium on the word "colonialism" in hip hop. Find another way to say it, dewds. It's like dropping an f-bomb at a formal dinner. Stops the conversation. Girl can rap. Boy can move. Oh ... okay ... you educate us about the misnomer "anti-Semite." Yeah, don't worry about the beat. You just let it trail away while you lecture us. It's cool.
The beats are not beast enough. And they need some more practice and confidence, but ladies and gents, we might have something here. Oh, I don't know about the obvious rhymes. Work more on that flow. Yeah. I'll hold my breath a bit. No, no, no, you don't need to bust out your research! That's not hip hop! Are you gonna cite your sources now? Want me to get my MLA handbook? Argh! If you wanna give a speech, then give a damn speech!
Another moratoriam on "orientalism," "capitalism," oh, yeah, and on rhyming "isms" based on the "ism" part. ... You know, the lecturing thing could work out really good, but they gotta tighten it up a bit. They're both still hella cute.
Mangoes with Chili, some sort of tour.
8:35 - Closing performance with Rice Kings.
Lip-syncing boy band. I do not know what language this is. They're really engaging and cute, if not terribly convincing. Get a lot of love for ripping off their red overalls and/or bathrobe. Now blowing bubbles. Am I missing a reference here?
8:49 - Aaaaand we're done. In, out, and on with our lives.
10:13 - That was actually tightly curated, and they kept the performers to their time. Well done.