Asian Art Museum

No place like home


THEATER Out at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin, just after sunset, the darkness and the silence are real presences in themselves, not just a context for something else. They’re right now pressing their respective noses against the windowpanes of the large, beautifully-worn army barrack–turned–artist studio in which Saya Woolfalk is pouring some dark red concoction from a squat glass jug.

She begs her guests not to try to translate the hokey Portuguese label on the bottle, brought back from Brazil by her husband, an anthropologist, as she hands each of us a crimson thimbleful in a plastic dentist cup. Looking like NyQuil but tasting more like some berry-based moonshine, it gives me an almost instantaneous headache but is otherwise kind of nice. Anyway, it does the trick. We’re now prepped to enter the mandala.

Standing there with me are Marc Mayer and Annie Tsang, both of the Asian Art Museum, as well as Brian Karl, the Headlands’ program director. The mandala corresponds, for now, to a tape mockup on the floor next to us. It’s a circular shape about four feet in diameter, with concentric and crisscrossing lines. At four equidistant corners outside the circle are small freestanding pieces of heavy paper representing alcoves, on the outside of which a slide projector illuminates a colorful figure in exotic garb. Behind each alcove, Woolfalk explains, a dancer will be tucked away.

Also standing around are two department store mannequins, each draped in a careful clash of fabrics and traditions: a skirt of pink-and-gold-striped glitter cloth from the Mission, a tourist version of a Chinese vest from Grant Street, a batik shoulder wrap brought back from Africa.

It’s all just the smallest hint of the Brooklyn-based artist’s elaborately extensive portfolio and practice, which blends visual design, sculpture, textiles, film, live performance, original musical soundscapes, ethnographical narratives, and invented ritual into playful, extraordinarily vivid and enveloping explorations of the limits and promise of hybrid identity.

Woolfalk’s dance-performance installation — the scale model of which was still being toyed with and adjusted when I visited her temporary studio — has been developed during a residency at Headlands under a commission from the Asian Art Museum, where it will run Thu/4 in the AAM’s capacious upper chamber in conjunction with the exhibition Enter the Mandala: Cosmic Centers and Mental Maps of Himalayan Buddhism (ongoing through Oct. 26). The piece, called ChimaTEK: Hybridity Visualization Mandala, culminates a seven-year project by Woolfalk that has received exhibitions and rapt attention around the country.

It began in No Place, which Woolfalk describes as “a utopian paradise in which hybrid identities flourish in tolerant communities with elaborate cultural rituals.” Its alternative narratives and reconfigured systems of representation took multiple forms across an integrated set of media, an environment unto itself, including a six-chapter ethnographic film documenting No Place made in collaboration with anthropologist Rachel Lears.

In the second iteration of the project, the narrative of No Place advances in time. Now its inhabitants have evolved into beings called the Empathics, who have developed a way of sharing their hybrid consciousness with others, while conducting research through their own nonprofit, the Institute of Empathy.

In this third and final stage, the Empathics have redirected their technology into a for-profit model, namely a corporation called ChimaTEK, a virtual world enterprise in which customers buy access to different Chimeric identities and consciousness through their own personalized virtual avatars. The chimera (which here refers simultaneously to the mythological she-monster made up of different body parts and to an organism with two or more genetically distinct tissues) ends up the repository and agent of corrupted utopian impulses.

As a tool for spiritual guidance, the mandala represents the universe, while helping to train the mind on essential insights and untapped potentialities. Made in collaboration with four local dancer-choreographers working in disparate ethnic traditions — with essential input from DJ Dr. Sleep (Melissa Maristuen) and a “virtual” DJ (none other than Paul D. Miller, or DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid, who composed the original score) — ChimaTEK will be a kind of contemporary mandala, manifesting a chimeric state of being in which participants remix identities through virtual avatars in a virtual space. Fact and fiction blend so freely here that the distinctions between them might be called into question. So might the degree to which this virtual space is coextensive with the universe itself, or at least our tangled and conflicted corner of it. *


Thu/4, 6-9pm, free with museum admission ($5 after 5pm)

Asian Art Museum

200 Larkin, SF


Gorgeousness unbound


THEATER If you were milling around the Asian Art Museum last Thursday evening, you might have seen a woman tumble — ever so slowly — down the Beaux-Arts building’s elegant flight of central stairs. Ringed by a crowd of onlookers and the second floor’s imposing colonnade, her limber form caressed the marble steps luxuriously as she cascaded beneath the elegant arched ceiling, entirely at her own pace, leaving behind her the unraveling, impossibly long train of her white and lavender gown.

Bystanders ruminated silently or chatted quietly, sipping cocktails, for the duration of Fauxnique’s 20-minute high-art pratfall, Beautility, as house music reverberated from DJ Hoku Mama Swamp’s station in the nearby lobby. Passing through the lobby, you would have seen mercurial artist Dia Dear offering free makeovers, while members of TopCoat Nail Art Studio applied lacquer to willing hands, in designs inspired by pieces in the museum’s current show, Gorgeous, built from the permanent collections of both the Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Having at last landed on the first floor, in front of the shiny red and white speed demon parked there — German designer Hartmut Esslinger’s Prototype for Frog 750 motorcycle (1985), from the SFMOMA collection — Fauxnique (aka Monique Jenkinson) gathered up her enormous train and rushed up the stairs and out of sight.

Back in the lobby, you might also have caught sight of Nude Laughing, a peripatetic work by La Chica Boom (Xandra Ibarra), and followed the nude figure as she went by, dragging behind her a large nylon stocking filled with what appears to be hair and plastic breasts. You’d have ended up in an alcove on the first floor between several incongruent sculptures — including British artist Tracey Emin’s hot pink neon phrase-sculpture, Fantastic to Feel Beautiful Again (1997); a voluptuous, powerful, and headless stone torso of a female deity from southern India (1400–1600); and American Dan Flavin’s horizontal row of fluorescent colored beams, untitled (in honor of Leo at the 50th anniversary of his gallery) (1987).

In the company of these disparate pieces, the performer slips inside the giant nylon pouch — a Marilyn Monroe wig over her dark hair and atop her painted face, fake furs and sundry toy boobs pressed against her brown body — as she stretches the sheer fabric enveloping her, writhing in coquettish spasms, emitting artificial squeals of pleasure. A puissant abstraction, seriously unsettling and completely mesmerizing in her vaguely menacing flirtation with her audience, the figure eventually sheds her gauzy cocoon and, with a confident stride, disappears down a hallway, leaving behind some flotsam of costume pearls, wigs, and fur.

Headlining this promiscuous night of performance making — part of the museum’s seasonal Thursday night programming, which also featured work from queer punk drag artist Phatima Rude and drag duo Mona G. Hawd and VivvyAnne ForeverMORE — was art-band collective Nicole Kidman Is Fucking Gorgeous (John Foster Cartwright, Maryam Rostami, and Mica Sigourney). At about 8pm, NKIFG took over the regal upstairs chamber with its show, Fuck Gorgeous, a 45-minute incantation, exultation, and rumination on the elusive properties of art, celebrity, fashion, and existence — Nicole Kidman, for short — by three Goth punks with microphones and boundless insouciance.

With enormous projections of full moons looming over a small stage, John, Mike, and Mary engaged in welcoming speeches, banter among themselves, victory laps with streamers, occasional howling, extended ferocious lip-synched roaring, and worshipful mouthing of one truly insipid Oscar acceptance speech. Sound rose and fell, a cacophony of noise gave way to mumbled quips, focus blurred and shifted, bodies went slack, writhed on the dance floor, or bounded around the room. At one point, Mike’s address from the podium slipped from a kind of self-actualization seminar into an outright stab at mass hypnosis as he charged us all to “be Nicole!”

Nicole Kidman, their vessel, “both everything and nothing,” was not quite an object and not quite a projection. Like the other performances enlivening the spaces of the museum and the strange harmony of the artworks on display, Fuck Gorgeous was deeply ambivalent but committed to being in-between, both a come-on and a refusal. *


Through Sept. 14, $10-$15

Asian Art Museum

200 Larkin, SF


Gorgeousness unbound


THEATER If you were milling around the Asian Art Museum last Thursday evening, you might have seen a woman tumble — ever so slowly — down the Beaux-Arts building’s elegant flight of central stairs. Ringed by a crowd of onlookers and the second floor’s imposing colonnade, her limber form caressed the marble steps luxuriously as she cascaded beneath the elegant arched ceiling, entirely at her own pace, leaving behind her the unraveling, impossibly long train of her white and lavender gown.

Bystanders ruminated silently or chatted quietly, sipping cocktails, for the duration of Fauxnique’s 20-minute high-art pratfall, Beautility, as house music reverberated from DJ Hoku Mama Swamp’s station in the nearby lobby. Passing through the lobby, you would have seen mercurial artist Dia Dear offering free makeovers, while members of TopCoat Nail Art Studio applied lacquer to willing hands, in designs inspired by pieces in the museum’s current show, Gorgeous, built from the permanent collections of both the Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Having at last landed on the first floor, in front of the shiny red and white speed demon parked there — German designer Hartmut Esslinger’s Prototype for Frog 750 motorcycle (1985), from the SFMOMA collection — Fauxnique (aka Monique Jenkinson) gathered up her enormous train and rushed up the stairs and out of sight.

Back in the lobby, you might also have caught sight of Nude Laughing, a peripatetic work by La Chica Boom (Xandra Ibarra), and followed the nude figure as she went by, dragging behind her a large nylon stocking filled with what appears to be hair and plastic breasts. You’d have ended up in an alcove on the first floor between several incongruent sculptures — including British artist Tracey Emin’s hot pink neon phrase-sculpture, Fantastic to Feel Beautiful Again (1997); a voluptuous, powerful, and headless stone torso of a female deity from southern India (1400–1600); and American Dan Flavin’s horizontal row of fluorescent colored beams, untitled (in honor of Leo at the 50th anniversary of his gallery) (1987).

In the company of these disparate pieces, the performer slips inside the giant nylon pouch — a Marilyn Monroe wig over her dark hair and atop her painted face, fake furs and sundry toy boobs pressed against her brown body — as she stretches the sheer fabric enveloping her, writhing in coquettish spasms, emitting artificial squeals of pleasure. A puissant abstraction, seriously unsettling and completely mesmerizing in her vaguely menacing flirtation with her audience, the figure eventually sheds her gauzy cocoon and, with a confident stride, disappears down a hallway, leaving behind some flotsam of costume pearls, wigs, and fur.

Headlining this promiscuous night of performance making — part of the museum’s seasonal Thursday night programming, which also featured work from queer punk drag artist Phatima Rude and drag duo Mona G. Hawd and VivvyAnne ForeverMORE — was art-band collective Nicole Kidman Is Fucking Gorgeous (John Foster Cartwright, Maryam Rostami, and Mica Sigourney). At about 8pm, NKIFG took over the regal upstairs chamber with its show, Fuck Gorgeous, a 45-minute incantation, exultation, and rumination on the elusive properties of art, celebrity, fashion, and existence — Nicole Kidman, for short — by three Goth punks with microphones and boundless insouciance.

With enormous projections of full moons looming over a small stage, John, Mike, and Mary engaged in welcoming speeches, banter among themselves, victory laps with streamers, occasional howling, extended ferocious lip-synched roaring, and worshipful mouthing of one truly insipid Oscar acceptance speech. Sound rose and fell, a cacophony of noise gave way to mumbled quips, focus blurred and shifted, bodies went slack, writhed on the dance floor, or bounded around the room. At one point, Mike’s address from the podium slipped from a kind of self-actualization seminar into an outright stab at mass hypnosis as he charged us all to “be Nicole!”

Nicole Kidman, their vessel, “both everything and nothing,” was not quite an object and not quite a projection. Like the other performances enlivening the spaces of the museum and the strange harmony of the artworks on display, Fuck Gorgeous was deeply ambivalent but committed to being in-between, both a come-on and a refusal. *


Through Sept. 14, $10-$15

Asian Art Museum

200 Larkin, SF


This Week’s Picks: July 9 – 15, 2014






‘A Hard Day’s Night’

In 1964, Beatlemania thoroughly swept America. Fifty years after the Fab Four’s stateside and film debuts, San Francisco’s celebrations seem like a blast from the past. Aside from Paul McCartney’s August concert at Candlestick Park — coming full circle to where the Beatles played their last official show — the band’s 1964 film A Hard Day’s Night returns to U.S. theaters this month. Old age may be sneaking up on Macca, but the Liverpudlian boys’ moptops, music, and mockery of Paul’s grandfather are timeless. Stay in your seat for the second feature — the 1978 film I Want to Hold Your Hand chronicles some fans’ Beatlecentric shenanigans. (Amy Char)

5:30pm, 7:30pm, $11

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

(415) 621-6120






Nicole Kidman Is Fucking Gorgeous at ‘Gorgeous’

Arty art-pop-performance-party mavens Nicole Kidman Is Fucking Gorgeous (John Foster Cartwright, Maryam Rostami, and Mica Sigourney) show up at the Asian Art Museum this week to host one night’s worth of grand gorgeosity on the occasion of the museum’s current exhibit — Gorgeous (June 20–September 14) — which delves into its permanent collection as well as that of SF MOMA for a cache of 72 fabulous pieces ranging across more than two millennia. Who better to “activate the spaces” of the museum with dance and performance than special guests Fauxnique (Monique Jenkinson), Fatima Rude, La Chica Boom, and DJ Hoku Mama Swamp. Casual dress? I don’t think so. But TopCoat Nail Studio will handle the mani with designs inspired by the artwork. (Robert Avila)

6–9pm, free with museum admission, $5 after 5pm

Asian Art Museum

200 Larkin, SF

(415) 581-3500






The world was not ready for Cynic when they first emerged in the late ’80s. The band’s jazzy prog-metal and anti-macho stage presence (inspired in part by members Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert’s sexuality — Reinert calls their music “some gay, gay metal”) made them equal parts influential and reviled. On their first national tour opening for Cannibal Corpse, the extreme audience hostility they experienced was enough to make them call it quits for 12 years — during which time their reputation and influence grew. Since the crew’s 2006 reunion, they’ve enjoyed success and reverence, releasing two more albums and playing major festivals in the U.S. and Europe. Their upcoming Fillmore gig is a chance to see one of metal’s coolest influences rock a venue as comfortably and thoroughly as they deserve to. (Daniel Bromfield)

9pm, $22.50

The Fillmore

1805 Geary, SF

(415) 346-6000



Lia Rose

Formerly of Or, the Whale, San Francisco singer-songwriter Lia Rose has the kind of voice that seems like it could cut steel with its clarity — but instead, she’s going to pick up a guitar and carve you a lovesick, honey-and-whiskey-coated lullaby, with pedal steel or upright bass or banjo or all three helping to lull you under her spell. The timeless quality of her indie-folk pairs well here with opener We Became Owls, an East Bay Americana outfit that’s been gaining devotees like a steam train for the past year, despite not having an album out (this is their record release show). Gritty, Guthrie-esque sing-alongs are a distinct possibility here; maybe do some vocal warm-ups? (Emma Silvers)

9pm, $15

The Chapel

777 Valencia, SF

(415) 551-5157




Hot Chip (DJ set)

Hot Chip’s catchy brand of electro-funk has buoyed the group’s five critically acclaimed albums. Their most recent release, 2012’s In Our Heads, is perhaps their best yet — “Don’t Deny Your Heart,” a harmony-heavy party anthem with irresistible vocals from Alexis Singer that capture all the melody of the Britpop era, was one of the most unique and danceable singles of its year. The group comes to the glitzy Mezzanine for a DJ set that promises to be full of mixing, subtle live instrumentation, and mash-ups of prior releases. The band has a penchant for debuting new music at their gigs (or else subverting their old tunes to an extent that they’re effectively entirely new tracks) and a smaller-scale dance club provides the perfect location for them to run wild. Also performing is local legend and Lights Down Low host Sleazemore and DFA records mainstay The Juan Maclean, who just dropped a stinging new single called “Get Down (With My Love).” (David Kurlander)

8pm, $16-$25


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880




Sonny and the Sunsets

San Francisco’s Sonny Smith is a scattered man. He is a singer-songwriter, playwright, author, and curator who honed his musicianship in piano bars and travelling between the Rocky Mountains, the West Coast, and Central America. The music of Sonny and the Sunsets, his SF-based pop outfit with a revolving-door lineup, reflects the patchwork nature of Smith’s mind and talents, melding aspects of pop, doo-wop, indie rock, surf, and folk. Smith is a gifted storyteller and his compelling and wonderfully strange lyricism lends itself well to the demure Ocean Beach vibes of his music. The Sunsets’ most recent album, Antenna to the Afterworld, reflects on Smith’s experiences with the paranormal, and presents some of his strongest and most wonderfully weird material to date. Tonight’s show will feature a brand new lineup and material that’s never been heard before. (Haley Zaremba)

With The Reds, Pinks, and Purples, Bouquet

9pm, $15

The Chapel

777 Valencia, SF

(415) 551-5157




The U.S. Air Guitar Championship Semifinals

The times, they are a-changin’. Now you can put “professional air guitarist” on your LinkedIn profile and actually justify the position. Unlike most artists who usually take the stage at the Independent, tonight’s stars left their instruments at home, but they’re ready to shred. Hear — or see, rather — contestants breathe new life into some of your favorite songs, including hits from years past. It’s time for a classic rock revival. AC/DC’s and Van Halen’s riffs inspire fans to rock out, sans guitars, as past contestants can attest to. No offense to Bob Dylan, but his brand of folk just isn’t that conducive to replicate on air guitar. (Amy Char)

9pm, $20

The Independent

628 Divisadero, SF

(415) 771-1421



Xavier Rudd

Xavier Rudd is a music festival’s wet dream. He’s a handsome, frequently shirtless, habitually barefoot Australian surrounded by dozens of instruments over which he has complete mastery —and he plays them all at once. Since debuting in 2002 with the album To Let, the one-man band has had a platinum album in Australia (Solace, released in 2004) and gigs at festivals across the Anglophone world, in addition to slots opening for fellow stage hounds like Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews, and Ben Harper. Though he’s been sticking more to indoor venues on this leg of his American tour, his style should be well suited to the Fillmore — home to all manner of hippie-leaning, improv-happy artists since the heyday of the Dead. (Daniel Bromfield)

9pm, $25

The Fillmore

1805 Geary, SF

(415) 346-6000




Darryl D.M.C. McDaniels

Neck of the Woods becomes a time machine on Sunday as Darryl McDaniels, better known as D.M.C., drops in for a nostalgic journey through the annals of 1980s rap. One third of the explosive rap innovators Run-D.M.C., McDaniels has kept busy since the dissolution of the group more than ten years ago, playing a full festival circuit, doing extensive charity work, and covering Frank Zappa’s “Willie the Pimp” with Talib Kweli, Mix Master Mike, and Ahmet Zappa for a pulsating track on a birthday compilation put out by the Zappa Family Trust. It’s hard to say whether D.M.C. will pull out anything quite as wild during this set, but expect zeitgeist-defining songs like “It’s Tricky” and “Walk This Way,” and hopefully some deeper cuts from the group’s later work (2001’s Crown Royal has some underrated tracks) and D.M.C.’s only solo album, Checks, Thugs, and Rock and Roll. Joining McDaniels on the mic are local groups the Oakland Mind and Jay Stone, each of whom have decidedly D.M.C.-inspired beats and flows and will offer up both politicized and party-themed bangers centered around the Bay. If you’re feeling like “Raising Hell,” then head over. (Kurlander)

9pm, $18

Neck of the Woods

406 Clement, SF

(415) 387-6343




BAASICS.5: Monsters

These aren’t the monsters that haunted your childhood nightmares. No, these monsters have matured alongside you, escaping their fantasy story homes and creeping into the minutiae of everyday life. A group of scientists and artists serve as their caretakers tonight, enthralling audiences with accounts of honey bees’ transformation into “ZomBees,” vampires’ affinity for the best coast (namely, California), Sasquatch sightings (guaranteed to be more terrifying than the music festival), and glow-in-the-dark plants (mundane, yes, but at least you won’t wet your pants in fear). Still, the multi-media presentation finds the delicate balance between artistic and hair-raising, while maintaining a somewhat spooky aura to keep you on your toes until Halloween. (Amy Char)

7pm, free

ODC Theater

3153 17th St., SF

(415) 863-9834



The Dwarves

 The Dwarves came into the world as we all do, screaming and covered in blood. Formed in Chicago in the mid-’80s as The Suburban Nightmare, the hardcore punk outfit has since relocated to our fine city to wreak havoc. In their three decades of existence, the Dwarves’ lineup and sound have shifted from hardcore to shock rock. The twin pillars of the Dwarves, singer Blag Dahlia and guitarist He Who Cannot Be Named, however, have stood the test of time, and continue to deliver some of the most insane live shows and stunningly tasteless lyrics punk rock has to offer. Infamous for their short, bloody, and often nude live shows, the Dwarves are a legendary part of punk history and the San Francisco rock scene. Also featuring the equally notorious Queers, this show is going to be a doozie. (Zaremba)

With the Queers, Masked Intruder, the Atom Age

9pm, $20

Bottom of the Hill 1233 17th St., SF

(415) 626-4455


Liz Grant

Local stand-up comedian Liz Grant has gotten divorced twice and gone on an astonishing number of dates in the interim. Additionally, she has served as a “ghost online dater” for a busy executive. In her show “Dating Is Comedy,” she breaks down the contemporary SF dating scene and gets brutally honest about her various misadventures and heartbreaks along the way. While the show isn’t expressly designed for singles, Grant hopes that her words of wisdom will resonate with those who “have dated, are dating, or want to date.” With a thematic scope that large, Grant is sure to strike a funny bone (or perhaps a more fragile Achilles’ Heel) for anyone who has survived the rough seas of the dating world. Fresh off a 23-week run of another dating rumination, “Deja Wince: Lessons From a Failed Relationship Expert,” Grant is no stranger to baring her soul about the most universally distressing of all societal practices. (Kurlander)

8pm, $15

Punch Line

444 Battery, SF

(415) 397-7573


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Get up


SUPER EGO Fellow freakazoids, I’m disturbed. There’s an alarming new microtrend in nightlife: daylife. More specifically: morninglife. Halp!

First NYC’s Daybreaker party hit our shores a couple weeks ago, enticing hundreds of people to line up outside Audio at 8am for two hours of pre-work dancing ($15-$20) that apparently involved giant jellyfish costumes, a brass band (just to make sure you were awake?), and Four Barrel coffee — no alcohol here. I didn’t make it, because fuck that. But I was intrigued! Daybreaker’s AM disc jockey DJ Bradley P is a quality cutie, and the after-vids were rad. I’m waiting to hear if more are in the works.

Now comes Morning Gloryville from London (Wednesday, June 25, 6:30am-10:30am, $20. Heron Arts, 7 Heron, SF., which places itself at the nexus of Burning Man, Ministry of Sound, and 24-Hour Fitness. Kind of a spiritual neon-flashmob throwdown, with wigs, massages, and smoothies. “Rave your way into the day!” It looks real cute. And exhausting.

I should have seen this coming the moment fluorescent Fitbits and post-ironic ’80s “Get Physical” dance routines started hitting the dance floors. Of course, SF has a long, glorious, deranged history of morning parties, from 6am Sunday Church at the End Up in the ’70s to recent blasts at North Beach’s Monroe and our own occasional Morning Glory party. I’ve loved dancing in the wee hours ever since I hung out in West Berlin in the ’80s and discovered high school kids hit the clubs before going to school.

But this new wave is just so darn wholesome — complete with slick marketing campaigns, relentless cheerfulness, and franchise ambitions. Despite my liver’s squeaky pleas, I’m not quite ready to come over to the “nightlife as workout routine” side, let alone sans cocktails. At least not yet. Yes, this fantastic ass came from tripping the light fantastic four-six nights a week. But these massive biceps? Grasping my vodkas, dear. Perhaps one day I’ll see the light.



Sound Department continues to delve monthly into the more thought-provoking side of electronic music. This 11th installment features Berlin multi-layerist Baikal, who’s been building a body of impeccable (yet quite danceable) tech-work.

Fri/20, 9pm-3am, $10. Monarch, 101 Sixth St., SF.



New show “Gorgeous” at the Asian Art Museum challenges and redefines the notion of beauty in “Eastern” art: Fantastic-sounding opening party makes it all come to life, with deep techno tunes from Dr. Sleep and Robot Hustle, bounce jams from DavO and Natalie Nuxx, vogue extravaganza from House of Nu Benetton, milky tea, fresh nail designs, full bar, and an afterparty at the Stud.

Fri/20, 7pm-11pm, $20–$25. Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin, SF.



Based-goth monthly funhole 120 Minutes presents this brilliant, trip-hoppy Ninja Tuner, drifting on gorgeous, post-glitch waves to the darker side.

Fri/20, 10pm, $8–$10. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF.



Maestro of that muscular quasi-minimal Ibiza sound — and not bad to look at, either — Mr. Dice blew me away last time he touched down, a couple years back. He’ll be on the 1015 system this time: All aboard the silver spaceship.

Fri/20, 9pm-4am, $20–$25. 1015 Folsom, SF.



Here’s a “flashback” night for ya: Master at Work and Latin house legend. He’ll be stretching back into his roots with some Afrobeat, samba, disco, and soul at Mighty. With old school heroes David Harness and Jayvi Velasco.

Fri/20, 10pm-4am, $20 advance. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF.



“Join us for wild brass, abandon, and reverberating floors” — you can say that again, as this whirling, stomping Balkan delight returns to its Rickshaw Stop home. DJ Zeljko, Fanfare Zambaleta live band, Elizabeth Strong, and the Foxglove Sweethearts belly dancers bring gypsy joy to an adoring crowd.

Sat/21, 9pm, $15. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF.



The superfly UK whiz kid with a knack for connecting dance music history dots continues to thrill in the spotlight. She’s headlining a powerhouse night featuring NYC early-’90s fantasist Kim Ann Foxman, Alex Arnout, Young Marco, Bells & Whistles, and more at the As You Like It party.

Sat/21, 9pm-5am, $20–$25 advance. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF.



The classic Sunday weekly ran at now-closed Otis Lounge for more than seven years — now it’s at Monarch and sweeter than ever. This week’s ace tech-house guest Peter Blick helps break things in.

Sun/22, 9pm, $5. Monarch, 101 Sixth St., SF.


Beautiful path to now


VISUAL ART/YOGA I attended my first yoga class in 2000, at the Mindful Body on California Street. I’d arrived by way of much prodding from a journalism colleague who thought yoga might help with an increasingly debilitating chronic pain condition I’d mysteriously developed. A Brooklyn-raised fiery gym rat in my early 20s, I had just moved to San Francisco and simply couldn’t fathom doing this New-Agey exercise routine. I’d also recently been to India (to see the country — not to learn yoga), and I’d resented the hippie Westerners who seemed to be eagerly consuming yoga study, but staying clear of the places where starvation and disease had riddled the practice’s homeland.

With all of this emotional baggage — and an additional few suitcases that I’ll leave unpacked for the moment — I put on a pair of old blue leggings and an oversized T-shirt, and dragged myself to yoga class. And then I went back again.

It was a good workout. But, more significantly, by the time each class was midway through, my pain would temporarily disappear. Plus, the practice made me feel a way no native New Yorker ever expects to feel: peaceful. I committed myself to yoga harder and faster than I had to anything in years. It was doing something to me, changing me in some way.

Now it’s 2014; I’ve become a yoga teacher. And tonight I’m at the opening party for the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco’s “Yoga: The Art of Transformation,” the first ever comprehensive art exhibit on yoga’s history. Upstairs, yoga teacher-rapper-celebrity-activist MC Yogi is performing his signature ditty “Ganesh is Fresh” to a crowd of fans, some dressed in colorful spandex yoga clothes, others in traditional Indian garb, and still others in contemporary SF duds. Downstairs, some people are engaged in high-level philosophical discussion about the winding path of yoga history, while others are learning AcroYoga maneuvers, drinking “all-natural, gluten-free” margaritas, or striking yoga poses for Instagram-able photos in the museum entranceway.

From an anthropological perspective, it’s quite the scene. And though I’m intimate with my own personal trajectory, there’s a bigger question at hand. How did we all get here?



Though many of us have been taught (or have simply assumed) that ancient Indian sages were waking up at dawn to do sun salutations, we now know that this was likely not the case. Recent scholarly research tell us that the yoga we practice today in our heated, hard wood-floored, lavender-smelling classrooms is a new breed of practice, most of which was developed in the last century. So, what is the origin of this practice?

In town until May 25, this gorgeous 135-piece sprawling exhibit — which includes towering Tantric stone goddesses, colorful renderings of intricate yogic energy systems, and exciting film footage of 1930s yoga masters — offers some answers. Originally created by art historian Debra Diamond for the Sackler and Freer Galleries at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, the exhibit’s just arrived to town amid great enthusiasm. “San Francisco has such a long rich history with yoga,” says Qamar Adamjee, in a recent phone conversation, who, along with Jeff Durham, curated the local presentation of the exhibit. “It was a no-brainer to bring the exhibit here.”

Though yoga’s origin is typically thought to go back at least 2,500 years, the exhibit’s scope is from 100 CE to the 1940s; the museum, along with a board of local yoga advisers, also created supplemental content, like a California yoga timeline, and supplemental programming, including talks with local luminaries. “It’s important to have a sense of where you came from,” says senior yoga teacher Judith Hanson Lasater, founder of both the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco and Yoga Journal magazine, and one of the exhibit’s advisers, told me over the phone. “That helps us define who we are.”

The art here is laid out by topic, less than it is chronologically, because yoga’s history did not develop in a straight line; different aspects of the practice appeared in different places at different times. “When talking about the exhibit, I like to use the word histories instead of history,” says Adamjee. “While we associate yoga as primarily a Hindu practice, its history is actually shared by three main religious systems of ancient India: Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism.” She adds that connections to Islam and Sufism are also seen in the exhibit. “This multiplicity is what makes it so fascinating and rich.” It’s important to remember, too, that this is yoga’s history as depicted primarily by visual art, not by texts — and that the story could change (and likely will) as new findings surface. Yoga research is currently one of the fastest growing fields in South Asian studies.

But for now, our journey begins not where some might expect — say, with a serene yogi practicing Tree Pose by a river bank — but with practices of extreme austerity in the name of enlightenment.



In modern yoga culture, we use the practice to help heal the body — I know I did. But some of the earliest yogis had a different point of view. Well-preserved stone sculptures from the first millennium depict worshippers starving themselves in the hopes of being released from the cycle of reincarnation. (Mortal life here was viewed as pure suffering and these devotees were hoping not to come back again.) An emaciated, pre-enlightenment Buddha is depicted here, too, in an intricate ivory carving from 700-800 CE.

A thousand years later, the art becomes more sophisticated and more focused on deity worship, but practices of austerity and self-mortification remain. For instance, detailed paintings with tiny strokes show devotees of Shiva uncomfortably hanging themselves upside down from trees, or standing or sitting in one position for years. In the mid-late 1800s, photographs begin to appear showing Indian ascetics doing extreme things: lying on a bed of nails, wearing an irremovable contraption around one’s neck, even piercing one’s penis with a heavy metal object.

The images themselves are hard for our soft Western eyes to endure, but even less palatable is the story behind them. With the British invasion, the rights of wandering ascetics were restricted, so they moved from forests into cities, where they were forced financially to parade their devotional practices to local audiences for a quick rupee. Many of the photographs on display were shot by professional British photographers, and were then turned into postcards that the photographers sold for great profit throughout Europe. Non-yogi locals took note that money could be made from Europeans by staging tricks, and it soon became hard to tell who was a true ascetic, and who was a random yoga hack laying on a bed of nails for cash.



Though yoga was initially seen as a practice of bodily transcendence, some practitioners decided that, so long as they were in their bodies, it might be useful to score some superhuman psychic and physical abilities. During the Tantric era, these yogis are believed to have used practices like mantra, visualization, and goddess worship (sometimes occurring at cremation grounds) to channel these powers.

One of the exhibit highlights is a room filled with striking stone goddesses from this time. The slate-gray statues of worship, which date from 900-975 CE, show large-breasted, small-waisted female yogis (yoginis) complete with fangs and pet snakes, holding cups meant for liquor or blood. Today the word “yogini” is used when simply referring to female practitioners, but these original figures were fierce and to be feared. (They were also sculpted with perfect bods, offering an interesting parallel to the depictions of female practitioners in modern day yoga magazines.)

Later on, in 1830, Indian watercolor and gold paintings show the mystical use of yogic superpowers: to win battles by creating a flood where enemies are charging forth, and to magically fly through the sky. Of course, a hundred years later, the West chimes in, and starts making a mockery of yogic powers in the cinema and in profitable magic shows like “Koringa, the Female Yogi.”



Throughout the early years, we see all manners of meditators, perhaps practicing classical yoga (as handed down by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras), often sitting with legs in a lotus-like position, gazing up or inward toward a third eye. But as the years pass, the physical body starts to take more prominence, in the Tantra and Hatha Yoga traditions, as a tool on the yogic path of self-realization. One treasure here is a 10-page excerpt from an early 1600s Muslim Sufi book called Bahr al-hayat (Ocean of Life), said to contain the earliest illustrated renderings of physical yoga poses. Most of the poses shown here are seats like lotus pose, but there is one drawing of a guy rocking a headstand.

Around the 1700-1800s, intricate Tantric renderings of the energetic yoga body, including the chakras (energy centers), appear. A total must-see: a watercolor scroll that contains detailed, gold-laced drawings of Ganesh and his two wives (at the root chakra), and Shiva and Shakti joined together (in the crown chakra).

In the final gallery, we come into the 20th century. Yoga made its big debut in the US when Swami Vivekananda, who practiced Raja Yoga, based on Hindu philosophy and meditation, made a speech about yoga at the first World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893. Seven years later, he set up the Vedanta Society in San Francisco to offer his teachings. (Many of his materials are displayed here.) The early 1900s is also where we begin to see evidence of the more athletic yoga practice most of us do today. This new form came about as prominent Indian yoga teachers began to blend ancient postures and energetic techniques with strength-training exercises that had been brought in by their British invaders.

A mesmerizing video shows T. Krishnamacharya (often considered the grandfather of modern day yoga) and his young disciple BKS Iyengar performing expertly executed postures in smooth, rhythmic flows — now things are really starting to look familiar. Displayed here are also numerous books promoting yoga as a way to improve one’s health, including a book by Indian bodybuilder Raja of Aundh called Surya Namaskars (The Ten-Point Way to Health). According to the exhibit, this text from the 1920s is where our beloved sun salutations were initially birthed.

While the new physical fitness-form of yoga may have looked different than its predecessors of seated meditation, goddess worship, and self-mortification, it required the same intense attention and dedication. It arrived to the US on the tails of Vivekananda’s yoga, so by the mid-1900s, West Coasters already had different practices from which to choose.

Yoga caught on quickly here in San Francisco. By 1955, Walt and Magana Baptiste (parents of famed modern-day yogi Baron Baptiste) had founded the Center for Physical Culture, one of SF’s first bona fide yoga studios. The 1970s saw the opening of Integral Yoga and the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco, as well as the birth of Yoga Journal magazine. Yoga soon became not only a practice, but a business and a lifestyle. Over the years, Americans here and throughout the country started blending various yoga teachings, shaping the practice to address our cultural, health, fitness, community, commercial, and varied spiritual (or anti-spiritual) needs and interests. Today, San Francisco is one of the world’s most booming yoga communities. Every offering one can imagine exists here: from contemplative retreats to sweaty flow classes to corporate yoga, ecstatic chanting, naked yoga, scholarly study, and yoga therapeutics.


The exhibit helps us get a sense of where the practice came from — but it still begs the question of what yoga actually is. Is yoga a practice of transcending the body in an effort to attain enlightenment? Is it a way of gaining supernatural powers so you can beat your opponents at war? Is it a seated meditation practice focused on stilling the mind, or a physical fitness routine designed to rid the body of impurities? Is it something you do on the weekends in your Lululemon leggings to feel good before going for mimosas at a hipster brunch spot?

“The exhibit forces some interesting self-reflection about our beliefs,” says Kaitlin Quistgaard, the former longtime editor of Yoga Journal magazine, in a phone conversation. “What do we actually know to be true about yoga?” Quistgaard was part of the advisory board that helped to create the exhibit’s supplementary content. “For me, the thing that ties it all together is self-awareness. Through any yoga practice, even one that would seem completely physical, there’s a process of coming to know yourself.” She adds that it’s the development of this deeper awareness that can enable us to lead more connected and fulfilling lives.

In the same vein, Adamjee reflects that one of the key aspects uniting all of the yoga paths over the years is the “radical insight that human beings possess the ability to transcend our own suffering.” Looking back at my own path, it’s easy to see the truth in this. Whether a yogi is engaged in intense physical or energetic practices, deep meditation, scholarly pursuit, or singing the names of Indian gods, the goal has always been — through devotion and attentive awareness — to find peace. To experience, if only briefly, that delicious taste of freedom.

As a writer and practitioner, I love the study of yogic history. But there is also a part of me that knows that the history is not as important as our actual practice — what we do each day, how we show up to our lives. As any yoga devotee will tell you, the past and the future don’t really exist; all we can ever really know is this very moment.

“Yoga will live on,” says Adamjee, somewhat wistfully. “But it will become something different. We are just another moment in that long timeline.”


Through May 25

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

200 Larkin, SF.

(See next page for more details)


Yoga started as a spiritual discipline. Now, it’s reportedly a $27 billion dollarindustry in the US with an estimated 15 million practitioners, not to mention high fashion clothing, expensive yoga vacations, and “yogalebrity” teachers. Some say that commercialization is just what the practice had to do to survive in a capitalist culture. Others, like Indian American graphic artist Chiraag Bhakta, find the face of modern day yoga disturbing. Bhakta’s art installation, #WhitePeopleDoingYoga, will be on view at the Asian Art Museum as a supplement to the larger yoga exhibit, March 26-May 25.

A 13-by-30-foot wall of Western yoga marketing materials (from the 1960s-80s), it includes book covers, advertisements, and album covers that depict white folks promoting yoga for all kinds of spiritual, dietary, and fitness purposes, wearing everything from canary yellow leotards to traditional Indian garb. The idea of putting all of this ephemera on one wall, he says, is to give the viewer a feeling of being suffocated — which is how the onslaught of these images have made him feel. “It’s fascinating to me that this ancient practice from my culture is being mined and then appropriated and commodified, while removing everyone that looks like me,” he adds. “The philosophy of yoga is the dissolution of one’s ego — and the irony is that there’s so much ego being attached to all of this.”

Bhakta’s exhibit is part of *Pardon My Hindi, a project he created to explore first generation Indian American identity using humor and serious social commentary. Bhakta admits that he himself practices yoga at studios in the Bay Area, and he’s not against the popularization of the practice. He simply questions the way in which it’s being done. “My goal is just to bring this discussion to the table,” he says.


The museum is offering some amazing activities during the show’s run. Highlights include storytelling, dance, and yoga, as well as lectures by yoga luminaries. Among the scheduled speakers are Senior Iyengar teacher Manouso Manos, director of UCSF’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine Dr. Margaret Chesney, curators Debra Diamond and Qamar Adamjee, AcroYoga co-founder Jenny Sauer-Klein, mindfulness educator Meena Srinivasan, Google’s Gopi Kallayil, graphic designer Chiraag Bhakta, and yoga historian Eric Shaw. For the full list of events, go to

Karen Macklin is a writer and yoga teacher living in San Francisco. Find out more about her at .

Personal archives: CAAM’s home-movie project Memories to Light


For as long as I can remember, my family has spent New Year’s Day at my aunt and uncle’s house in Campbell. As we had our fill of sushi and kamaboko, watched football, and, in more recent years, entertained my little cousins, my Uncle Hiro would walk around the house with his video camera, getting everyone on tape. He would focus in on my brother and me, narrating in Japanese so I could only catch our names and how old we were that year. It was just a thing Uncle Hiro did on New Years Day. I never thought of it as recording history.

But that’s exactly what home movies are – a largely untapped source of our histories from an intimate and personal perspective. Recognizing this, the Center for Asian American Media has developed Memories to Light, an initiative that collects, digitizes, and shares the home movies of Asian American families. Advances in digital media and discussions between CAAM executive director Stephen Gong and archivist and filmmaker Rick Prelinger gave way to the project, which has now gained over a dozen family collections and somewhere between 30 and 50 hours of footage.

“I think Asian-American communities are becoming more relevant and more engaged and more deeply embedded in the American story and making our presence felt,” said Gong. “It’s a good time for a lot of good stories.”

Given today’s technology, it’s never been a better time to share these stories recorded on early film. Memories to Light takes donated home movies, digitizes them, and returns the original copy and a digital copy to the family. That way, the original footage doesn’t just sit in an archive and collect dust. And all it costs is the family’s willingness to share their little slice of history.

“One of the tenants of this project is not to treat these like they’re copyrighted materials that we need to monetize,” Gong explained. “That it is with a new ethos of saying that like a participatory society and culture that we can have greater effect in the culture if we do our best to make this stuff as widely accessible as possible.”

By having such an open transaction with donators and leaving the task of preserving the original film in their hands, Gong can focus on gathering, editing, and presenting collected content. CAAM’s mission to show the richness and diversity of Asian Americans, and Memories to Light achieves that by showcasing real, everyday life as important history.

“For communities of people that don’t have a sort of rich, moving image history, who have been depicted in mainstream media in stereotyped ways, articulated by someone else to someone else’s ends and needs, there is something that is amazingly liberating just by saying, ‘Let’s go right to the material that people themselves decided to shoot,’” said Gong.

The footage collected spans from as early as the 1930s all the way up to the 1970s. Though this medium is usually considered more personal than educational, there is a lot to be learned by these moments captured by various families. Mark Decena of Kontent Films, who originally got involved with Memories to Light to produce a trailer for the project, unearthed his own family’s films and had them digitized. He did not expect the onslaught of emotions that came with viewing the footage, which he ended up editing together into a film called The War Inside.

The War Inside came about from the very implausible and ultimately ill-fated union of my Mom and Dad,” said Decena. “My mom is Japanese and my dad is Filipino. Not a common coupling, especially after Japan’s brutal imperialistic binge and World War II defeat. I always bemused that I was at war with myself by having such different racial and cultural mix.”

With a script he wrote in a day after viewing the footage, along with editing work by Blake Everheart and soundtrack by CAAM’s program manager Davin Agatep, Decena shared his film for the first time with an audience that included his entire family.

“Since it’s basically a story of a family breaking up, it was emotional for everyone,” he said. “In some ways, you could see it as an indictment of certain people, but it’s as much about the circumstances that brought them to make the choices they made.”

Decena’s film is just one form of presentation that has come out of this initiative. Another collection of footage, presented in September at the Asian Art Museum, was accompanied by live performances by DJ Deeandroid and Lady Fingaz. Given that much of this footage is silent, there are many creative options for screenings.
So when you head home for the holidays this year, ask your family about old home movies they might have hiding in a closet somewhere. Though videotapes like the ones my uncle recorded aren’t what Memories to Light is looking for, the project is currently accepting more 16mm, 8mm, and Super 8mm film to digitize and add to the collection.
Take a look at The War Inside on the Memories to Light website, as well as the Gee and Udo family collections, and perhaps you too will be inspired to dig into your own home archive for family history to share. Check out Memories to Light at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose on Dec. 18 and at CAAMFest in March 2014.
Memories to Light
Dec 18, 7pm, free
Japanese American Museum of San Jose
535 N Fifth St, San Jose
(408) 294-3138

On the Cheap: July 31 – August 7, 2013


On the Cheap listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Submit items for the listings at For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Selector.


Michael Hearst Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; 7:30pm, free. The musician and author presents “Unusual Creatures,” describes as a “nerdy, family-friendly sort of Ted talk” about some of the planet’s most bizarre animals.

Andrea Carla Michaels and Bernadette Luckett Book Passage, One Ferry Building, SF; 6pm, free. The contributors read from a new anthology of women comedy writers, No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood.


Asian Art Museum $5 admission Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin, SF; 5-9pm, $5. The Asian Art Museum stays open late every Thursday, and visitors who arrive after 5pm pay just $5 (regular adult admission is $12). Current exhibits include “In the Moment: Japanese Art from the Larry Ellison Collection.”

“Downtown Berkeley MusicFest” Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza, Berk; 5-7pm, free. The sixth annual fest kicks off with concerts by Andre Thierry and Zydeco Magic, and Talk of da Town.

Larry O. Dean and Hugh Behm-Steinberg Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph, Berk; 7:30pm, free. The Chicago-based Dean and the Berkeley-based Behm-Steinberg read from their latest poetry collections.


“Downtown Berkeley MusicFest” Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge, Berk; 12:15-1pm, free. The sixth annual fest continues with the Steve Gannon Blues Band.

“Oakland Art Murmur: First Friday Gallery Walk” Art project spaces in Jack London, Downtown, and Uptown, Oakl; 6-9pm, free. Check the website for an open studios map to the galleries and other art venues staying open late for this monthly event.


Bay Area Peace Lantern Ceremony North end of Aquatic Park (near Interstate 80 and the west end of Addison), Berk; 6:30pm, free. Commemorate the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the floating of peace lanterns on the park’s lagoon. Arrive at 6:30 to construct lanterns; at 7pm, there will be musical and cultural performances, messages from the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and a report from a bombing survivor. Lanterns launch at 8pm.

Fruit Pie Contest Omnivore Books on Food, 3885a Cesar Chavez, SF; 3-4pm, free for entrants ($5 if you’re tasting only). The food-focused bookstore hosts the ultimate pie-making smack down (cobblers, crisps, tarts, crumbles, and buckle-type desserts also allowed). Show up a little before 3pm with your creation cut into as many pieces as you can — because the more people who taste it, the better chance you have of winning. Top vote-getter splits the door money with the shop and gets bragging rights ’till next time. (Non-bakers need pay only $5 to taste all the goodies.)

Vintage Paper Fair Golden Gate Park, Hall of Flowers (County Fair Bldg), Ninth Ave at Lincoln, SF; 10am-6pm, free. (Also Sun/4, 11am-5pm, free). Antique paper fans, look no further for a vast selection of “postcards, trade cards, stereoviews, photography, labels, brochures” and more to add to your collection. Appraisals are also offered free of charge.


“Beat Generation Instawalk” Meet at Jack Kerouac Alley (near Broadway and Grant), SF; 1-4:30pm, free. In conjunction with its exhibit “Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg,” the Contemporary Jewish Museum hosts an Instagram-based scavenger hunt through North Beach that ends at the museum — where participants can win Beat-themed prizes and get free museum admission by showing their Instagram photos.


Alexander Maksik Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; 7:30pm, free. Litquake co-sponsors this reading by the author of A Marker to Measure Drift.


S.G. Browne Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; 7:30pm, free. The author reads from Big Egos, a satirical look at identity in the not-too-distant future.

“Neither Friar Nor Conquistador” Emerald Tablet, 80 Fresno, SF; 7-9pm, free. An evening dedicated to the history of Monterey’s Spanish immigrant community, featuring a screening of labor activist Michael Muñoz’s short film The Spanish Pruners Strike 1932, as well as a reading from his biography, Change From Within. *


Clock ticks, ground breaks: SFMOMA kicks off its two years of renovations with 24-hour party, glitter bomb


The students from SoMa’s Bessie Carmichael Elementary, against my better judgement, were to ones to push down the level detonating… whatever was going to mark the groundbreak of SFMOMA’s planned two-and-a-half years of closure for massive renovations expansions this morning.

When glitter cannons took the place of the further obliteration of the building behind Supervisor Jane Kim and the museum trustees with their hard hats and decorative shovels, I breathed a sigh of relief. I should have known any cultural institution with the foresight to build a DIY graffiti wall made of cookies wouldn’t allow minors to be injured. 

You’ll probably want to say hasta luego to the Bay Area’s premier contemporary art museum by attending the Countdown Days celebration, which’ll bring ecosexual performance artists Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens, dancer-force Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Homobiles, TCHO Chocolate, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, one-canvas docent explorations, and much more, culminating in a 24-hour extravaganza, to the soon-to-be-shuttered atriums and galleries Thu/30-Sun/2.

Dry your eyes though kitty-cat, when the museum returns, it’ll be free to visitors under 18 and larger by 225,000 square feet at an estimated cost of $610 million. 41,000 square feet of free-access public space has been promised, in addition to a new seventh floor outdoor terrace and massive vertical gardens.

While we wait for 2016 to arrive, art fans are invited to enjoy special roaming installations, like the Mark di Suvero sculptures already gracing Crissy Field.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and Asian Art Museum, and other venues will be hosting special SFMOMA collaborations. 

Here’s what we have to look forward to with the new design, courtesy its creators, Norway’s Snøhetta architecture firm.

Turn around girl… 

… There it is.

Today’s groundbreaking included aforementioned cookie wall, accompanied by some sadly impotent spray cans of edible spray paint. Groundbreakers were encouraged to spray, then walk off with a souvenir “brick” baker by Blue Bottle Coffee pastry chef Caitlin Freeman. I ate mine when it feel apart in my hands: a delicious impermanence, sonly slightly troubling in that the cookie wall was meant to mimick Snøhetta’s architectural style. 

Delicious cookie wall

I’m sure it will be fine. Here are the little ones charged with ushering the SF arts scene into the future. 

And Supervisor Kim, in a chain metal scarf-necklace that topped off the single best outfit I’ve seen a city politician sport. 

Museum trustees and officials praised the city’s “universal support” towards getting the renovations funded, which was also supported by private donors, including $5 million from anonymous sources. An estimated 1,400 construction jobs wil be created by the project, say museum PR materials. 

Swing through for one last look at the current facilities, and check out the future if you’re so inclined. Download this app by Brooklyn’s Will Pappenheimer and John Craig Freeman and pull out your phone at 10 points throughout the SFMOMA to view: 

Artist-created motifs that riff on features of the museum—such as plants from the new vertical garden and fragments from the current building—merge with iconic images from the Bay Area’s natural and tech environments to create a circling vortex of animation through and around the building, as well as floating off into space. 

SFMOMA Countdown Celebration

Thu/30-Fri/31, 10am-9:45pm; open continuously Sat/1, 10am-Sun/2, 5:45pm


151 Third St., SF

Promo: Craft Warriors at the Asian Art Museum


Are you down with DIY? Craft virtuosos will be present to help transform the Asian Art Museum into a workshop for one night. Emiko Oye, Ealish Wilson, Kathryn Kenworth, and Megumi Inoyue all dominate their respective areas (jewelry, sculptural textiles, discarded materials use, and gift wrapping). Choose your team (are you a “textures” person or a “colors” person?) and construct fashionable armor and accessories inspired by the iconic terracotta warriors. Model your handmade haute couture in the photo booth. Don’t want to get your hands dirty? Observe from the sidelines and cheer on your favorite team. Learn the skinny on the Bay Area craft scene with Handful of Salt, Workshop Residence, The Crucible, and SCRAP among others. Music will be spun by Velvet Einstein, the galleries will be open, and so will the bars. May the best crafter win. Find more info here.

Thursday, April 18 from 5-9 pm @ Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin, SF | Just $10

Mayor Lee’s trip to China raises questions of ethics and influence


[UPDATED(x3)] Mayor Ed Lee barely had time to unpack from his recent political junket to Paris before he was off on his current trip to China – both of which were paid for and accompanied by some of his top political supporters and among the city’s most influential power brokers. No wonder Lee doesn’t have time to weigh in on Airbnb’s tax dodge, the condo conversion stalemate, or other important city issues.

Local good government advocate Charles Marsteller learned of the current China trip from Willie Brown’s column in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, whose editors (including Editor Ward Bushee, who we’re still waiting to hear back from about this trip) consider it a “man about town” column immune from conflict-of-interest policies that normally require journalists to disclose who is paying them on the side.

“I’m here with Mayor Ed Lee for my seventh official visit,” Brown cheerfully wrote, although readers were left to wonder just what official business Brown might be conducting with our mayor and his entourage. So, being an expert on political disclosure laws, Marsteller went down to the Ethics Commission to pull the Form SFEC-3.216(d) that state law requires elected officials to file before leaving on trips paid for by outside interests.

But it wasn’t there, so Marsteller filed an official complaint with the commission, telling us, “I did so to impress upon our Elected and other City Officials the need to properly report gifts in a timely way and in the manner as called for by State law and on the forms provided by the SF Ethics Commission.” 

When we contacted mayoral Press Secretary Christine Falvey, she forwarded us a copy of the form that should have been filed before the trip and told us, “I’m not going to answer the question about why we failed to file the appropriate forms with the Ethics Commission, as we worked closely with the City Attorney’s office to exceed reporting requirements by all appropriate deadlines.” [UPDATE: The time stamp on the form indicated it was filed on May 25, before the trip, even though it wasn’t publicly available at the Ethics Commission office when Marsteller went down to look for it].

The form indicates that Lee’s portion of the trip was paid for by the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce, whose influential leader Rose Pak conspired with Brown to get Lee appointed mayor more than two years ago. This is also the same Rose Pak who was admonished by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission for illegally funding another political junket to China in 2009 with Sups. David Chiu and Eric Mar and then-Sup. Carmen Chu, who Lee appointed as Assessor earlier this year.

Those officials were forced to repay the expenses after the FPPC found that Pak, that time acting under the auspices of the Chinese New Year Festival Committee, was not allowed to make gifts exceeding $420 per official that year. “Please be advised that since the Chinese New Year Festival Committee is not an organization that falls under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, no public official may accept gifts of any type from this organization valued in excess of the applicable limit,” FPPC counsel Zachary Norton wrote in an Aug. 22, 2011 enforcement letter to Pak.

In other words, because this committee and “other 501(c)(6) chamber of commerce organization[s]” are in the business of actively lobbying top elected officials for favorable policies, rulings, and projects, they are barred by ethics law from giving them the gifts of big overseas political junkets. As Marsteller noted in his complaint letter, violations are punishable by fines of $5,000 per violation, or if they are “willful violations of the law” – which doing the same thing you were sanctioned for just two years ago certainly might be considered – the criminal penalties are $10,000 per violation or up to a year in jail.

Mayor Lee’s portion of the trip cost the Chamber $11,970, according to the form. But this time, to get around the FPPC restrictions, Pak seems to have passed the hat among various business elites to fund the trip. The mayor’s form shows that 41 people paid up to the current gift limit of $440 “to defray the cost of the mayor’s trip.”

They include Pak, Brown, four people from Kwan Wo Construction, three from American Pacific International Capital, two each from Boyett Construction, Young Electric, and Bel Builders, Harbor View Holdings Director Gorretti Lo Lui, and SF Immigration Rights Commissioner Sonya Molodetskaya – most of whom were also part of the trip’s 43-member delegation.

Among others who tagged along for the trip are Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru (who has a history of political corruption under Mayors Brown and Newsom and no clear business being on a Chinese trade delegation, but who doesn’t love a free trip?!), Kofi Bonner from Lennar Home Builders, Harlan Kelly with the SFPUC, Jay Xu with the Asian Art Museum, the wives of Lee and Bonner, Kandace Bender with San Francisco International Airport, and Mark Chandler with the Mayor’s Office of International Trade and Commerce.

It’s not clear who paid for those other public officials or even what they were doing there. [UPDATE: Department of Public Works spokesperson Rachel Gordon told us that Nuru paid for the trip himself, but that he’ll be studying China’s instrastructure, from its separated bikesways to greening of public rights-of-way, as well as meeting with Chinese businesses involved in the redevelopment of Hunter’s Point. “He’s been looking at a lot of the infrastructure in China,” Gordon said. “I expect a dozen if not more ideas when he returns.”] Then again, it also wasn’t clear why venture capitalist Ron Conway – Lee’s top campaign fundraiser and possible reason for publicly subsidizing big tech companies, including many that Conway funds – joined and helped sponsor Lee’s recent trip to Paris. This is just how business gets done in San Francisco.

“Willie Brown is the former Mayor of San Francisco,” Falvey told us when we asked why Brown was on the trip and what its purpose was. “The purpose of the trip is to promote San Francisco, its local manufacturing, cultural exchanges, he is signing an MOU and meeting with high level, new Chinese government officials.”

[UPDATE 4/5: Marsteller has withdrawn his complaint from the Ethics Commission alleging the mayor’s form wasn’t filed on time, but he and another citizen have filed separate complaints with the FPPC alleging the trip and its funding mechanism may violate the agency’s 2011 ruling against Pak.]

CAREERS AND ED: 5 fun classes



Develop or improve your skills in sewing, patchwork, and quilting at this non-credit class at City College of San Francisco that students are welcome to join at any point in the semester, regardless of skill level. Beginning students will construct a sampler quilt, intermediate or advanced students will work on individually designed projects. Non-credit CCSF classes are tuition-free, but students are expected to bring the required materials, so email the instructor in advance to come prepared.

Saturdays, 9-11:50am, free. City College of San Francisco downtown campus, 88 Fourth St., SF.


Tradition is the name of the game at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Art’s folkloric dance class taught by Zenon Barron, founder of Ballet Folklórico of San Francisco. Reflecting Hispanic customs, beliefs, and legends, Barron’s instruction serves up festive new moves with a historical twist.

Saturdays, 2-3:30pm, $10. 2868 Mission, Studio: E, SF.


Is there a surface in your house that needs … something, and your Bedazzler gun is triggering untoward 1980s flashbacks? Try a medium that is slightly less time-sensitive. Oakland’s Institute of Mosaic Art has a host of courses in the tiled arts, and this weekend’s primer course is begging to jumpstart your grout-and-ceramic phase. Instructors teach you where to find your supplies in the real world, the basic physical properties of materials involved, and will instruct you in making your very own creation to take home.

Sat/6, 10am-4pm; Sun/7 10am-1pm (three-day option: April 10, 10am-1pm), $165. Institute of Mosaic Art, 3001 Chapman, Oakl.


Grab a mat and bring the whole family to the Asian Art Museum for a free Hatha yoga class. Local yogi, Lorna Reed, will lead today’s practice, which teaches basic poses focusing on balance, flexibility, and strength. Reed adds a special artsy element to today’s class by incorporating positions inspired by sculptures in the museum. Your momma always called you statuesque — prove her right by inhaling deeply in this unique yoga primer.

Sun/7, 2-3pm, free. 200 Larkin, Samsung Hall, SF.


What better way to get to know the language of love than with free wine, popcorn, and a film? Designed to help non-French speakers discover the country’s cinema, the Alliance Française of San Francisco offers a weekly film screening followed by discussion. The theme for April is “Women Behind the Lens,” and the April 23 film pick 17 Filles follows a group of 17 high school girls who, after one of their number is impregnated, make a pact to follow suit.

Every Tuesday, 6:45pm, $5. Alliance Française, 1345 Bush, SF.

A fine use for Larry’s fine art


A loyal reader contacted us with a great suggestion to solve all the fundraising problems of the America’s Cup.

This summer, it turns out, will be about more than racing for the city’s mega-billionaire yacht-race king. The Asian Art Museum’s latest program guide notes that from June 28-Sept. 22, the museum will host “In the Moment: Japanese Art from the Larry Ellison Collection.”

The museum will present “works from the rarely seen collection of Larry Ellison, owner of cup defender Team Oracle USA. The exhibition introduces about 80 artworks spanning 1,300 years. Included are works of the Momoyama (1573-1615) and Edo (1615-1868) periods.” According to the Metropolitican Museum of Art, “this period was characterized by a robust, opulent, and dynamic style, with gold lavishly applied to architecture, furnishings, paintings, and garments.”

Oh, and it’s worth noting that the Momoyama and Edo periods were also marked by the dominance of brutal warlords who claimed much of the nation’s wealth while most subjects lived in dire poverty.

At any rate, I’m sure the stuff is nice. Beautiful, even. And pricey. Bet a philanthropist of Ellison’s stature could auction off just a couple of those 80 pieces and raise enough to pay off the entire AC budget deficit. Eh, Larry?


Party Radar: Terracotta Warriors come out to plaaa-aay


I’ve dreamt of traveling to Xi’an, China and witnessing the ancient army of buried terracotta warriors practically my whole life. The uncanny legions frozen in fired clay, each individual’s features uniquely fashioned, were discovered underground in 1974, a kinda creepy burial accompaniment of the first emperor Qin Shihuang (259-210 BCE), in a tomb complex the size of a city.    

Now, some of those mesmerising warriors are coming to me, via the Asian Art Museum‘s “China’s Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor’s Legacy” where a selection of life-size figures and related objects will be exhibited Feb 22-May 27.

So of course it’s time to party, electro ’80s cult B-movie style!

In an inspired touch, the everyone-should-be-there opening party on Thu/21 will feature Cheryl, a surrealist disco performance quartet — think retro-future aerobics meets electro Warriors — from New York, as well as DJs Pink Lightning (Stay Gold), Nick, and Bay favorite Hokobo kicking out gritty jams. And, in fact, that staple of ’80s sci-fi playlist movie musts, Warriors, is providing the theme. Although with Cheryl, you never know where that theme is gonna go. Somewhere cosmically Warrior-y, I’m sure.

(I’ll be there of course, but I’m also gonna get to Xi’an someday — the food is supposed to be bonkers good.)

Thu/21, 7-11pm, $15 advance, $18 door. Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin, SF. party


PS The Asian Art Museum has been doing these cute promotional spots from famous San Franciscans, looking for a lost terracotta warrior:

Our Weekly Picks: February 20-26, 2013



Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

Head on down to the waterfront tonight for a hilarious night of bad B-movie fun! Where could be better to watch the schlocky sci-fi flick Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (featuring over-the-top cheesy performances from Deborah Gibson and Lorenzo Lamas) than an actual aquarium on the San Francisco Bay? Part of Aquarium of the Bay’s “Octopalooza,” a week-long fete celebrating cephalopods, the price of admission to this “Bad Movie Night” will include two drinks, popcorn, admission to the aquarium, and live satiric commentary about the film from Dark Room Theater. (Sean McCourt)

6pm, $16

Aquarium of the Bay, Bay Theater

Pier 39, SF

(415) 623-5300


Patricia Schultz

Travel writer Patricia Schultz explained how she selected entries for her New York Times-bestseller 1,000 Places to See Before You Die in the book’s introduction: “In the final analysis, the common denominator I chose was a simple one: that each place impress upon the visitor — and, I hope, upon the reader — some sense of the earth’s magic, integrity, wonder, and legacy.” Lately, Schultz seems like she is looking for the next 1,000 places to pass on to readers. She has made stops in Connecticut, Boston, and California this month, and has a 10-day jaunt through Ethiopia in April ($5,400 to join her) followed by a 19-day cruise ship voyage near the Antarctic coast in November ($9,500). Interested (and perhaps more frugal) travelers can listen in tonight on her latest adventures. (Kevin Lee)

7pm, $12–$20

Oshman Family Jewish Community Center

3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto

(415) 597-6700


“Migration Now!”

The creators of the fabulous People’s History poster series, Justseeds, and Culturestr/ke have assembled a poster show to heal the psychic wounds you’ve done to yourself listening to the Right rage on against immigrants ruining our country. Seriously, this is the antidote: undocumented queer activist Julio Salgado’s peaceful odes to cross-border gay marriage, the flock of monarch butterflies that Portland, Ore.’s Roger Peet has conjured, alighting on a human skull in protest of the War on Drugs. King of the subversive poster Emory Douglas will also show work, along with many others. The opening reception features hip-hop performance, panel discussion, an appearance by the Filipino Caregiver Theater Ensemble, and more. (Caitlin Donohue)

Through Feb. 28

Opening reception: 6-10pm, free

Eric Quesada Center for Culture and Politics

518 Valencia, SF


“Fabulous Artistic Guys Get Overtly Traumatized Sometimes: the Musical!”

After a sold-out weekend premiere in October, DavEnd’s sharp-witted, madcap, acronym-inviting musical comes back for another raucous binge of self-obsession and doubt before the bedroom mirror. Fabulous Artistic Guys Get Overtly Traumatized Sometimes features writer, composer, performer, chanteuse, accordionist, and costume designer extraordinaire DavEnd as, who else, queer artist DavEnd and her active — very active — imagination. Upon reflection (her own that is, courtesy of a full-length looking-glass (Maryam Farnaz Rostami)), solipsism turns to schism as DavEnd confronts a fractured fashion show of ideal or not-so-ideal types, MC’d by her Fairy Drag Mother (luminous burlesque star World Famous *BOB*). Discerning direction by D’Arcy Drollinger and musical director Chris Winslow support a pitch-perfect combo of the effervescent and deadpan, in a comedy that actually asks stark present-day questions about difference, acceptance, and validation of the self. (Robert Avila)

Through Sun/24, 8pm; (also Sun/24, 3pm), $20–$25


1310 Mission, SF

(415) 626-2060

CHERYL at the Asian Art Museum

In the third century BCE, a Chinese emperor wanted to defeat death by commissioning a life-size terracotta army of over 7,000 warriors. In 2013, New York-based art collective CHERYL wants to defeat convention by throwing a party in honor of 10 of these warriors. At the opening of the Asian Art Museum’s “China’s Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor’s Legacy,” the collective, joined by DJ Hakobo and the Extra Action Marching Band, will set up a video installation, an excellent set of tunes, and a bar, and they invite you to join them (preferably in a costume of your choosing). Probably not what the emperor had in mind, but it just might work. (Laura Kerry)

7pm, $18

Asian Art Museum

200 Larkin, SF

(415) 581-3500


“Sexual Politics”

The full title of the Roxie’s first post-SF Indiefest event is “Sexual Politics: The Occasionally Autobiographical and Always Personal Films of Joe Swanberg,” a mouthful befitting a prolific filmmaker who is only 31 and yet has already made nearly 20 films. His debut, 2005’s Kissing on the Mouth, isn’t included here, but his second and third films are — LOL (2006) and Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007), both of which rushed him to the forefront of the lo-fi, low-budget, mostly-improv’d genre known (for better and worse) as “mumblecore.” (Both also star Hollywood’s next big thing, Greta Gerwig.) Among the 12 Swanberg selections is IndieFest closer All the Light in the Sky, a 2012 release that isn’t even his most recent (that’s be Drinking Buddies, which just screened at Sundance). Never sleep, Joe. (Cheryl Eddy)

Fri/22-Mon/25, $6.50–$10

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St, SF


Dave Alvin and Marshall Crenshaw

Fans of Americana, rockabilly, and roots music — or just plain old fashioned rock’n’roll — are in for a special treat tonight as two of the greatest singer-songwriters-guitarists of the past 30 years come to town on tour together — Dave Alvin and Marshall Crenshaw. First displaying his formidable chops as a member of the Blasters, Alvin has gone on to a distinguished solo career, as has Crenshaw, who gained mainstream exposure with his 1981 hit “Someday, Someway,” and portrayed Buddy Holly in the 1987 film La Bamba. Get ready for a night of shredding Stratocasters as these two tunesmith titans, who just keep getting better with age, play live backed by the Guilty Ones. (McCourt)

8pm, $22

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750


Chrome Canyon

At this rate, I’ll never make it to the future. But when I do, I know exactly what would make the perfect soundtrack. Giorgio Moroder’s Metropolis, Wendy Carlos’s Tron, John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, Michael Jarre’s Dreamscape, and Hirokazu Tanaka’s Metroid. Of course, that’s too much for one Walkman, but since I’ll be going that direction anyway, I’ll make a point to procure a copy of Elemental Themes, the recent analog synth saturated non-soundtrack from Brooklyn’s Chrome Canyon. It captures the mood. First order of business: find a place that sells cassettes. Second: restore causality. (Ryan Prendiville)

Voltaire Records and Stones Throw Present, with Peanut Butter Wolf (DJ set), Jonas Reinhardt, Shock, Chautauqua (DJ set)

9pm, $13-15


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880



Producer Drew Lustman may hail from New York, but his newest release Hardcourage impressively fuses the pace and smoothness of Chicago house with the synths and bleeps found in Detroit techno. The result is a multilayered work that leans more toward spacey introspection than frenetic movement, a somewhat surprising departure from vintage FaltyDL productions of two-step and UK-influenced garage. Consistent throughout Lustman’s discography is an emphasis on melody and texture that is quite fitting, given Lustman played upright bass and piano in jazz groups and counts Miles Davis as a big influence. How Lustman mixes groovier works like the luscious “She Sleeps” with harder-stepping garage in the tighter confines of Public Works’ loft space will bear watching. (Lee)

9:30pm, $10–$20

Public Works

161 Erie, SF

(415) 932-0955



It’s difficult to describe the voice — a tinge of a yowl but always fluid and warm. Then there’s the songwriting — mysteriously transcendent. And the incredible style that is both quirky and catchy. OK, this might be gushing, but come on, it’s Morrissey, and he’s coming to Davies Symphony Hall (and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that he actually makes it to the Bay this time). The influential artist, who established his reputation with the Smiths in the ’80s, will release a “very best of” album in April. Even though he’s looking back on career classics, he wants to show us he can still rock out. Morrissey, we wouldn’t doubt you for a second. (Kerry)

With Kristeen Young

8pm, $50-$90

Davies Symphony Hall

201 Van Ness, SF

(415) 864-6000



Relax. Try to concentrate. I’m going to play some sounds. Tell me what you see. A triangle? No. Try again. A velvet blivet? No. Focus, please. What? I assure you, no one has had sex on this table. One more. A damn deacon? Please, there’s no call for that sort of language. Fail, a complete fail. Correct answer was A Marriage of True Minds, an auditory experiment into ESP by former SF — now Baltimore — residing duo Matmos. Yes, extra-sensory perception. Telepathy for the layperson like you. Here, give it a listen the next time you’re in the flotation tank. (Prendiville)

With Horse Lords, C.L.A.W.S. (DJ set), Kit Clayton, and visuals by Golden Suicide

8pm, $10

Public Works

161 Erie St., SF

(415) 932-0955


Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood has discovered a magical formula. When the band came together in ’09, it united with the simple goal to produce an album and go on tour, but with the album and EP it has released since that time, the quartet has earned impressive recognition for its unceasingly gratifying pop-rock. Surfer Blood’s four-year-old goal continues with the launch of another tour leading up to the June release of Pythons. In the single, “Weird Shapes,” the magic continues in a catchy tune that somehow recalls both the Strokes and the Beach Boys. Come see what other tricks it has up its sleeve. (Kerry)

With Grand Rapids, Aaron Axelsen

8pm, $11

Brick and Mortar Music Hall

1710 Mission, SF

(415) 800-8782

SFMOMA reveals new look, it is sexy


We were a bag of mixed artfan emotions when SFMOMA sent us a peek at what the museum will look like in early 2016, when the renovations that will shutter its doors in June are complete. The bad: our city’s preeminent modern art museum will be sorely missed — after all, who else would have let us bring Boychild, Lil Miss Hot Mess, and Lady Bear to run amok in the upstairs cafe on a Thursday night? (Memories.) But, the good: there is a lot of good. Read on for the highlights of what we can expect from the museum’s new incarnation, and what’s going to be happening while we wait.

– In the new building, designed by Oslo-NYC firm Snøhetta, gallery capacity expanded by 130,000 square feet. 

– That number up there includes a 15,000 ground floor that won’t have to pay to access, but which is nonetheless packed with exhibitions. For when the admisison price just isn’t stoking your creative fires.

– SF’s largest public native plant vertical garden, located on a brand-new seventh-floor outdoor terrace. The perfect place for checking out the expressive skyline that exists in those parts of downtown — two floors higher than the sculpture garden, two floors of view, baby. 

– A new all-white performance space that’ll be the spot for dance, sound, etc. in addition to the Phyllis Wattis Theater, which is also getting a facelift.

– More space designated for education — that means the amount of schoolchildren benefiting from programming will go up to 55,000 from 18,000. 

– “SFMOMA is more than just a building,” said SFMOMA director Neal Benezra in the press release. “We’re a set of intersecting cultural communities.” That’s good for us — it means the museum’s collections won’t be moldering in a basement somewhere (entirely) during the two-and-a-half years of renovations. First up: “100 Years of the Spiritual in Modern Art,” a multi-denominational show that opens June 27 that examines art inspired by faith, at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. 2014 offerings will include a multimedia meditation on intimacy during apartheid in South Africa at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and a look at what “gorgeous” means by divergent art pairings at the Asian Art Museum.

– Other things to look forward to include a Chrissy Field site-specific installation of Mark di Suvero sculptures, the largest exhibition of the work of that artist, who moved to SF from Shanghai and was constantly inspired by the same Golden Gate Bridge that’ll look over the exhibition, which’ll set up shop in June through May 2014. That’s the first of many SFMOMA outdoor exhibitions that’ll take place in Los Altos and elsewhere.

More details on the renovations available here and here

SF Sketchfest founders reminisce (and look ahead) on the eve of their 12th event


The first SF Sketchfest, in 2002, was a good excuse to find a stage and some quality time for its organizers’ own sketch comedy troupe, Totally False People, but it has since become an annual comedy conclave of the first order. SF Sketchfest founders David Owen, Cole Stratton, and Janet Varney talk about the growth and philosophy of their annual comedy extravaganza and the humble beginnings that gave it rise.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Is SF Sketchfest a full time job by now?

David Owen Yeah, I think it is. It definitely gets more intense a few months out, but we’re always working on it, we’re always percolating ideas, as well as trying to do events throughout the year. We had a presence at Outside Lands this past year. We’re always trying to do stuff. But this time of year especially, from fall on, is beyond full-time for us.

SFBG Has it had to change a lot structurally as it has grown, or are you still pretty much running it as you always have?

Janet Varney We earned some pretty simple lessons along the way, including Cole, Dave, and I not driving every single headliner to and from the airport, and sell tickets at the box office, and sell our concessions, which is what we were doing the first few years.

DO The growth has been gradual. Over 12 years it’s been a little bit like a snowball, each year we add a little bit more. There are more performers, more shows, there’s more logistics, more general stuff to deal with. Twelve years in, it’s grown to a place none of us ever imagined. We never imagined we’d even get to the second or third year and have one Kid in the Hall, let alone have all the Kids in the Hall and all these comedy legends, who are our heroes. You said humble beginnings, that’s absolutely right. It was a local festival, just for us to perform at, and 12 years later we’re still surprised that it’s so many shows, with so many people that we like.

SFBG Have you gained a new perspective on comedy that you didn’t have before?

DO When we started, we were just fresh out of college and we wanted to write our stuff and perform it. Cole is still performing, he can speak to that, but from my point of view, just seeing it as a producer now, I think our first couple of years we thought, “Oh, there might be an audience in the Bay Area for this kind of comedy.” And now it’s clear that there is. There’s a big appetite for it, because we keep adding shows and people keep coming.

We’ve learned that laughter is important, that people really want to get out of the house, and in the dead of winter, to come to a comedy club or a theater and experience something with a group of people where they’re all laughing. There’s nothing else like that. I have to say that I’ve really learned that getting out and laughing is important for people. It’s a fun thing that people like to do. Hopefully we’re providing something that’s unique and different from other festivals or other shows.

JV We’re so proud of San Francisco and the way San Francisco receives the comedy we bring to the table. Cole and I live in Los Angeles now, Dave is still in the city, but we all have this fierce love of San Francisco. It’s such a wonderful way for us to interact with the people in the city that we love. We feel like they back us up every year by being the most savvy, enthusiastic, great, smart audiences. That’s why performers come back here year after year as well, they love performing for San Francisco audiences. The festival couldn’t be what it is if we didn’t have those kind of people, as Dave said, showing up to laugh together.

Cole Stratton What made our festival a little different form the start was, you know, we started as performers, we came at it from that vantage point — it’s about the comedy; it’s about making it as artist and performer friendly as we can. I think why a lot of people embraced it early on was that it wasn’t about doing work that there’s a lot of pressure on. It was come have fun with each other, try some stuff — let’s have fun and really celebrate comedy.

The audiences in the Bay Area totally get that too. There’s been this tremendous energy at all our shows. Everyone feels a part of something that’s really fun, unique, and different. That’s been the spirit of the festival year after year.
SFBG Is the social or political significance of comedy something you guys think about?

JV Absolutely. I think the three of us respond to comedians who are brave in that way. Who are willing to hold a mirror up, to what happens to us in society and what happens to us as humans, but who are willing to get really personal. We love silly comedy, comedy that isn’t necessarily about anything; we love the absurd, we love lighthearted, sort of childlike comedy. But we also respond really strongly to people who are unafraid to say, hey, this is me, are you like this? This is ridiculous.

Obviously those comedians become beloved because they are humbling themselves and they’re also reminding everybody in the audience that it’s ok to be a human being.

DO It can be cathartic, to come away from a show where someone has talked about mortality or heartbreak or environmental problems in the world — and all the things that trouble us — it can be cathartic to come from a comedy show and you’ve laughed about it, you’ve thought about it, you’ve learned a little bit about it. But I want to add that in our programming there isn’t an agenda — like, ok, we need to have ten socially conscious comedians, and we need to have five absurd ones.

Our only agenda is: Does it make the three of us laugh? That’s how we decide what’s going to be in the festival. We don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about what’s going to make the most number of people laugh? We just hope people like our taste. Our taste, as Janet said, it really runs the gamut from infantile, silly, ridiculous stuff, stupid stuff, all the way up to really smart, socially aware, critical comedy. We like all of that stuff. As long as it’s funny. That’s what matters.

SFBG Are people approaching you more than the other way around at this point?

JV It’s still both. We’re very lucky because we’ve had wonderful experiences with people we sort of chased down and invited in the beginning. We have a lot of returning guests year after year that we’re still excited to welcome back, and audiences are excited about. People like David Wain, who want to come here year after year and are always thinking ahead as to what kind of new, interesting show they can bring to the table so that they’re keeping it fresh but still returning to the festival multiple times.

We still have our wish list. We still have our people that we like to chase down, and cross our fingers and hope for the best. The comedy community, luckily it can be kind of close. We’re really lucky in that we have this amazing pool of references. But we still write letters with our fingers crossed, and hope for the best, as much as people reach out to us and ask to come back, or we have agents calling us whereas before we might not get our phone calls returned.

SFBG The podcast has really become a major new platform for comedy, as the lineup this year reflects. Are you searching out new outlets as well as new shows?

DO The three of us all spend a lot of time scouting and looking around and trying to keep our finger on the pulse, just seeing as much as we can, whether it’s in person or online. We try to stay clicked in to what’s going on out there. But we’re also looking for something that’s new. What can we do that is a totally new format? We love standup and sketch and improv and film stuff, but we also like doing things like game shows, or live talk shows.

This year we have a walking tour of the Asian Art Museum led by Canadians, or we have a show that mixes comedians and musicians, or Reggie Watts with a dance troupe. We try to see how we can do something at this festival that you’re really not going to see anywhere else. Not just something that’s on tour or that you’ve seen on TV. What can we debut at the festival, premiere as a brand new idea or a brand new concept or format? Those are things we think about and try to pursue.

SFBG Is the tour of the Asian Art Museum by Canadians an example of an original idea?

DO That one, no. That was a show that existed in New York. They did it at the Metropolitan. They’re going to be doing it in San Francisco for the first time, but that specific show was not our idea. We do come up with concepts that we think might be good for somebody, and we’ll pitch them, and if the artist is into it then it might come to fruition.

[For example,] we’re doing a show called Yacht Rock Heroes. Mustache Harbor is this amazing San Francisco band that does covers of ’70s and ’80s soft rock classics, Toto and Hall & Oates and those kinds of things. We thought it would be fun to have comedians come out and cover the song with the band as kind of a mash up. Mustache Harbor liked the idea, and we found comedians who were into it, so we kind of put it together from there.

SFBG How did you all first meet?

DO Cole and I were in the same floor in the dorms at SF State as freshmen. He was on one side and I was on the other. Everyone else on the floor was either a jock or a party animal…

JV [Laughing] That’s the first time I’ve heard someone say “party animal” in a serious way. I just love that that happened.

DO Yeah. There was a nerd on one side, and a nerd on the other. We were both into comedy and movies and music. And everyone else was into, like, swimming.

CS I lived in the dorms for like a year or whatever. I remember it was time to push on when — there was one communal restroom and I had to walk all the way down to it in the middle of the night, and there was a party going on, and I looked down. Someone had thrown a starfish into the hall. Like pulled it out of an aquarium and threw it into the hall. I was like, “Ok, someone just murdered a starfish on my floor. I think it’s time to go anywhere else.”

DO And then we became roommates, and we were working at the same video store and were roommates for, god, how many years? Three or four years. Five maybe. And then Janet — Janet, where did we first meet, at the Castro Theatre?

JV Yeah, I think we met at the Talking Heads show, Stop Making Sense. It was the anniversary screening. Actually, we love this story because Dave and I met and  — Cole, you were there too, yeah? I don’t know why I only remember Dave. Cole, we met before this interview, right? We all went to an anniversary screening of Stop Making Sense with David Byrne in attendance. He actually was sitting right in front of us. We love that everything came full circle, and that we ended up doing a screening of True Stories at the Castro Theatre with David Byrne.

DO Cole and I had a mutual friend — this didn’t happen right away but not long after we all met, this guy wanted to start a sketch comedy group. We were all theater and film majors, and we were putting on plays or making little films. And this guy wanted to start in comedy. We were all into it. There was about maybe six or seven of us who started meeting up, trying to write sketches. One by one people sort of fell away, and then there was four, the three of us and Gabriel Diani. And that’s how Totally False People started.

SFBG Where was your first gig? Where would you perform at the beginning?

JV We started doing shorts at a couple of the comedy clubs, and I think, was Rooster T. Feathers the first gig?
CS That was the very first show, Rooster T. Feathers in, Sunnyvale? Yeah. Our thinking was let’s make sure we’re at least 45 minutes outside the city limits if it doesn’t go well.
JV We went up on a stand-up, kind of a showcase night. We did a few different shows there. On one occasion someone called and left a voicemail after we performed saying that they didn’t enjoy our, quote, play-acting. We were trying to do sketch on this standup comedy stage and apparently people did not know what to do with us. We were going up there with like costumes and wigs…

DO That was our first review: “Did not enjoy the play-acting.”

CS And we thought, let’s start a festival!
SF Sketchfest: The San Francisco Comedy Festival
Jan 24-Feb 10, prices vary
Various venues, SF

Discovery channels


YEAR IN DANCE Looking back on 2012’s over 500 performances — as calculated by Dancers’ Group — the game of “best” and “worst” makes less sense than ever. What makes the Bay Area a place worth living in is the vitality of its arts, and dance in particular. We only have one superstar company, San Francisco Ballet, but we’ve got a number of excellent mid-size ensembles and just enough of a competitive environment to discourage rank amateurism.

Whether for financial reasons or a desire to forego the demands of conventional stage presentations, dancers have continued their exodus to galleries and museums, like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Asian Art Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, and the de Young Museum. But they have also presented work in public spaces: City Hall, Market Street, Union Square, and Golden Gate Park. These performances necessitate the rethinking of formal parameters, but also reach out to new audiences.

Here are ten companies and artists who challenged expectations or unveiled surprises (at least to me) in 2012. Surprises from young artists are the norm, but experienced choreographers have a far more difficult task when it comes to catching viewers off-guard.

In the middle of March (and after 40 years of rethinking time, space, and motion), Eiko and Koma presented their most radical performance yet. With the breathtaking Fragile, a four-hour meditation in which they moved perhaps two feet, they stretched every conceivable theatrical concept beyond where it could reasonably be expected to go. It was mesmerizing, though I kept wondering where Fragile would be without the wondrous collage of music that David Harrington had assembled for his Kronos Quartet.

Keith Hennessy’s Turbulence (a dance about the economy), a many-tentacled creature that sprawled and oozed its way through Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, was one of the year’s most controversial premieres. No easy viewing, it showed that, for all his passion to redesign the social order, Hennessy is still working on creating new vehicles into which to pour his content. Gratifyingly, Hennessy just received a USA Fellows Award, one of only five Bay Area choreographers to have been so honored.

Monique Jenkinson’s splendid solo Instrument just finished its run at CounterPULSE. It needs to come back. She’s known as Fauxnique in her drag alter ego, but there is nothing faux about this dancer-performance artist. In Instrument, perhaps Jenkinson’s finest work yet, she asks questions about the body as a tool and the nature of being on stage. The figure of Rudolf Nureyev gave her the entrance into a witty but also heartbreaking portrayal of what it means to be a performer.

Even if you watch dance a lot, once in a while it happens that somebody pops up that you have never seen — and yet what they show is already excellent. Such was the case with Nicole Klaymoon’s Embodiment and her joyously rocking House Matter. Working with very good modern and hip-hop dancers, plus jazz singer Valerie Troutt and her vocal ensemble, the women created an evening-long piece about how a house can become a home.

Jenny McAllister’s two-year old 13th Floor Dance Theater is the newest incarnation of McAllister’s dance making endeavors. She has been choreographing genuinely funny dance, often sending up popular culture, for a long time. Bloomsbury/It’s Not Real was her first evening-length work. Using reality TV as a format, she came up with a lovingly loony but smart portrait of the lives and loves of that motley crew known as the Bloomsbury Group.

At the end of September, Birju Maharaj, the 74-year-old Kathak virtuoso, packed the Palace of Fine Arts with a primarily Indian audience who sat through a four-plus hour performance of superb dance. Maharaj performs here every couple of years, often with a similar repertoire. And still you sit there and can’t believe your eyes and ear at this gentle, witty, and generous artist playing “games” with someone like Zakir Hussein.

During its 41st home season, ODC/Dance premiered KT Nelson’s Transit. Taking one look at Max Chen’s whimsical bike concoctions, I just knew that they would steal the show — but they didn’t. Nelson used these metamorphosing velocipedes to call to the stage an image of urban life as fast-paced, fluid, and unstable. Yet for all its fractured continuity, Nelson and ODC’s superb dancers seemed to say, it’s a wonderful life.

San Francisco Ballet’s Beau raised more eyebrows than any of its other commissions, as far as I can remember. Longtime guest artist Mark Morris has built up expectations, so people were furious, feeling let down by what they considered thin, slipshod, easy-way-out choreography. My opinion was in the minority — so I’m looking forward to the piece’s return to find out whether what I thought was there, really is.

In the fall, my first encounter with Einstein at the Beach opened my ears and eyes to what I had known as “an opera” by Robert Wilson and Philip Glass. Surprising to see was how its exquisite details and extraordinary stylization owed more to kabuki than opera, and how Lucinda Childs’ choreography fit into it like a jewel set into a frame. For once the hype surrounding a piece did not even approach the reality of the experience.

Dancers around the world know the Venezuelan-born David Zambrano as a superb, idiosyncratic teacher. So his Soul Project, set to a rich selection of blues and soul music, raised questions about his approach to choreography. Using the YBCA’s Forum as a unified space for dancers and audience, Soul’s meandering trajectory — you never knew who would perform what where — made this one of the year’s most intimate experiences. To be a couple of inches away from such different, yet such superb performers doing what they do best was a treat.


Win tickets to MATCHA: Shamanism


How do we interact with the afterlife? Special guest Dohee Lee – currently an artist in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts – will perform excerpts from Mago, a blend of installation, music, dance, and animation with Korean art and shamanism (when a person acts as an intermediary between humans and spirits). Vin Sol will provide the music – including a custom mix for the evening, and cash bars will provide the libations. This will also be your last chance to see the current contemporary art exhibition Phantoms of Asia that explores spirituality, nature, and the cosmos. Phantoms will close September 2. Get more info here.

To win a pair of tickets, email your full name to Winners will be randomly chosen at noon on Thurs/16.

Thursday, August 23 from 5-9pm @ Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin, SF  | $10, includes entry to Phantoms of Asia