January 10, 2005

Mundane Journeys

Living in Berkeley, a five minute walk to the nearest Good Vibrations, it is easy for me to forget there was a time not so long ago in this country that oral sex was linked to infertility in the popular consciousness. It's safe to say that without the work of Dr. Alfred Kinsey Good Vibes would not be nearly as well lit a store as it is, and it's also safe to say that a film like Bill Condon's biopic Kinsey would not have been made at all. I joined a small posse of my friends to see it at the Parkway Wednesday evening. Liam Neeson plays the good doctor, and Laura Linney is absolutely magnificent as his free-thinking wife Clara. The movie is not without its disturbing and uncomfortable moments, but ultimately its message about the acceptance of sexual diversity is an uplifting one. We've come such a long way, but at the same time half of America is still living in a pre-Kinsey fog of denial and ignorance.

The next afternoon I took a break from work to walk up to Stephen Wirtz Gallery and see the Michael Kenna photographs they had on display there. Years ago I worked at a company that published posters and Michael Kenna was one of our artists, so I was curious how I would react to seeing his originals. The show was divided into two sections: a series of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station that is one of England's industrial icons, and then pictures from a recent trip to Japan. Kenna photographs exclusively in black-and-white, linking himself to greats like Stieglitz and Weston, and it's true that some of his images have a sort of ready-for-publication look to them. However, his skill at composing haunting and indelible pictures is undeniable. I was particularly fond of his photos from a snowbound Hokkaido seemingly bereft of human life, the stark white on the ground contrasting sharply with dark lines scattered across the snow.

After the repression of Kinsey the night before I needed some second-season Sex and the City in my life Thursday evening, so I watched episodes 7-12 in one sitting. Notable among the endless string of the girls' boyfriends is Will Arnett (more familiar to me as Gob on Arrested Development), who persuades Miranda to have sex in public a couple of times. Otherwise it's Chris Noth as Big who gets my full attention, playing the most irresistible jerk ever.

Friday evening I braved the rain and drove over to Southern Exposure to participate in opening night festivities for new exhibitions from Conrad Bakker, Chadwick Rantanen, Daniel Seiple, and Claudia Tennyson. Seiple's piece Free Storage by Go West! was by far the most clever, a moving service offered to New York artists who want to head westwards. Judging by the mountainous pile of boxes along an entire wall of the gallery I would wager someone just took the plunge. Welcome to San Francisco! Yes, it's been raining for two weeks straight. The moving truck itself was parked on the street outside, strung with Christmas lights and booming dance music for the party going on inside the truck. Back inside Southern Exposure I inspected Bakker's photographs of wooden rubber bands left on the streets of the Mission (Sidewalk Economies indeed) and Rantanen's archive of Garfield posters and enbalmed Surge and Jolt colas. Tennyson's Repair Work was my favorite, however, found objects "fixed" in surprising and ingenious ways. In one piece she had taken glass shards, wrapped them in silver thread, and then taped them to the wall in an oval shape that loosely resembled a mirror. I stood in front of that one for a long time.

The next evening I had no energy left for dealing with the weather again, so I whipped up a Chinese stir-fry for dinner with Laura and Mikko and then kicked them out afterward so I could polish off Sex and the City with the couch all to myself. If only I had watched Season 2 months and months ago, I might have saved myself (and my long-suffering friends) a lot of grief. Though quite possibly it would have just made me sniffle.


Michael Kenna
Stephen Wirtz Gallery
Sex and the City
Southern Exposure

Posted by nightfall at January 10, 2005 09:45 PM