In a world where everything has a price, the most priceless things are free.
I have the honor and pleasure of introducing a new film by Robin McKenna called “The Gift” at the Castro Theater this Thursday November 29th. This movie is a visually delicious sampling of personal stories that illuminate some of the philosophy behind the popular and influential book by Lewis Hyde published in 1983.
Robin showcases four examples of “gifting” as manifest in some very different cultural settings. My favorite is the story of a anarchist(y) squat in a giant abandoned commercial swine abattoir. Roma gypsys, immigrants and struggling artists conjured Metropoliz out of a derelict property on the outskirts of Rome that no one seemed to want. This experiment ran into some bumps when the real estate started rising in value. A clever counter to this inexorable tide of property greed we have all had to contend with in some fashion was for Metropliz to emphasize the (soon internationally recognized) artistic contributions that famous artists have painted on the various huge walls of the complex. The stature of this new museum has helped fend off eviction attempts by real estate concerns and their political servants to date. The Gift here is an ongoing sharing of the space with the occupants and the outside world of art and culture afficianados.
Another of the four samples of “Gift economies” finds Robin and crew documenting a native potlatch Kwak’wakwala community in Alert Bay in Pacific Northwest Canada. The idea of “The Gift” in some form or other is a part of many tribal and indigenous cultures going back to pre-history. Gifts are not always accepted and often weighted significantly with social and cultural obligations; the unifying factor is simply that the The Gift must not be held. It must be shared with others who in turn are obliged to pass it along.
The Gift also follows the work of artist Lee Mingwei who’s work is a “life meets art/art is life” in the Zen tradition. His work is influenced by Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, a book he carries the book around with him when he travels. Hyde has wrote an introduction to Mingwei’s work, at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
Last but not least in the quartet of lovely of Gift vignettes is Michelle/Smallfry who created a “circular gift” camp, art car (giant bee called Beezus Christ Supercar) and crew of busy bee pals that took gifted honey from SF beekeeper acquaintances and passed along for free on the playa at Burning Man.
I enjoyed these four symbolic and literal tales, each illuminating the concept of “The Gift” in different though related fashions. Our world, western culture, is driven in large part by the great and valuable philosophies of the spirit of the individual, freedom of will and self determination ruled by “none other.” Unfortunately, we have swung too far in that direction, abandoning the balancing power of community, sharing of resources, the idea that some things must remain free. The Gift is a timely message in this world where literally everything has a monetary value, a price – whatever “the market” demands. If we cannot return to a balance between the individual and the communal, we are surely doomed to a future of even more greed and inequality.
This November 17th. – general fundraiser at Pro Arts. Open to the public. Tickets available at: Eventbright tix to fundraiser.
Limited Curated experience. 10 people max – Tour of artist studio and limited edition of 10 signed prints of Golden Gate Bridge 50th Anniversary : Tickets here: Eventbright tix to curated experience.
Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland is presenting a retrospective sampling of 42 years of pranks, neon art, “theater” performance art, stories, writings, and conversations with key collaborators of mine culled from me entire time here in Oakland, San Francisco and the outside world.
Natalia Mount, Executive Director of this landmark gallery in the very heart of Oakland, is curating the show and has been working with me to burrow and wade through my massive pile of poorly organized photos, video/film, documents, neon pieces and all sorts of material produce during my four decades of trouble making, experience design, artifact making, collaborative work and explorations.
We need to raise a substantial amount of money in order to print huge photos, produce several finished videos out of mountains of raw footage, restore some neon sculptures and make some new, finance travel and accommodations for five (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 as of now, maybe more) of my collaborators (unindicted co-conspirators as they say) from over the years and to cover any number of other expenses. As usual, I am broke and in a hurry. I don’t drink, drug, gamble, womanize or waste money; it is just tough financially these days. Pro-Arts is experiencing the typical travails of most smaller cultural institutions and is underfunded as well. Moneys raised will all go directly to producing this show and to support this wonderful community based, yet influential gallery.
Please pass this link along and spread the word. If you have worked with me or enjoyed any of the products of the collaborations and (occasionally incognito) creative projects I have driven or contributed to or any of the transgressive cabals (my neon piece is at 1:44 & 2:00) or ridiculous pranks that may have benefited from my efforts, I really need the help and feedback now. I am not done yet; this show is just a retrospective of my first four decades here. With luck, we’ll have another one when I am 100 in 2058……
Oh, almost forgot, this is also my 60th B-day party.