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Eindhovens Dagblad – San Francisco Festival Intimate and Intense

San Francisco Festival in Eindhoven and Den Bosch

May 11, 1992 (Review)

BY René van Peer
Opening San Francisco festival; performances in De Fabriek en Stadtswandelpark, Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th of May.

Last weekend the San Francisco Festival started in De Fabriek with performances in its big hall and in Stadtswendelpark. Conjecturing the type of art this giant city produces, one would readily imagine wide gestures of individuals trying to make themselves heard above the din of the masses, or asperity as a reaction to an environment full of racial and economic despair. Thus the presented work turned out to be quite a surprise.

It was poetic, fresh, and balanced, but at the same time intimate and intense. Shelley Cook opened the festival on Saturday evening with an installation of two opposite doors, that, connected with steel cable, functioned as a swing. Within the space contained by this device there was a stool with headphones suspended above it. Sitting down one could glance at a translucent window in one of the doors, through which Cook’s naked body was vaguely visible, or into a mirror on the opposite door. Through the headphones, a soft but insistent voice asked questions pertaining to love, while Cook set the device into swaying motion with rhythmic movements-an exceptionally disturbing experience in which desire, embarrassment, and private recollection, partly mingled, partly strove to get the upper hand. During a performance later that evening she disinfected coat hangers (a common implement used for illegal abortions in USA) and immersed herself like a large specimen in a transparent container for over an hour afterwards. She stirred strong emotions again. The disinfecting suggested a gruesome ritual in preparation of a human sacrifice, a fiendish dedication that obviously disturbed her as well. As a specimen she sank into a state of fragile tranquillity, staring emptily any time her gaze fell on the table with coat hangers. Ominous, but of great poetic force.

The work of the other artists was much lighter in tone. Moving Judith Blankman’s playground devices (fitted with vessels holding sand, gravel or water) transformed the hall into a cheerful factory floor, which the industrial sounding racket filled with reverberations.

The next day Guadelupe Garcia posed in her Les Madres as a multicolored Mexican medicine woman, seated on a throne, garnished with national and religious symbols. She handed out oracles to spectators in the park; a spiritual celebration of Mother’s Day. Not far away from there Aaron Nobel and Marshal Webber amazed people by performing a farcical dance whilst flossing one another’s teeth. This surprising and kaleidoscope of first encounter has made me very curious abut the rest of the festival. By the way, Garcia will perform in De Effenaar next Thursday, and Cook will repeat her first piece at De Fabriek on May 23rd.

René van Peer
Published in Eindhovens Dagblad of May 11, 1992
Translated by the author January 20, 1993