Last weekend I went to see the Big Art Group’s show at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. I have good associations with Yerba Buena: it was there that Cassie Powell introduced me to Miranda July. She took me to see her live show there, and it had a big impact on me, influencing the way that I conducted the Friends and Family Night presentations at the end of the ten week cycles of my classes.
Big Art Group, though, was another story. I had heard some good things, and the pictures looked intriguing. When I sat down in the theater, though, I began to feel uneasy. My frame of reference for multimedia work is the incomparable Wooster Group, and one of the many things that was so dazzling about them was the way in which the multimedia equipment that decked the stage was always arranged and rearranged with an eye toward the overall visual composition of the landscape: human figures, scenic elements, video monitors, and mic stands conspired to form an eternally arresting composition, and this was even true upon entering the theater, in the time before the performance started.
The stage for Big Art Group was crowded with multimedia equipment that seemed to be arranged in no particular way relative to the rest of the space. There was nothing alluring or artful about the array of screens and mics and other stuff that lay in waiting for the performance to begin.
It turned out that this was shades of things to come. The performance was big and loud. The acting was not good. The subject matter, insofar as I could even grasp it at all, was glib and devoid of interest. The director seemed conflicted about whether we should watch the actors in the center of the stage or their projected faces on the giant screens above, and this conflict was not even remotely aesthetically interesting, just confused. I lasted about twenty-five minutes.
As much as I love California, I often wonder what new talents are exploding onto the scene back in NYC. This is one I won’t need to wonder about anymore.