Big Art Group's secret ingredient is revealed as The People descends on Z Space
The People: San Francisco takes Big Art's fundamental approach to performance and democratizes it. The fourth installment of a serial project begun in 2007 in Polverigi, Italy (before moving onto Halle, Germany and Salzburg, Austria), The People was designed with two goals in mind, according to Manson. One was to craft a collaborative project that might allow Manson and Nelson greater contact with the communities they've been regularly traveling through on Big Art's annual performance tours. The tradeoff would be some of the precision and expertise on display in shows like SOS for an immediate and interactive bead on a specific locale. In the Bay Area, this contact was managed through three host organizations: Marin's Headlands Center for the Arts (where Manson and Nelson were in residency a few months ago), YBCA, and Z Space. Through this relationship, the project gathered some 40 hours of taped interviews with 42 subjects (including this writer) who were asked an identical set of questions about terrorism, justice, democracy, and war. (Manson was last week still carefully whittling down those 40 hours to a manageable 16 minutes, but notes the remainder will be archived online).
The other goal was related but more specific and immediate: "At the time we started this, in 2007, Bush was in office and he was always talking about promoting democracy," explains Manson. "We were touring all over Europe at this time, and we're wondering: What exactly does that mean, democracy? So we started asking. It's the first time we've asked here, in the United States."
The timing, coming just after the 10th anniversary of 9/11, is auspicious (if coincidental). As a localized act of public discussion of words like terrorism, justice, democracy, and war, The People reclaims from the centers of power and their diffuse mouthpieces the shibboleths and catchwords that normally act as so many parade floats leading us all down blind alleys, if not over cliffs. Wasn't this the real discussion we should have had ten years ago? Some did; some tried and were shouted down. This weekend, at least, the conversation continues.
THE PEOPLE: SAN FRANCISCO
Fri/16-Sat/17, 8 p.m., $10
450 Florida, SF