The crowd cheers as a man decked out in stars and stripes makes his way through a packed staircase. He pauses at the landing and raises his arms over head in a salute of glory to the whooping and clapping masses below him.
"San Francisco, we give you the death match of the century," a voice booms from speakers.
The costumed figure presses through to the opening in the center of the room and circles the white platform where his foe awaits. He slaps the hands of a few children sitting in front before disrobing until he wears only blue knee-length tights and a bushy brown beard. He enters the square and stands above his opponent.
The announcer continues: "Mud versus the man himself, Jeremiah Jenkins." The man dives into a brown mass that resembles a giant pile of feces.
This was the scene at the San Francisco Institute of Art last Friday, where the Gutai Historical Survey and Contemporary Response exhibition opened with a bang — or rather with the revving of the dirt bike that Guy Overfelt blasted through four paper screens later in the evening. The event, which included the two theatrical pieces by local artists Jenkins and Overfelt, brought the Japanese avant-garde movement to life by recreating the sense of revelation upon which Gutai formed in 1954. Read more »
I pictured writing a different sort of response to last Friday's Oakland Art Murmur and accompanying street festival. The fatal shooting of an 18-year-old, however, taints the memory of the evening and retroactively adds a hint of menace to the crowded streets.
In OAM's responding statement, what begins as condolence, transitions into a reaffirmation of the monthly festival's aims: "The Oakland Art Murmur and the First Friday Street Festival are the products of communities coming together to showcase the best of what people create together." As questions surround the future of the event — most pressingly, can it continue as before? — it is important to remember this.
The mood on the streets before the shooting was celebratory. In the stretch of street closed to traffic, random pockets of activity testified to the joyful and creative possibilities contained within a diverse crowd of thousands.