Archive for arts

From the Archives: Live Improvisation on Piano and Electronics

One of the most important lessons artists need to learn is one that is never taught: document everything. It’s gotten so much easier in recent years and people still forget to point a camera at their projects. Good documentation keeps your ideas alive.

After recently getting my video groove back on, I pulled out some video archives. The perspective in this video adds an extra layer to it — a live improvised composition of its own. Video artist Sarah Smiley documented this for me in May of 2002.

I had been doing a series of piano experiments, with the main goal of playing back reversed piano. There’s something magical about the slow build of blended notes played backward. Looking back, I’m proud of what I was able to do with the technology. I have my critiques of the performance itself, but overall I’m happy with it. I miss having access to a piano, and both the technical and creative support that school provides.

Photos from Comic-Con International 2007

Comic-Con Press Badge

I’ll be shooting at Comic-Con this weekend. Look for photos in the KPBS Flickr account along with contributions from other staff, including Beth Accomando and Angela Carone who will be blogging.

In the meantime, take a listen to Beth’s Comic-Con preview for KPBS or her NPR feature on Comic-Con’s Eisner Awards.

Recommended Films: Skins, Children of Heaven, Quinceañera

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to participate in the San Diego Reader‘s “Seen on DVD” section. Every week, they (meaning Beth Accomando) curate a group of people and ask them to recommend films out on DVD.

Here are the films I suggested:

Skins — Set on a Native-American reservation in South Dakota, the local Sioux police officer oversteps his official capacity and turns vigilante to try and solve problems in the community. His drunken brother mistakenly gets hurt as the officer burns down a liquor store.

Children of Heaven (Bacheha-Ye aseman) — An Iranian boy accidentally loses his sister’s only pair of shoes. The two share one pair, trading behind their parents’ back so both can continue to go to school. A foot-race competition offers hope — a pair of shoes for third prize.

Quinceañera — The pastor’s daughter finds herself pregnant, living with a great-uncle and gay cousin just months before her 15th birthday. The heart of each film is filled with strong family bonds that overcome the darkest tunnels.

I picked these three because they all deal with the family relationships. Of the three, Children of Heaven is the best film (in all senses), but the other two give glimpses of American life that don’t tend to be thought of as mainstream. If you haven’t seen them, obviously I’m recommending them. They’re not cinematic masterpieces, but worth watching based on cultural merits.

Crayola Monologues Screens at Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park

Crayola Monologues will be screening at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park (directions), this Sunday, April 15 at 6:00 p.m. The event, Film School Confidential, will screen student work. If you’ve never been in MoPA’s theater, it’s beautiful. I’m really excited about the screening if only for the excellent venue.

UPDATE: Film critic and curator of Film School Confidential, Beth Accomando, posted a brief review of each film. Of Crayola Monologues, she says:

You can’t get any more low budget than photographing crayons, but Gibbs proves that clever writing and a strong creative vision are worth far more than a big budget. This film is playful and humorous but with a biting social message. The film makes us do a double take as it points out how seemingly trivial things–like the names of colors on crayons–can reflect bigger social issues.

General Admission: $10
Students, Seniors, Military: $6
For more information: 858-422-5564

Crayola Monlogues in Film School Confidential '07

Public Art at Tijuana Border Crossing

During 2004/2005, I spent my mornings waiting in line at the border. The commute from Tijuana to San Diego gave me plenty of time to watch, listen and think. For several weeks, I watched a group of men working behind a shroud of old vinyl banners and recycled plastic sheets. I couldn’t see what it was, but they were building something. Every day, I’d catch a glimpse of color or a peculiar shape. On days when traffic moved quickly, I felt a little disappointed that I hadn’t been able to see more. Day by day, the anticipation grew.

Finally, it was revealed.

The structure stands around 40-feet-tall. The base holds an imprisoned hand; the top, a tile mosaic cityscape with two spires reaching upward. Four engraved Mayan hoops face north, south, east and west. A south-facing plaque reads:

ESCULTURA
“ENTRE VENTANA Y PUERTA”
DEL ARTISTA VISUAL
OSCAR ORTEGA

Sculpture “Between a Window and a Door” By Visual Artist Oscar Ortega

At the time, I was the technical director for KPBS Radio’s The Lounge, a daily talk show covering the arts in San Diego. The show’s producer, Angela Carone, and host, Dirk Sutro, were interested in Tijuana artists as well, so I made contact with Oscar Ortega. We started an email conversation, but unfortunately, there was turnover at work and I was reassigned to a different program. After not receiving Oscar’s reply to a set of questions — and with the changes at work — the story faded into that quiet place where memories go to gather dust.

Oscar Ortega has several public pieces in Tijuana, including a mural just a short distance from the sculpture. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have an online portfolio that I can find. Searching “entre ventana y puerta” returns an image of mine on Flickr as the top result (I’m curious if this blog post will take it’s spot after it gets crawled). So after two years waiting to read someone else’s review of the piece, I figure it’s about time to share my own.

He explained the title as a description of Tijuana’s physical (and perhaps psychological) situation. It’s an incredibly transited city, but has no seaport, making its coastline only a “window.” The “door” refers to the U.S. border — a door locked for many. The piece, like the city, is rich with layered symbols: the hand of Mexican labor, cars circle the base endlessly, the round indigenous blocks carved with the men’s bathroom figure, the jumbled mosaic like the residential architecture covering Tijuana’s hillsides.

Certain patterns line up at particular angles, allowing you to discover each scene as you move around it. For me, Ortega’s sculpture stands as a monument to the culture of Tijuana: a mix of indigenous and modern symbols, a city of travelers, glimpses of family struggle, international labor and commerce, and all of it trapped in a corner at the edge of the world. And I’m curious if the people who pass “between a window and a door” daily manage to see themselves in it.

The Sound of a New Year in Tijuana

The night sky in one of Tijuana’s neighborhoods explodes with energy in the early hours of 2007. My nephews and I share in the improvised community pyrotechnics to welcome the new year. The spirit of celebration emanates all around us.