So I finally got a much-needed boost of art and artist networking last night, after my bitching and ranting earlier about how the writers I know don't network (at least not for my benefit). Went with H. to the opening of the Paper Bullets: War with Words exhibit at Intersection for the Arts. It was H.'s invite, since our colleague/friend Christine Wong--a dope-ass painter, muralist, and activist-educator--was showing some of her work there.
What an intense show. Aesthetically, it was amazingly cohesive, considering the diversity of artists and pieces in the exhibit. Lots of bright, saturated color, lots of angles and three-dimensional pieces, images scooped from pop culture and mainstream media, harrowing and humorous wartime images, lots of wood and wood-like texture. The pieces included Christine's dream-like triptych of acrylics on paper and wood, subtly layering ad-like images over images of stockpiled bottles and Korean warning fliers distributed to American GIs during the Korean War.
The fliers--part of PSYOPS (Psychology Operations, or Psychological Warfare) efforts that are part and parcel to all wars--are the anchor and central theme of the exhibit (the 'Paper Bullets') and provide a fascinating and disturbing glimpse into the war for soldiers' souls that happened in WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and more recently, in the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. From the German PSYOPS fliers showing American women 'back home' cavorting with able-bodied, handsome civilians to Vietnamese liberation army leaflets exhorting African-American soldiers to withdraw from a war that was as racist as the treatment they faced back home, the old, yellowed slips of paper are a jarring and powerful reminder that wars are not just fought with rifles and tanks, but with emotion-provoking ideas and images as well.
There was also an interesting installation made up of balloons and handbills produced by the artist, similar to the PSYOPS fliers in the exhibit, but with an attached survey to be sent back to the artist, asking questions like "Is world peace inevitable?" and "What do you want more than anything else?". The installation included a video recording of the handbill 'drops' from the top of twin peaks, as well as the completed surveys that were returned from folks who picked up the fliers in the street.
This exhibit is crucial viewing in wartimes like these. I told Christine I was working part-time and writing the rest of the time, and mentioned that I was working on a fantasy/sci-fi novel. She replied, 'That makes sense right now, since the world is so surreal." And all around us was proof at how surreal and bizarre the world can be, how absurd and contradictory and yet, somehow, still beautiful.
Oh, yes, and of course the networking! C. and her husband M. were friendly and engaging, and introduced us to Scott Louie of Kearny Street Workshop and APAture and his girlfriend whose name escapes me right now (sorry!). And after knowing I was a writer for about 10 minutes, C. tells me, "Scott's a writer too. Rona, do you have a web site to look at?" Boom. That's it. That's what networking is about. Make a connection, exchange info (I directed them to this blog) and our community gets tighter, stronger and bigger all at the same time. It's really not difficult at all. And of course it did my ego good to be introduced by such a brilliant and respected artist as Christine.
Go see Paper Bullets, folks. Good stuff that makes you think. And go see Samina Ali at Intersection on Monday night, 8pm. I think I'll be there, somewhere in the back. Maybe someone will introduce us, eh?
Beast Crawl, Oakland, Saturday, September 2
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