The MacArthur Fellowship doesn't really like its nickname, but like all good nicknames, it sticks like Krazy Glue. "The Genius Grant," as it's known, goes to creative, motivated people in almost every field imaginable: medicine, music, nonprofit organizations, something called "science exhibit art" -- you name it. There are no strings attached, meaning the recipient can use the sizable award (half a mil) for just about anything. Potential beneficiaries are nominated and evaluated by an anonymous group of judges; then one day they get a call. And then a check.
It's been quite a while since Guillermo Gómez-Peña got the call, and like most geniuses -- sorry, MacArthur Fellows -- he's kept doing pretty much the same thing he was doing before it. In Gómez-Peña's case, this means making intensely ass-kicking performance art most of the time, and collaborating with pals on other highly intelligent projects (five books, award-winning video performances, black velvet paintings) the rest of the time. A lot of his work concentrates on the border spaces between identities and cultures, and Ex-Centris is no exception. Part of "Four in a Row," an ongoing installation at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the project was created in conjunction with excellent local art troupe La Pocha Nostra: On select dates, performers will enact living dioramas, ethnographic tableaux vivants, and a rave. The show, which premiered at the Tate Modern in London, focuses on corporate multiculturalism, questioning what makes some racial groups "exotic" and eroticized and others subject to vilification. Come to your own conclusions at the exhibit, which opens today at 11 a.m. and continues through Nov. 2 at YBCA, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is free-$6; call 978-2787 or visit www.yerbabuenaarts.org for a performance schedule.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Starting with the cheery salutation he encouraged from his readers ("Hey faggot!") -- including those in this paper -- Dan Savage rewrote the rules of the sex advice column, transforming it from thoughtful Joy of Sex style pedantry to a gleeful exploration of libidinous freakiness. Unlike those who educate without judging, Savage scorns, taunts, lectures, and laughs at (or with) his readers. He continues to skewer sensitive topics in his book Skipping Towards Gomorrah: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America, a blithe defense of so-called moral transgressions. He reads at 7 p.m. at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, 601 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is free; call 441-6670 or visit www.bookstore.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
People who love movies about people who love movies
Cinemania is to film lovers as Crumb is to anybody who thinks he had a subpar childhood -- a reminder that your scars and idiosyncrasies are minor. Do you have a favorite theater seat? Need to arrive before the trailers and stay through the credits? If so, do you think you're just particular, even if your proclivities have scared away every moviegoing companion?
For lessons in obsessive behavior, check out the likable losers in this documentary. One's devised a program to sort Manhattan's multitude of repertory schedules, while another calls projectionists to ascertain print quality. Their real problem -- not yours, surely -- is that they seem to get as much comfort from the routine of running from theater to theater as they do from watching the movies. Cinemania opens Friday at 7:15 p.m. at the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight (at Clayton), S.F. Admission is $3-6.50; call 668-3994 or visit www.redvicmoviehouse.com.
-- Michael Fox
Installation art writ large
Folks who grew up in the Bay Area probably have fond memories of visiting the Palace of Fine Arts as kids -- marveling at the enormous, ornate structures, the 15-foot-tall angels, and the pond with real swans.
As adults, though, we find ourselves forking out good money for drugs, bungee jumping, and anything else that might give us back that feeling of wonder. This effort is understandable, but there are other ways. One of them is right at the good old science museum. "A Wing and a Prayer" is a one-night installation/performance by Jeanne C. Finley and John Muse that involves projecting huge video images onto those tall angels, highlighting the simultaneous presence of decay, destruction, and preservation. Vocalist Pamela Z also performs, starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon (at Marina), S.F. Admission is free with museum tickets (free-$12); call 397-5673 or visit www.exploratorium.edu.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Sketches That Scald
A Doonesbury panel that calls war-hungry Americans "jingoistic, self-regarding conquer-monkeys." A sly caricature of President Bush assuring the occupants of U.S.-flag-draped coffins he'll keep looking for weapons of mass destruction. A pen-and-ink drawing that likens hawkish states to the deadly D.C. snipers. What do these comic strips have in common? Their political commentary was deemed too offensive to run in newspapers. "Too Hot to Handle" brings together 60 images from artists whose rhetoric touched a raw nerve -- and revealed our currently touchy zeitgeist. The exhibit opens at 11 a.m. today (and runs through Feb. 1, 2004) at the Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission (at New Montgomery), S.F. Admission is free-$6; call 227-8666 or visit www.cartoonart.org.
-- Joyce Slaton