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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Miranda July: A Beginner's Guide to the Artist, Writer, Filmmaker, and The Future

Posted By on Tue, Jul 26, 2011 at 11:45 AM

click to enlarge miranda_july_the_future_poster.jpg

This Thursday at SFMOMA, Miranda July will introduce her second feature-length film, The Future, a highly anticipated "antiromance" about a couple contemplating cat adoption and all its looming responsibility. This seemingly simple decision comes to seem terrifying, inspiring them to fixate on (and seek out) the lives they've always wanted but not yet achieved. It even encourages transgressions.

Full of quirky devices, such as voiceover from the soon-to-be-adopted cat, conversations with the moon, and one character's ability to freeze time, The Future heightens reality as only Miranda July can -- with that humanity that distinguishes the whole of her output.

July does what she does without force but with conviction. Her avant-garde experimentation and tendency for whimsy may come off as frivolous, twee, or self-indulgent to some critics. (How is it that when artists go on being artists, we balk when they appear to have indulged themselves?)For the haters and lovers alike, this cheat sheet on Miranda July (which is in no-way an exhaustive list), and her unrelentingly heartfelt works -- this is for you.

Performance

Most people became familiar with July after the Sundance breakout Me and You and Everyone We Know, the piece that identified her as a filmmaker over any of her other pursuits. July is also an accomplished fiction writer, musician, and an artist of the installation, multimedia, audio, and performing varieties. The Future revives one of her performance pieces, Things We Don't Understand and Definitely Aren't Going to Talk About, from 2006 and 2007.

With Things We Don't Understand, July incorporated live and taped video segments and relied on audience participation for the leads and dialogue. Two people were chosen from the audience to play Fiona and Donnie, the couple at the center of the story, while the rest of the audience read lines projected onscreen. Couples were to kiss, cry, or burrow into each other's chests as the audience and July narrated the scenes. Bringing people together as participants invites us to have a richer, deeper, more authentic experience of her work.

The connections between the characters, between the artist and her audience, between the audience and the art, and between each other seem to be what it's all about. After all, if we're not going to connect with one another, what's the point of any of this?

July's first full-length performance work was Love Diamond. The first act showed us the relationship between a girl and her mother, who is either human or pretending to be. The second tells the story of a woman in flight, navigating an entity, a planet, or a hopelessly sad man. Audience members are urged to speak up about what the Love Diamond is, again being asked to become a part of the show and to testify to our more human selves.

Next: July's video work and short stories

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Jolene Torr

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