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Thursday, June 28, 2012

This Is What I Want: Queer Performance Festival Highlights

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 7:30 AM

Rafael Esparza performs at SOMArts. - KATE CONGER
  • Kate Conger
  • Rafael Esparza performs at SOMArts.
Queer performance hub SOMArts kicked off its annual This Is What I Want festival Tuesday night, with installations and exhibitionistic rituals on the tandem themes of desire and economy. The performances, which run through Friday and are followed by a symposium on Saturday, are abrupt, awkward gems from local artists, timed to follow the celebration of Pride with a more serious examination of what it's like to be queer today. Performances included dancer Taisha Paggett, occasional drag performer Mica Sigourney, L.A.-based artist Rafael Esparza, and techie actor Sara Kraft. A second bill (Mabel Negrete, Dia Dear, Nick+James, and DavEnd) will perform on Thursday and Friday.

Artistic director Tessa Wills explains the theme: "I recently learned that economic fetishism existed as a term before sexual fetishism. Is there a way, then, that queer desire may just crook our paths to consumption enough in relationship to dominant cultural models, especially as enforced by advertising, that queers have a more complicated relationship to capitalism?" Her curation of This Is What I Want is her answer.

All the performances toy with the idea of economy, but none hit closer to the mark last night than Paggett and Sigourney's works. Paggett is economical in her movements, and her performance queers the form of dance more than it addresses queer sexuality. Standing nearly still on a soapbox, her tiny movements -- blinking, bobbing her head -- become weighted with unusual importance. With a soft French accordion tune playing in the background, Paggett seems like a muted Edith Piaf, always on the verge of opening her mouth. Wills explains, "The 'product' in performance is so tenuous." We expect Paggett to do more, give more, but these expectations (and our discomfort when they're not met) become part of the performance.

Dia Dear - GEOF TEAGUE
  • Geof Teague
  • Dia Dear

Sigourney thrust desire and economy most bluntly together in his performance, All This Love, in which he offered audience members money to sleep with him. In order to allow his potential prostitutes to make an informed decision, he and others read from surveys he had conducted with past lovers. Was Sigourney a good kisser? A respectful partner? $10? $12? The audience tittered nervously, but several accepted the cash, and signed the requisite contract so that Sigourney could arrange their "date." Whether or not Sigourney will follow through is unclear.

The festival ends on Saturday with a slow sex symposium (riffing off the slow food movement), hosted by renowned sexologist Carol Queen at the Center for Sex and Culture, as well as a participatory performance experience, titled This Is What YOU Want. A cast of 23 sex workers and artists will guide audience members through interactive spaces, giving them an opportunity to create their own performance art.

This Is What I Want continues through June 30 at SOMArts and the Center for Sex and Culture. For more information on the festival, click here. For tickets, click here.

Follow us on Twitter @ExhibtionistSF, follow Kate Conger @kateconger, and like us on Facebook.

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About The Author

Kate Conger

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Kate Conger has written for SF Weekly since 2011.

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