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Fun Factory 

New Langton Arts' Bay Area Award Show 2000

Wednesday, Aug 16 2000
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Has a deck of cards ever gotten the best of you, spraying out of your hands when you tried to shuffle? Has a hammer seemed to bite your thumb, a typewriter refused to type, a flashlight gone dead just when it's darkest? More to the point, asks Kathryn Williamson, "Have you ever tried to put on a really tight pair of jeans?"

She has, straining and stretching some ornery denim over her legs at a recent performance at the Lab till she was blue in the face, even soliciting a reluctant audience member to yank the zipper up with a pair of pliers till the zipper broke, at which point she knew the jeans had won.

Williamson is one of three performance artists honored this year in New Langton Arts' Bay Area Award Show 2000, along with Jacob Hartman (performance art) and Robert Linder (video). They are the latest crop of emerging and innovative local performers to be honored (past winners include Harriet Dodge and Keith Hennessy). At the award show this week, all three promise to challenge and entertain audiences with fresh looks at the seemingly obvious and mundane, taking repetition and spontaneity to outrageous lengths, while hearkening back to classic '70s performance art concerns with the body and "situational" art.

While Williamson used strife and chafing to make her point, Linder -- at a recent New Langton Arts show -- didn't even put up a fight. One by one, he brought audience members onto the stage, handing them random objects and assigning them repetitive tasks: "Someone was throwing playing cards into a hat, over and over again," he says. "And I'm wearing goggles and sawing a pedestal in half -- people are holding it -- then I hand it off to them, getting them engaged so I can move on to the next person, who's bouncing a basketball."

By the end, Linder had coaxed almost everyone in the audience onstage to do the work for him. Like a mad parody of a factory, the repetitive motions he'd assigned recalled the labor that went into manufacturing the objects, and the "fun" for which they were built. For the award show, Linder will be presenting new video work starring many of the same objects. "The videos are somewhat different because there's no one involved in them but me and the camera," he says. "But there's a very similar style. They're jittery, accelerated. They have this aggression to them."

Hartman, the other honoree, recently staged a piece called The Best Summer I Ever Had, which included "events" such as organized canoe trips, golf clinics, and paint-ball war games. Both Hartman and Williamson will be presenting new works created for this event.

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David Cook

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