Weekly Rochester Events #389: Where to Get Your Perks Every Day
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Last Wednesday I went to see Jésus de Montréal (Jesus of Montreal) at the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) It was a fascinating double-telling of the Passion of Christ: actors (that is, the actors in the movie were playing characters who were actors) put on a borderline-blasphemous production of the Passion at the local church. The movie itself, however, is set up to mirror the Passion as well, so as the production is going on, the characters are gradually acting out the end of Christ's life in their own life. It was really quite moving.
Friday evening I went to The Rochester Contemporary Art Gallery (137 East Ave.) to see Autumn In Halifax featuring Chris Reeg. I helped out a little setting up the sound, so Autumn in Halifax's Dave Merulla decided he'd use "Jason" as his sound-check word and pretty much as often as he could between songs. He and Chris sounded very good — he was very focused although still relaxed and downright silly between songs: he kept noting how he enjoyed being backed up by Gregory Paul's band, "The Clergy," referring to the Paul Dodd portrait titled U. S. Cardinals on display behind him.
Saturday night, I had another amusing near-misadventure. Ali and her friend were going to Vertex (169 N. Chestnut St.) and I figured I'd catch some bands instead so I had them drop me off at Monty's Krown (875 Monroe Ave.) As it turned out, it wasn't so much of a show as it was a bachelor party — probably for someone I knew but I didn't figure it out, instead talking with Ted Williams a.k.a. Mortimer Shy about his writing and the strange dimension of multifacetedness that the world takes on when you talk about writing about what you are currently doing — thereby making characters of people who are sitting right there.
But the fun began when I left and walked to Lux Lounge (666 South Ave.) I gave Ali a call and headed over. I had a few drinks and talked with some friends — having the rather bizarre experience of walking for 20 minutes nonstop then entering a bar and stopping to talk with a friend of mine as though it was no different from sitting on a barstool and walking to the end of the bar to say hi. By the time I left it was already after 2 and I was wondering where my ride was.
No wait, the fun really began when, in the middle of calling to leave another message, I realized that Ali had left her phone in her car in my driveway, so I had no way to contact them to let them know where I was. I decided to start walking toward home — worst-case would be that I would have had to walk all the way. Figuring they might go back to the Krown to get me, I called there and let them know where I was in case my friends showed up. [I had the Krown's number in my phone because five years ago I thought it would be funny to fuck with the bartenders by prank calling the bar while I was sitting there.] As it turned out, they walked in the door right after I got off the phone, so it was but a few minutes later that the Lone Ranger and Tonto showed up on Silver in the form of a Chevy Prism and got me back home.
Monday afternoon I headed to The Rochester Visual Studies Workshop (31 Prince St.) to see the street performance / interactive art of The Black Factory from Maine. I arrived just as their first performance was ending, so I just had the opportunity to see the artifacts of the performance and the reaction to it.
I talked with this guy Ru from the troupe (three of them are traveling together, setting up shows in advance like this one and doing others as they see fit.) Anyway, he and I were talking about the deep, socially-integrated racism he witnessed when he lived near Russia in Azerbaijan (if I remember correctly.) Noting the turnout, he lamented that he may not be reaching the right people — probably 2 people I'd identify as "black" and 20 more whom I wouldn't, all of whom I suspect are reasonably open-minded and involved with art and activism already. I said I made a tall bike and while I don't think of it as high art (noting the unintentional pun at the time as well) I realize that almost everyone I see reacts in a positive way. So although I'm not making a huge difference reaching everyone in town — the "right" people or the "wrong" people — I'm at least doing a little bit in the right direction. While I was showing him, another person came over and started asking questions about the bike. I'm accustomed to answering common questions, but I really wanted to stay on topic: the value of performance, the purpose of art and activism, and how to affect positive change in racism. The guy was polite but unfortunately tenacious and I lost my conversation with Ru. Darn.
I got back to the central group to find a black woman (whose name is Leigh-Anne: I met her later) criticizing the performance. The Black Factory sells artifacts of imbedded racism in America to fund other projects — it's technically the artwork of the Black Factory CEO, William Pope.L. However, as Leigh-Anne pointed out, what value is it for a bunch of white people to sit around and eat watermelon (which I was glad to eat after biking, completely missing its racist significance) and purchase "mammy" merchandise? She was upset that there was no discussion of "white privilege" — the freedom that white people enjoy to not be watched, harassed, or otherwise prejudicially distrusted. The performers tried to defend their stance by noting that although their skin is white, their ethnic backgrounds are varied. Unfortunately, they missed the point of the debate: it wasn't about race in a technical sense, it was about perception of others based on your skin color.
Desperately grasping for some kind of a solution, Leigh-Anne exhausted thought-path after though-path until she got flustered and had to get out of the fray. Her lesbian friend picked up and said that she sometimes takes advantage of looking like a white male. Relating back to a point about using the word nigger, she said that like the word "dyke" or "queer," it requires the speaker to have some kind of intimate understanding of the group being discussed — that is, being a lesbian and knowing what it's like to get called a dyke in a derogatory way gives you the understanding to be able to use the term affectionately. I was trying to get into the dialog at this point because I saw that the two concepts were related: if this woman sometimes gets mistaken for a white male, how does she prove to a new group of peers that she's allowed to say "dyke?"
Unfortunately it was right at that moment that a reporter for The Democrat and Chronicle stepped in and said they have a photographer and wanted to conduct an interview — the article has already been written and includes a photograph of Leigh-Anne in the heat of the exchange I mentioned. I found it infuriating that a "reporter" would not only fail to "report" — to observe and notate the event — but that they would actually interfere with the value of the event. I mean, that's the whole point: for the Black Factory to do performances and then to interact with the audience to start a dialog. It's a challenging topic to talk about and many people will take any opportunity to change the subject. I suspected that the article would pacify the masses in a "well I'm glad somebody is doing something about that problem" way and let them feel good about being part of the solution by reading it.
I was about to leave when I realized that my bike put me at the level of the window in the van so I stopped and talked with Josh from the troupe. He asked me what I thought of the event and what they were doing. He was accepting items from the public that "were black," as they collect such items and resell them for charities and such. I decided to get down from my bike and I said I'd meet him in the van in a minute: I had a chance to think about his question a bit more. I told him that through the event, I recognized that racism is a big knotted mess of an issue and whenever you pull a string to untangle it, someone screams about it. I was trying to get to a point of talking about the disadvantages of being white. Some guy behind me said, "umm, excuse me: I'm waiting here to make a donation and I can't stay here forever." Obviously the dialog and learning going on paled in importance to the ego boost of making a material donation.
I had to get out of there. Rochester showed its true colors: we do not want to talk about racism. We'll do anything to avoid it. The only thing we'll do is to say how not racist we are by showing up at a performance art piece about it, and talk about how this is the home of Frederick Douglass and such. I was pretty disappointed on the way home.
Oh yeah, there was one other black person who showed up: he was there to read the meter on the Visual Studies Workshop — clearly someone who can't afford to take an afternoon off to lounge around talking about racism.
I went for a walk around the block by my house. A guy walking toward me hurriedly walked into a driveway and started gesturing to me. As I got closer, he was giving me the thumbs-down sign and saying, "I give you [sic] the thumbs down." I asked why and he said, "because I want to," so I said, "okay, knock yourself out," and walked on. Nothing became of the exchange, but I decided I'd definitely go back to the reception at The Rochester Contemporary Art Gallery (137 East Ave.) and if someone interrupted to change the subject from something serious to something simpler, I'd "give them the thumbs down."
So I went back as planned and met some nice people. I got to finish my conversation with Josh. I added that white privilege isn't all positive. For instance, as a white male, I'm assumed to be the goose who lays golden eggs: it's obvious that I've got thousands of dollars in my pockets, so if someone asks for money, it's just me being a jerk if I don't give them a paltry $20. In retrospect, it's not really valuable to go ahead and find common ground with people who don't have white privilege. The real deal is that white privilege is the way everyone should be treated. It's not that whites should concede points and also be searched at random by cops for driving too fast, it's that nobody should have to deal with that for dumb reasons like skin color.
I also got to talk with some local artists and take another look at the good art they've got up for their Hot Night...Cool Art auction this Friday. After the gallery closed, I got to meet Leigh-Anne [the spelling of her name, by the way, I'm taking from the D&C article, so hopefully they did something right] and a few other people and we talked a bit about the show and about regular life stuff.
As art goes, I don't have a way to explain what's going on when William Pope.L — who's black — creates a street-performance to bring up tough issues about race and then sends 3 white kids to perform it. It's radical, funny, daring, and, in a way, cruel. Analysis-wise, what's the art? Is the medium "performance" or is it the interactions between performances? If these people don't crack after 20 performances, are they going to be brilliant debaters of racism?
In the end, I figured that issues that are complicated and hard to articulate form "fragile" conversations in that another, simpler or more concrete topic is easier to talk about and can overshadow a "hard" topic even if it's important. It's really a trick not to go off on tangents and such because the ideas you're dealing with don't have concise words associated with them.
| Last Week |
| Read Guestbook
| Sign Guestbook
| Contact Jayce
Current Rochester Weather
Internet Movie Database
On this day ... June 22
DreamHost Web Hosting
I use DreamHost to run JayceLand.com. Click the ad to buy hosting and I'll get money to run my site. Hooray!
Store at CafePress
Buy some JayceLand junk at sky high prices!
Rochester Music Coalition
Rochester Music Photos
Rochester Goes Out (D&C)
Rochester Punk Rock
Jazz 90.1 Calendar
Delusions of Adequacy
Mystery and Misery
Monroe County, NY Bars
Kids Out and About
Movie links courtesy The Internet Movie Database. Map links courtesy Google Maps — sorry to those people with browsers not supported.
About the title ... Daily Perks coffee shop is located at 389 Gregory St.
This page is Jason Olshefsky's list of things to do in Rochester, NY and the surrounding region (including nearby towns Irondequoit, Webster, Penfield, Pittsford, Victor, Henrietta, Gates, Chili, Greece, and Charlotte, and occasionally other places in Monroe County and the Western New York region.) It is updated every week with daily listings for entertainment, activities, performances, movies, music, bands, comedy, improv, poetry, storytelling, lectures, discussions, debates, theater, plays, and generally fun things to do.
Music events are usually original bands with occasional cover bands and DJ's with musical styles including punk, emo, ska, swing, rock, rock-and-roll, alternative, metal, jazz, blues, noise band, experimental music, folk, acoustic, and "world-beat."
Events listed take place during the day, in the evenings, or as part of the city's nightlife as listed.
Although I'm reluctant to admit it, it is a Rochester blog and I'm essentially blogging about Rochester events.
Oh, and it's spelled JayceLand with no space and a capital L, not Jayce Land, Jaycee Land, Jace Land, Jase Land, Joyce Land, Jayce World, Jayceeland, Jaceland, Jaseland, Joyceland, Jayceworld, Jayceeworld, Jaceworld, Jaseworld, nor Joyceworld. (Now if you misspell it in some search engine, you at least get a shot at finding it.)
It's also not to be confused with
or JakesWorld which is a site of a Rochester animator.
While I'm on the topic of keywords for search engines, this update includes information for Thursday, June 22, 2006 (Thu, Jun 22, 2006, 6/22/2006, or 6/22/06) Friday, June 23, 2006 (Fri, Jun 23, 2006, 6/23/2006, or 6/23/06) Saturday, June 24, 2006 (Sat, Jun 24, 2006, 6/24/2006, or 6/24/06) Sunday, June 25, 2006 (Sun, Jun 25, 2006, 6/25/2006, or 6/25/06) Monday, June 26, 2006 (Mon, Jun 26, 2006, 6/26/2006, or 6/26/06) Tuesday, June 27, 2006 (Tue, Jun 27, 2006, 6/27/2006, or 6/27/06) and Wednesday, June 28, 2006 (Wed, Jun 28, 2006, 6/28/2006, or 6/28/06).
Send a message to the JayceLand webmaster
Copyright © 2006 Jason Olshefsky. All rights reserved.