APAture 2015 Visual Arts Showcase

Kearny Street Workshop’s APAture 2015: Future Tense is underway. This year’s festival invited 65 emerging artists to “imagine what’s possible for the future, with particular interest in how social change might be exhibited in their work.” As in past years, the opening night featured the visual arts showcase with performances and food.

APAture 2015 opening

Here we see part of the wall-sized piece by featured artist Kimberley Acebo Arteche. Traditional clothing patterns are reimagined on a larger-life-scale with pixelated digital prints on cloth. The work brings together traditional practices and a bit of personal nostalgia with a modern ubiquitous technology for images.

Another large piece that makes use of technologies and mixed media was Grace Kim’s room-sized installation Breathing Wall IV, which combined LED lights, sound, tape and other media into a visually captivating immersive space of colors, light and lines. You can experience a bit of it in this short video, though it truly must be seen in person.

Grace Kim. Breathing Wall IV. Mixed media and electronics. #APAture #apature2015

A video posted by CatSynth / Amanda C (@catsynth) on

We at CatSynth are always on the lookout for cats in art exhibitions, and we weren’t disappointed. Alan Khum’s art frequently features cats – I had just seen many of his feline works at a completely separate show for First Thursday the night before – and here he combines house cats together with one of their larger wild cousins.

Alan Khum

I particularly like the expressiveness of the cats.

Another playful piece was Austin Boe’s mirrored pieces exploring queer identity. This one featured a mirrored surface and the French phrase je vous aimas (I like you).

Austin Boe

We can see Grace Kim’s piece in the background, along with a video piece by Tianxing Wan called Invisible Man, juxtaposing a ghostly figure simultaneously in San Francisco’s bustling Union Square and in a Chinese village.

Another challenging work was Nicholas Oh’s ceramic piece. A sideways glance suggests a simple ceramic tea set with traditional materials and configuration, but on closer inspection one realizes that the figures on the set represent the Japanese Americans held at internment camps during World War II. Indeed, Oh uses his medium of ceramics to lay bare images of racism.

Nicholas Oh

Jeremy Villaluz’s photograph series Midnights was, by contrast, quite comforting, despite the dark and moody nature of the images. Here we see the dark but nonetheless alive corners of urban life.

Jeremy Villaluz

There is a starkness to these images and lots of space, but also a familiarity with these edges of the urban landscape, and perhaps a bit of sadness (on my part) that such places are fading.

In additional to the visual art, there were presentations and performances. Kimberley Arteche had a chance to speak briefly about her work and her participation in this year’s festival standing in front of her piece.

Kimberley Arteche

Caroline Calderon presented poetry and music around issues of community, identity, and social justice.

Caroline Calderon

Her spoken-word and musical tributes to her complex relationship with the city of San Francisco rang pretty true for me as well, as I continue to feel in love with this city while simultaneous feeling a bit more alienated at times.

Joseph Nontanovan presented poetry and food and words about food, in particular about his Lao heritage and the characteristic ingredients of Lao cuisine. He treated us to words as well as the aromas and a chance to sample a traditional dish made from fermented sausage, vegetables, rice, and of course cilantro. It was delicious.

Joseph Nontanovan's culinary offering

It often seems that food, words and images intersect at Kearny Street Workshop events, a combination which is welcome and also reflects to increasing shift of programs back to the organizations roots in combining arts with identity and community activism. I look forward to more of this year’s APAture festival over the coming weeks. You can see a full schedule of events at the official website.

2012 Outsound Music Summit Benefit Dinner, June 11

The 2012 Outsound Music Summit begins on July 15, less than two months away. And thus is it time for our annual Outsound Benefit Dinner. It looks to be a great evening of food and music, and this year it will be in the “CatSynth HQ neighborhood” of San Francisco, otherwise known as South of Market.

Once again, we will be treated to a culinary experience from chef Miles Ake.

The menu is still to-be-announced. And our music will be provided experimental electronic musician Thomas Dimuzio!

San Francisco-based Dimuzio is one of those unsung artistic figures whose influence and abilities have substantially outstripped his visibility. Composer, multi-instrumentalist, sound designer, experimental electronic musician, collaborator and mastering engineer – Dimuzio has been busy doing his thing(s) since the late 1980’s, but is still only known to a small circle of electronic music enthusiasts. A true sonic alchemist who can seemingly create music events out of almost anything, Dimuzio’s listed sound sources on his various releases include everything from “modified 10 speed bicycle” and “resonating water pipe” to short-wave radios, field recordings, loops, samplers and even normal instruments such as clarinet and trumpet. And while his wide range of musical interests make it impossible to pin a label on him, Dimuzio clearly has an insider’s knowledge of older experimental musical forms such as musique concrete and electroacoustic, as well as more current dark ambient, industrial, noise and post-techno styles.

We know that many who read this site love and support new music. Those in the Bay Area who would like to attend this benefit event can register here. If the benefit dinner is not an option, Outsound of course welcomes donations of any size to help make the Summit a success.

Kearny Street Workshop and SOMArts: A Sensory Feast

Art in general, and the art reviewed here at CatSynth in particular is very focused on sound and sight. “A Sensory Feast”, an exhibition co-presented by our friends at Kearny Street Workshop and SOMArts Cultural Center, expands into other senses, including touch, smell and taste. Each piece in the show touches in one way or another on the subject of food, sometimes directly with scents and textures, sometimes indirectly through memories, metaphors and cultural contexts.

[Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik, MCDXCII, chocolate wrappers, sugar, curry powder, and acquired objects, 2010.  Press image courtesy of Kearny Street Workshop.]

Aroma along with taste and sight featured prominently in Sita Kuratomi Bhuamik’s site-specific installation MCDXCII (1492). The central material of the installation, curry powder, can be very powerful – cooking with it will fill a room with its scent, touching it leaves a lingering yellow stain. Here the artist has blanketed surfaces with both intricate floral patterns on the ground and abstract geometric textures on the wall. In the middle is a bench covered in a combination of gold wrappers and curry. The installation also referenced one of the most powerful and captivating food substances of all: chocolate.

Curry also featured prominently in a sound piece by Brandon Bigelow. Sound is a bit more detached from food than the other senses, but is nonetheless interesting to hear “sound of a curry dinner” decomposed electronically. As a musician, I tend to get more into the structure of the sounds themselves rather than the source – I would not have necessarily placed the sounds in the context of food without the associated description – I mostly thought of it as an escape from the other senses during the opening.

[Yosh Han, installation view with perfume bottles.]

Yosh Han’s fragrance bar was all about scent. Guests were invited to sample and choose on of her scents to carry on a cardboard mustache. It was clear that the scents evoke very strong identifications, some seemed more “right” than others, but there was still room for surprise. My initial assumption is that I would find the strongest resonance with the “Intellectual”, which did evoke cooler colors and flavors (rosemary was one of several components); but upon trying the “Bon Vivant” I immediately knew it was right. The scent had layers of spice and tomato, in other words rather fiery. And while I don’t really associate myself with jeux de vie, it did fit with my being a “pitta” in Ayurvedic terms. Maybe the sense of smell tells us things we otherwise overlook or hide.

Amy M. Ho’s Collection of Food Costumes focused on the tactile sense through fabric. It was quite popular, with people takings turns embodying a pineapple or a slice of pizza (just don’t ever put the two together, as pineapple pizza is an abomination). In addition to the human costumes, she did have at least one intended for cats.

[Amy Ho, Food Costume for a cat.]

I thought this durian for cats was very cute, though I doubt I could convince Luna to wear it.

A cat also featured prominently in Catcakes, one of several works by Kira Greene.

[Kira Greene, Catcakes, 2010.  Image courtesy of the artist.]

The piece is an interesting play on space and dimension. The cat, fish and surrounding elements are very flat and reminiscent of Asian paper cutouts. The plate of three cupcakes, however, is very three dimensional, and realistic enough to evoke the sugary texture and aroma. Nonetheless, I did see the cat first, texturally camouflaged but very prominent with its blue color.

In 2002 Diet as a Periodic Table, Arthur Huang recorded and classified all the food he ate in 2002 into a table with three-letter abbreviations and numerical and spacial classifications reminiscent of the chart we know and love from science classes. There different classifications for diffent foods, such as fruits, vegetables, meats, condiments, etc. I tried to follow the color and number pattens and had fun with some of the symbols: “Pzz” for pizza, “Ccc” for chocolate chip cookies, and “Cos” for a cosmopolitan among many others. The piece fed into my interest (no pun intended) in statistics and information as artistic material.

Rounding out the exhibition were Jean Chen’s Food Coloring Photographs and live tattoo applications during the opening; a rather pornographic video featuring fruit by JD Beltran, Vita and Bryan Hewitt and Emannuelle Namont-Kouznetsov; and a presentation from the National Bitter Melon Council including videos, small cultures a manual “Better Living through Bitter Melon”. I know this vegetable by the name “bitter gourd” as a very strong Indian side-dish to be enjoyed in small doses.

The exhibition will remain open through Thursday, February 24 with an artist talk and closing reception that evening.

Weekend Cat Blogging: 5th Anniversaries

This past Thursday we celebrated Luna’s adoption anniversary (aka “Gotcha Day”).  For Weekend Cat Blogging we present some photos from our celebration that evening.

Of course, there was yummy food.  In this case, Sardines, inspired in part by a (human) recipe I had heard on the radio few days earlier and still want to try out.  Luna devoured her feline fish treats with aplomb:

There were some cards from friends.  And of course, new toys.  I was particularly fond of this toy, which seemed apropos of this year:

Luna was not quite as interested (though I did see her kick it around briefly):

On the other hand, she took right away to this black mouse toy and spent quite a bit of time kicking it around, even getting it stuck on a shelf and pawing diligently to get it out.

And after a spell of vigorous play, it was time to relax:

Not only is this Luna’s fifth adoption anniversary, but it is also the 5th Anniversary of Weekend Cat Blogging. It was started by group of primarily food bloggers who set aside a post on the weekend for their cats. We found it back in 2006 as I was first starting this site. This special edition is being hosted by LB and breadchick at The Sour Dough.

The Carnival of the Cats will be up this Sunday at Nikita’s Meowings of an Opinionated Pussycat. And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Weekend in Shanghai (updated)

This weekend included a 30-hour but still too brief visit to Shanghai. Shanghai is of course a massive city, and an increasingly vertical one, and probably reminds me more of New York than most cities I visit.

This photo captures both the old and new of the city. In the background is the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower. In the front, we see a high-rise building on side, and one of the tenement buildings that line many streets, with five or more stories of clothes (and the occasional cooked duck) hanging to dry.

It was taken while walking east from a downtown neighborhood towards The Bund, the riverfront in an older part of the city One can look across the river and see the new Pudong district that is most visually associated with Shanghai and features it’s tallest, newest buildings.

Visibility was relatively poor on both days, and I did not cross to the other side of the river to see the view of the Bund.

Food was a major part of day (as it has been throughout my stay in China), and Saturday featured both a snack of “soup buns” at small hole-in-the-wall shop where the upper level was barely tall enough to stand in, and an extraordinary Japanese-fusion meal at which my friends and I over-indulged for a couple of hours. After that, we headed to a local jazz club called the Cotton Club (I wonder where they got that name from?), where we heard what I would describe as a “typical jazz-club combo” that wouldn’t be very memorable except of course that it was at a jazz club in China.

The night concluded with brief stops at a few of the dance clubs. One featured two sections, an upstairs with a mixed-crowd of foreigners and locals, and a downstairs that was almost exclusively local. The latter definitely had better music (deep synth trance and beats). Of course, one of the main attractions of the nightlife (which continues well beyond the hour when almost every city in the U.S. closes down) is the people watching. Without dwelling upon it too much in this article, Shanghai did afford great opportunities for people watching, starting with our walk along the extremely crowded Nanjing Road and concluding as we departed the last club well into the morning.

I did have an opportunity to explore more on my own Sunday. I began in some of the quieter neighborhoods near where I was staying, and experienced a more local view of the city.
A walk through Zhongshan Park was in some was a more aural experience than visual. The park was already relatively crowded, with numerous groups practicing traditional Chinese exercises, dance lessons, and band practicing for the upcoming New Years celebrations:

The “music” of the park would change every few meter, as one moved from the metallic percussion of the band to a group dancing to disco from the 1970s. A few feet later, the disco and 1950s pop is overtaken by slower more meditative traditional Chinese music that serves as the background for exercises. Finally, a small portable player of low quality provides something akin to circuit bending.

Regular readers of this site know that I am fond of urban side streets and alleys, so I spent a few minutes in the narrower side streets of the neigbhorhood:

This alley reminded me of a photo I took not far from home in San Francisco last summer.

Along Ding Xi Road, I met the proprietor of a small boutique clothing store and her cat. Look for them to be featured in the next “Weekend Cat Blogging.”

After lunch together with friends again (one really cannot dine alone here), I headed back downtown via the Metro. I pride myself on being able to get around a city when I have a good subway system, a map and a general sense of direction. I was able make my way back to the Bund and Nanjing Road to see them during the daytime. I think the one word description of this area would be “crowded.” And I mean crowded on a level one rarely would see even in New York, and with far more dangerous street crossings. Plus, unlike my earlier walks, people expect foreigners in this district and are constantly on the look for sales opportunities. It is relatively easy to simply ignore them, but the crowds and constant interaction did become a little draining at times. It’s something to consider, I am a “city person” and I don’t mind crowds, but I do need breaks.

At Peoples Square, I did brave one last round of crowds to arrive at the Shanghai Art Museum. Even though it was only a block from one of the busiest open spaces and transit hubs in the city, the courtyard was a remarkable oasis of calm. After taking a moment to relax, I went inside to see the current exhibition, a retrospective of Wu Guanzhong. His work, which includes both oil painting and ink painting, and often focuses on Chinese scenes and themes. Many of paintings are of clearly of landscapes, animals and architecture of China, with an impressionist quality but also more minimal. However, many of later works were more abstract, although with Chinese themes. This was especially true of his ink paintings, some of which were quite large in size and reminded me of the “Autumn Rhythm” series of Jackson Pollock. One of the abstract in paintings called Entanglement relates back to the Humble Administrator’s Garden in Suzhou, which I had the opportunity to visit before heading into Shanghai and will be the subject of the next article…

Blog about dinner

Well, we at CatSynth took Jacksin’s comment not to blog about lunch as a bit of a dare, so here is a brief post about last night’s dinner 🙂

Pictured above are (from clockwise left), a local root vegetable, jellyfish, and smoked fish. Dinner every night has included a wide variety of dishes, and this was only the first round. We also had a wonderful local small fish cooked in a stew – it had a very rich and buttery texture, and a mild, sweet flavor, one of the best fish I have had in a while. Additionally, there was another fried fish and an interesting pork soup. This particular meal featured local food from the Suzhou and Shanghai area. Previous nights focused on other regions, including famously spicy Szuchuan Cuisine.