Weekend Cat Blogging: Studio Cat

I came across this cat at Islais Creek Studios during Open Studios back in October:

The studios are located in a building in a very industrial area that I have featured numerous times on CatSynth – appropriately, many of the artists there do metal sculptures. It was also at this same location last spring that I encountered this “industrial cat”. In contrast to the very skittish stray cat in the spring, this cat was quite domestic and seemed quite healthy and well fed. The nearby food and water dishes attest to that:

I didn’t get a chance to ask anyone about the cat, but it would seem the denizens of Islais Creek Studios have adopted some of their neighborhood cats. I for one am happy to so this, they bring some life into the industrial spaces, and from my own experience cats can be a source of comfort and support during the artistic process.

I have actually seen quite a few cats in recent weeks during my wanderings around the industrial sections of the city – I might ultimately put these and other images together into a full set.


Weekend Cat Blogging #284 will be hosted by Salome at Paulchens FoodBlog?!”.

The Carnival of the Cats will be up this Sunday at One Cat’s Nip.

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Double Vision: Hysteresis

A couple of weekends ago, I attended the premier of Hysteresis, a performance described as “70 minutes of non-stop, innovative dance, sound, lights, and costumes informed by a residency at the Museumsquartier in Vienna, Austria.” It was a production of Double Vision, a group known for performances combining dance, music and technology, and took place at Dance Mission Theater here in San Francisco.


[Photo courtesy of Double Vision. Click to see larger version.]

Hysteresis explored the theme of “being alien or observing that which is alien to oneself.” However, for me the performance did not feel alien at all. Indeed, each of the artists’ approach to alien-ness via dance, music, choreography and lighting ended up creating something that felt familiar for me and comforting in its sparseness. The choreography had a feel of individuals going about their business in a city environment, sometimes moving about in wildly different directions, sometimes very static. The lighting had a very geometric and architectural feel. The dancers’ costumes also had an architectural or industrial quality and consisted of simple tunics stitched together from geometric gray and black swatches of cloth and black leggings.

The music held together these elements with industrial and percussive sounds punctuated by references to popular music idioms, as one might hear passing buildings and cars in between traffic and construction. It started with short percussive notes, mostly struck metal and block. At first the sounds were very sparse but later on they formed into complex polyrhythms, sometimes with more standard percussion instruments like kick drums and snare drums mixed in. The sparse texture was interrupted by other sections of music, such as short samples from big-band music, classical (or classically inspired) string music, and passages that sounded like show tunes or brass bands. It was not clear these were found musical objects or composed from sratch. Towards the climax of there piece, there were more sounds that one might consider more “electronic”, such as noise, synthesizer sweeps and sub-bass tones. However, even as the idioms and timbres changed and the music became quite dense, the sparse rhythmic texture from the beginning of the piece kept going, like machinery of a city that never stops. Or almost never stops – there were a few moments where it cut out entirely, and the silence was quite startling.


[Photo courtesy of Double Vision. Click to see larger version.]

The often sparse texture of the music allowed one to focus more on not only the movements of the dancers, but also the sounds they made in terms of the movement of their bodies and breathing. After one particularly loud section everything fell silent, the dancers moved off stage, and one rectangular patch of light kept flickering. This light seemed to be of particular significance (it was the only one that cast a rectangular shape) and appeared occasionally throughout the piece.

The final section began with what sounded like machine or car sounds and moved towards what sounded like an elegant party with piano music, and the faded to silence. It was a strange ending after the very industrial sound throughout the rest of the piece, but it provided an interesting contrast.

Choreography for the piece was by Pauline Jennings, music by Sean Clute, lighting design by Ben Coolik, and costume design by Andrea Campbell.

Wordless Wednesday: Wires and angles

In the shadow of the bridge

When nothing else is happening on a quiet weekend afternoon, I will often go for a walk through our neighborhood, South of Market (SOMA) and South Beach. Our neighborhood is in many ways more like New York than the rest of San Francisco, with its old industrial buildings, dilapidated piers on the waterfront, and new condo developments. But perhaps that adds to the sense of familiarity, and of “home”, amidst the concrete.

Our walk usually begins on Townsend Street, heading east towards the waterfront. This area is dominated by AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. But while crowds head towards the stadium in the summer, we often head in the opposite direction. There is a little park at the end of Townsend along the Embarcadero, where I often see older Eastern European folks. Across the park is the cul-de-sac that marks the end of Delancy Street, a name reminiscent of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Here I often stop at a small cafe – it has a large garden that can be enjoyed on its own or for the glimpses of the bay it affords.

There are some books I only seem to read when I’m out at places like this, rather than at home. One such book is The Cat: A Tale of Feminine Redemption. I will stop and read a chapter while enjoying a coffee and the views. Though sometimes I opt for one of our free weekly papers instead. I like the idea of being contrary, reading esoteric books while a major sporting event is going on nearby. But in a large, cosmopolitan city, there are always people doing their own thing. One is never really alone.

Beyond the cafe is the southern portion of the Embarcadero, which contains glimpses of a seedy and crumbling past while being revitalized with the stadium and frenzied development.

Heading south along the Embarcadero, one approaches the Bay Bridge. Commercial buildings, as well as residential complexes, have sprung up in its shadow. I enjoy seeing these buildings fit comfortably beneath the bridge:

Some of them have appear older, more reminiscent of the 1970s or even earlier, while huge new high rises are going up all around them.

I then often turn back inward from the waterfront on Bryant Street. This is generally a wide street that crosses SOMA and the Mission District, but here it is a narrow alley between the steep approaches to the Bay Bridge and a residential block.

Again, the feeling is more of a residential section of New York, perhaps Riverdale in the Bronx, or the Upper West Side. Of course, the fact that this block interests Delancy Street adds to this impression.

Longtime residents and admirers of San Francisco often look down upon this area, but I find it a comforting place to walk and explore. Certainly, there is familiarity coming from New York, which has always defined “city” for me. And perhaps the sense that I am finally living the city life that I should have done long ago – I am finally home.

The narrow streets and tall buildings abut the hill and the approach to the bridge, with a complex array of staircases and ramps. I often find an excuse to climb at least one, such as this that connects the lower alley section of Bryant Street to the main section that begins on top of the hill.

At the top, one is amazingly close to the freeway and byzantine ramps that feed onto the bridge:

Heading back down the hill towards the west, one can take a detour through South Park, which has nothing to do with the popular cartoon. Instead, it is a small park surrounded by two-story residences that feels more like a neighborhood in Brooklyn. Although it is not far from the this section of freeway we featured a few weeks ago, such things seem invisible and far away. But step outside this oasis, and one is back in the “concrete jungle” and the streets that lead home.



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