The above video playlist consists of a dozen excerpts, entire short works, and archival clips, the vast majority culled from the internet with nary a password attached. In the cocktail hour preceding Ivo Dimchev’s performance of Songs from my Shows at CounterPulse, the artist’s first-ever appearance in San Francisco, this extremely small and somewhat arbitrary slice of Bay Area performance history ran on the theater’s upstage wall as a playful, rather haphazard embrace.
A more direct if initially demure embrace followed between Dimchev and his Bay Area audience as the artist, draped in a shimmering sequined shirt and caressed by hovering puffs of mist from an offstage smoke machine, embarked, with an astonishing vocal dexterity and hypnotic intensity, on a set of fifteen or so rapturous, uncanny songs. He was accompanied on electric piano by fellow Bulgarian Dimitar Gorchakov; the show’s simplicity simultaneously belied Dimchev’s ferocious performative imagination and set off strikingly his abounding, exacting talent.
But then, transformation, shapeshifting, a desire for transcendence in even the most unassuming of occasions or contexts — this may be what most resonates between Dimchev’s work and that of performance made in these parts.
Of course, defining Bay Area performance at large is a thankless task, and so is getting anywhere near representative in only twelve clips (let alone comprehensive or fairly proportioned). It should go without saying, but there are many very worthy artists who didn’t make it into the mix. Some seem to be particularly relevant to the occasion, too, but for one reason or another, including a lack of available video that could do justice to their work, don’t appear here. 1
So this is simply a mixtape, with all the constraints, personal preferences, and idiosyncrasies that implies. Moreover, they’ve been selected with an eye to their cinematic qualities (and inquiries) as much as anything else.
Like any good mixtape, the assembled clips end up forming their own little field, as one “track” suggests the next, or harkens back to a preceding one, and willy-nilly ideas and associations start to present themselves as themes or objects in their own right. The works collected echo the many disparate interests, as well as lines of influence and exploration, that make up a complex scene. But somehow they felt right together, too.
Huge thanks to Ernesto Sopprani for production assistance on this project and to the artists who generously consulted with me and/or lent their work.
1. Excerpt from Colonial Peeps (2013) by Xandra Ibarra. Courtesy of the artist.
2. Together (1976) by James Broughton. Found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoGRM_mIzm8.
3. Excerpt from Becoming Boadwee (2007) by Peter Max Lawrence. Courtesy of the artist.
4. Excerpt of Possum Slim (1979) by Ed Mock. Found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlM-5eFJHiM.
5. Excerpt from The Lunar Homosexual Agenda (early 21st century) by Philip Huang. Found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=In8a0PyDjN8.
6. The Cockettes (various images c. 1969-1971) to “Maximum Swing” by Psychic TV. Found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnTLffNuVr4.
7. Excerpt from Free Jazz (2011) by Brontez Purnell Dance Company. Found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bxB_lPBGUk.
8. Excerpt from Crotch (all the Joseph Beuys references in the world cannot heal the pain, confusion, regret, cruelty, betrayal or trauma…) (2008) by Keith Hennessy. Found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4K6ELMaEO4.
9. Museum of Fetishized Identities (c. 2000) by Guillermo Gómez-Peña. Found on YouTube: https://youtu.be/UHWKXdeC6Vg.
10. Lipstique (featuring Fauxnique) (2009) by directed by Kia Simon. Also featuring: Peaches Christ, Kiddie, Vinsantos, Katya Smirnoff-skyy and Hoku Mama. Found on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsvKUR9tz6U.
11. Excerpt from Martha Martha Martha (2011) by Mica Sigourney. Found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pKcLaD5FnE.
12. Excerpt from Savage Monroe Duncan (2012) by Xandra Ibarra & Hentyle Yapp. Courtesy of the artists.
1 The mix included here is a slightly re-edited version of the one that ran at Counterpulse. Besides minor cosmetic fixes, the only significant difference is the addition of the video “Silencefiction – Lipstique (featuring Fauxnique),” which owing to technical constraints had to be left out of the original mix.