Performance & Closing Reception for glendaleOUT Exhibition
Ace/121 Gallery hosts the closing night reception for the glendaleOUTexhibition and a special performance of “Qreatures: The (w)Hole Story”, created by multimedia performing artist Jason Jenn. Described as a queer vaudeville show taking inspirations from Julie Taymor, John Waters, and Mister Rogers, the hour-long gallery presentation features the crowd-pleasing barbershop quartet, The Boyfriend, and a variety of other whimsical performers.
glendaleOUT is a multi-venue LGBTQIA-based event in collaboration with local chapters of Gay Straight Alliance in the Glendale Unified School District. Last year Glendale celebrated its first ever Pride, and this year glendaleOUT is about continuing the queer narrative in Glendale with more voices, more generations, and a broader community reach. It utilizes the process of “coming out” as a means of claiming public space as ourselves in Glendale.
Qreatures, the (w)Hole Story follows the adventures of Lex, a non-binary student running away from bullies and taking refuge in what turns out to be a magical hole inside a tree. Alice followed the White Rabbit down a hole into Wonderland, Lex encounters an array of Qreatures, queer spirits of the animal kingdom that have gathered together to address the global threat posed by humans and climate change. It’s a rather humorous exploration of a very present and dire situation that ends on an uplifting note about needing to find common ground and build community.
Jesters and Fools can reveal harsh truths in a manner that we can process.
I experienced a masterpiece of art this week, and I have seen enough phenomenal art in my days to recognize one when I see it and can call it out when so moved. The painting “GRID” by David Jester continues to haunt me with the series of intense and profound emotions it conjures. The painting’s scale and composition compels the viewer in with its luminous beauty that envelops a completely devastating and heartbreaking message upon further contemplation. I sat in its glow enraptured as if staring at the Sistine Chapel ceiling, as its dream-like images stirred up so many profound and complicated feelings that have been culminating inside me during the past several months.
It depicts thirteen men submerged in a pool, as if floating simultaneously in water and in the heavens. Indeed, the heavens, for the figures are swimming and drowning, serving as a powerful metaphor for those who died in the AIDS crisis. Meanwhile, above the surface of the water, fancy dressed viewers either watch idly by doing nothing or looking away, ignoring the problem.
David has transmuted an emotional tsunami into a work of art with so much beauty that one can look into the dark void and contemplate its horrors without running away. It’s a powerful and important work (even in the unfinished form that this poor, quick cell phone image shows), and one that belongs to everyone. In fact, David explained the piece is not for sale, but is intended in the future to be given to an AIDS organization that can display it for all. It is, in every sense of the word, a gift. You may, as I greatly encourage you to do so if capable, acquire other works at http://www.davidmjester.com/.
I have been reminded a lot lately that while my generation and I did not experience the full trauma and devastation of losing so many friends, colleagues, and loved ones that many of my older friends had during the AIDS epidemic, that we experience the loss through the lives and stories of our friends and mentors who lived through it and survived with scars, and we experience the loss of never having met some wonderful and amazing people that we would call friends were they alive today. There are missing people in our lives and most of us are unaware of the full impact.
Watching the AIDS crisis unfold on television and witnessing the complacent inaction and holier than thou attitude of the political leadership kept me in the closet as a child, scared to death of expressing my true self. While I am grateful that has changed and I am so very out these days, we as a society and culture have yet to learn the lessons of that era and evolve. The toxic cocktail of religion and politics continues to fight for its right to judge others and doing so much wrong, while professing it possesses righteousness.
Today, a whole new generation of fat cats, on-lookers, and do-nothings exist as one after another crisis of humanity and compassion takes place at our borders and within our very neighborhoods, on the streets and in our cupboards, as the unseen ripple effects of our economic choices ravages the environment. When any group of people are dehumanized, we all lose our humanity. When any animals and plants are seen as Other and we separate ourselves from them, we alienate our own souls. People and animals are “drowning” at an alarming rate across the world – and if we don’t take some serious action, we’re all in that pool together, not just one by one or two by two, but like lemmings sliding off en masse.
I still hold on to a sense of hope to get through this current calamity, but I know that hope can be quite the opiate, keeping folks inactive when we should be fighting and doing something to make a difference. We HOPE someone else will deal with these complicated issues that are way beyond our abilities. Some savior figure will come again to save the day or some scientist will deliver a break through and fix the problem. A fairy godmother might as well wave her magic wand and make it better. But we are losing things every moment that we can never get back.
We cannot give into despair though, as that is an equally paralyzing force. Recently, I performed a new piece “Qreatures: The (w)Hole Story” for the closing reception the glendaleOUT exhibition. I prefaced the piece explaining to audiences that my inner child was frightened by everything going on in the world today, and the performance addressed the mass extinction of animals that is taking place on this planet due to human overpopulation and our vast consumerism. But I dealt with the issues as if Mister Rogers were guiding the process.
In the end, I used the tried and true metaphor of how caterpillars turn into butterflies via the process of imaginal cells, and aptly named natural phenomena. I ended the story by blowing bubbles and asking audience members to keep blowing more as I passed around bubble makers. Bit by bit, bubbles popped, but more appeared to take their place – floating to provide a bit of whimsey.
The imaginal cells appear in the body of the mass consuming caterpillar and are systematically wiped out by the caterpillar white blood cell defense mechanism. But eventually after a long struggle, the imaginal cells fight back, join with other imaginal cells, and finally overwhelm and take over. The caterpillar stops its mass consuming ways and eventually inside its cozy little chrysalis, is broken down into goo, before emerging anew as a butterfly. We can only “hope” that our greedy, hungry capitalistic caterpillar society can be reformed as well – but it will take a massive amount of imaginal cells and a lot of action to overturn our current plight.
“Of all the loud and glamorous events taking place at Los Angeles Pride, the queer poetry pop-up was a quiet gem that successfully delivered the message of love with no boundaries, for one’s self and for all.” – Author Megan De Lara
I am grateful for the opportunity to research and share a wide range of LGBTQ love poetry from history for The City of West Hollywood One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival. I truly enjoyed getting to know more about some of our cultural treasures and gain a window into their life and times by examining their love poetry in this manner.
Reciting them for the public on the street during the month of Pride definitely proved a challenge at times, but had some really lovely moments and I look forward to more opportunities. So glad that this article manifested as a result. It’s incredible be in a city that cherishes the arts like West Hollywood and live in a era when we can be presenting LGBTQ love poetry dressed provocatively out in the streets. The reality is such an event is mighty rare – and still is something that can’t happen in most places. I am very aware of the fragile beauty of this kind of experience. It’s like bringing the poets back to life for a moment, and I am honored to be able to do it.
“Even when the sun and noise from the crown proved to be an obstacle, Jenn continued his readings, emphasizing important phrases vocally and physically. It was much more than a mere “see it and read it” reciting, and offered bits of history to listeners as well. ” – author Megan De Lara
Enjoy this video trailer featuring the poem by recently deceased author Mary Oliver, a best-selling and award winning lesbian poet. I’ll be reading a few poems by her and over two dozen more authors from throughout LGBTQ history.
Opening May 22 for Harvey Milk Day at the West Hollywood City Council Chambers and with the pop-up occurring several more times as part of The City of West Hollywood One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival theme “Love is Love” and ending on Sunday, June 30.
LET LOVE FLOURISH: Queer Poetry Pop-up is a spoken word celebration of historic LGTBQ poets and their affectionately inclined works of literature. Performance artist Jason Jenn brings those passionate words to spirited life for the public to enjoy in the streets of West Hollywood during the Opening and Closing events, and in special appearances throughout the 40-day One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival. The presentations propose a pleasure-filled experience for audiences to enjoy, employing elaborately styled costumes and various theatrical techniques, while illuminating audiences about the authors’ lives and their historical conditions.
From Sappho to Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman to Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin to James Broughton, queer love has emerged in poetic writing in various ways, from veiled allusions during oppressive eras to all-out profusions of sensuous splendor in contemporary times. Through all of humanity’s twists and turns, artists have found ways to express their heart and soul in a timeless fashion – their talent now receives an attentive tribute by a fellow scribe and admirer.
Created and performed by Jason Jenn Art direction by Vojislav Radovanovic Featuring guest performers at performances on May 22 and June 30
May 22 at June 30 performances will take place outside West Hollywood City Council Chambers at 625 North San Vicente Boulevard , West Hollywood, CA 90069. Other performances will pop-up – for more details and information, follow the facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/jasonjennartist/
This performance is presented with the support of the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division as part of the City’s One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival (May 22 – June 30). More info at www.weho.org/pride or @wehoarts.
I am feeling such a post-performance euphoria from the experience presenting “Temptations in Fairyland” at MOAH: CEDAR, part of Lancaster’s Museum of Art & History. I feel so blessed for the opportunity to create a performance art piece based on an exhibition as rich with inspirational material as Leonard Greco’s “Fairyland” in an institution with a curatorial approach I have come to greatly admire. I’m writing a blog post, but I’m really doing an interpretive dance of joy for so many reasons – only a fraction of I will share with you now.
Lancaster, CA has a museum you say? Why, yes, the birthplace of Judy Garland and the Antelope Valley region known for the poppy preserve and aviation industry has a fantastic series of interconnected museums known collectively as MOAH. In the year which I have known of it, I have been blown away by the various exhibitions. It is a refreshing oasis of art in the desert at the farthest northern reaches of Los Angeles County. I cannot rave enough about the museum, which has always made the long distance drive worth it. MOAH really cultivates connections with the cream of the crop of Los Angeles’ emerging artists, giving them opportunities to be participate in and create incredible exhibitions. From what I have experienced, the dynamic team of curators, lead by Andi Campognone and Robert Benitez, have done a remarkable job of selecting artists whose work they admire and have figured out how to get the best possible exhibitions out of them.
The contemporary art world is far too full of exhibitions and curators that program works which almost purposely aim to alienate audiences – making “common” people feel so removed from being able to connect with the work, and setting up experiences which leave one scratching their head and feeling talked down to. MOAH is a breath of fresh air that presents delightful work of art they like and believe others will too. It can be that simple.
I have much more to say about the experience, but in the meantime…here are some pictures to speak for me!
It was a great honor to present the performance “Temptations in Fairyland” on March 16 in celebration of Leonard Greco’s exhibition “Fairyland” at Lancaster’s Museum of Art and History MOAH:CEDAR gallery. I was asked to create a short performance art piece taking inspiration from 19th Century Author, Gustave Flaubert’s novel “The Temptation of Saint Anthony”, a rather hallucinatory journey one night as the devil attempts to lure the desert hermit, Saint Anthony the Great of Egypt, away from his devotion to God. It was certainly a daunting task to undertake, but Leonard Greco’s work was so wild and fun, I could not resist (the temptation)!
Fortunately for me, an idea of how to construct a performance came to me in the midst of reading the novel, allowing me to merge both Greco and Flaubert’s work with that of my own unique experience and relate it to the rather unusual history of performance art. While I was glad that audience seemed so moved by the performance, I was exuberant that Leonard Greco was happy about it. Not only did he like it, but he wrote a lovely article about it in his blog, and he captured my essence as well. I have never heard of a Jongleur de Dieu before, but I have always seen myself as following the path of a Fool in service of a the greater mystery and divine powers of life.
“Temptations in Fairyland , Jason Jenn’s site specific performance piece, which delighted not one but two separate audiences last Saturday at MOAH/Cedar in Lancaster CA, immediately called to my my mind the Jongleur de Dieu, the prankster tradition of tumbling and juggling in order to best serve the Lord. Harking back to the early Church with Symeon the Holy Fool and his manic, mad pranks in which he cleverly brought the Gospel to a feckless and indifferent world, this enthusiastic tradition continues still. In relatively contemporary times, the late theologian priest Henri Nouwen has been described by his biographer Professor Michael W.Higgins as such. In referencing the trapeze artists The Flying Rodleighs and their impact upon the priest, Nouwen acknowledges his own place as a Holy Fool:
…the Flying Rodleighs allowed him to see his life as that of a Jongleur de Dieu, a Tumbler or Juggler for God. Although a medieval conceit-linked with courtly love tradition and the troubadours- the jongleur had a special, subversive and beatific function to perform.”
Genius Born of Anguish:The Life Legacy of Henri Nouwen, Michael Higgins
“Special, subversive and beatific” was indeed the “function” of Jason’s astonishing performance last weekend. Set in the middle of my Fairyland, I hadn’t known what to expect, I can say I hadn’t expected such a completely immersive experience-you simply have no choice but to jump onto Jason’s wild speeding train of boundless energy . I am a full throttle artist, I frankly do not know how to make art without giving my all; Jason is a brother, a comrade in this. His performance so complete, so fully committed to embodying Flaubert’s Temptation of St. Anthony, my own Fairyland and his own very personal understanding of performance art and its place in understanding how best to be a human. We as enlightened, gifted beings kissed by an unknown, unknowable god, God, spirit, power, have struggled with this from the very beginning, Jason, performing as the anchorite Anthony and as the ambiguously evil, delightful, seductive desert companion Hilarion tackles this conundrum with wit, wonder and moving pathos. I giggled between gasping, it was a dizzying, manic performance that delighted me at the moment and now a week later leaves me wondering how best to move forward.
Deep, deep respect to you my friend , Jason, your tribute meant so much to me.
I’m thrilled to be presenting a brand new solo performance piece within Leonard Greco’s incredibly inspired and inspiring art exhibition called “FAIRYLAND” taking place at MOAH:CEDAR in Lancaster, CA on Saturday, March 16 at 3pm & 5pm.
Leonard asked me to create a piece for his latest works, an installation of fabric sculptures (or wild, painted and hand-sewn puppet creatures) that he created based upon the 19th Century French author, Gustave Flaubert’s book “The Temptation of Saint Anthony”. The book is written like a hallucinatory poetic-theatre piece about an epic evening in the life of Anthony the Great, when he is visited by all manner of temptations in the form of lustful women, the devil, and a wide variety of creatures that attempt to lure him away from his devotion. Anthony was a Christian monk, who live isolated in the Eastern Desert of Egypt around 251-356 AD. Flaubert is most known for his novel Madame Bovery.
Here’s the full press release information:
The visually delightful artworks installed in Leonard Greco Jr’s “Fairyland” at MOAH: CEDAR are both the basis and setting for the live performance of “Temptations in Fairyland”. In conjunction with the exhibition, multimedia performance artist Jason Jenn presents a short theatrical solo-piece of expressive movement and spoken word.
Weighty tableaus and themes are mixed with flamboyant humor in both Greco and Jenn’s work that playfully flirts with camp sensibility. Inspiration is derived from French novelist Gustave Flaubert’s “The Temptation of St. Anthony”, which depicts the desert hermit’s confrontation one evening with a series of lavish and lustful hallucinatory temptations. Our contemporary world contains equally alluring distractions that reach out to us in powerfully appealing ways on a regular basis. Jenn puts the story into context through the realm of performance art’s own wild history and pantheon of unusual characters.
So with all that in mind, both the performance and exhibition avow to deliver a gratifying pleasurable experience.
Saturday, March 16, 2019 Performances at 3pm & 5pm Each performance approx. 30min FREE MOAH: CEDAR 4487 Cedar Ave, Lancaster, CA 93534
The performance “TWINKLE: Traveler Beneath the Stars” was a collaboration between artists Jason Jenn and Vojislav Radovanovic, based on the Radovanovic’c exhibition themes. Visitors received a surprise, arriving to the gallery and seeing the exhibition set up as normal – but in a span of 5 minutes Jason and Vojislav transformed the look of the space with lights and some additions to the set made from pieces of mylar. Jason replaced a drawing on cardboard “Unidentified Immigrant in Paris, 2016” that lay on the floor as a centerpiece of the exhibition. When audiences re-entered the space, they were confronted with Jason as a sleeping homeless man and were forced to wait for the piece to begin. The crowd had to deal with the discomfort of not knowing what to do with the situation presented them, having interactions and conversations among themselves, which became its own performance art piece.
The performance finally began with Jason reciting an original poem by Radovanovic, in which the homeless man is taken back in time to a childhood memory of making a playhouse out of cardboard. Jason then proceeded to take the audience on a very human journey, relating the housing crisis in Los Angeles to the current political climate surrounding immigration and the story that all humans are refugees since Adam and Eve were exiled from Eden. Using stars as the central theme, Jason linked the celestial objects to the cultural obsession with celebrity, weaving a story that reminded people that they possessed the ability to be their own gods and saviors, and exposing the hypocrisy in which religion, nationalism, and capitalism were used as excuses for various atrocities and crimes against humanity throughout history.
click on images in the gallery below to see larger size