Inside Outfest: (some of) the art
Nao Bustamente has a film and performance coming up on Saturday, July 16 at the Alexandria Hotel for the Night Moves: The Platinum 10th Anniversary Party of Outfest Los Angeles. This would be the 10th anniversary of the Platinum Film Series within the 29 year old Outfest proper. Gotta get that straight, Outfest is quite properly proud of their status as the oldest film festival in Los Angeles.
“Silver & Gold” is in fact a filmformance and if this sounds confusing, here’s a helpful YouTube trailer that should help.
I know from past experience that Bustamente is as funny as she is dangerous and in all likelihood – should you attend – you will be amused, offended, aroused, horrified and even taken aback. It sounds ok so far, right?
What I know about Nao:
“The first conscious recollection of the on call control of the emotional body came, when I was about 11 and I wanted to stay home from school to watch an afternoon of Gene Kelly musicals. I quickly realized if I thought about the death of my poodle, Chucha, that I could tear up and present a convincing picture of unfettered distress. The replay of a sad future moment; The way that I would feel, A carefully formatted scene that consistently conjured pure and raw uncontrollable emotion.”
Thus develops a great actor, my friends. After gaining this knowledge the world was Nao’s oyster and now, like her parents, we are putty in her hands.
By the way, a friend attended that 1992 performance and tells me that “Nao owned the room, she was that powerful a presence on stage.” Video documentation of the performance is linked in the above image for Indigurrito. Check it out!
For another early performance, “The Chain South,” Bustamente donned the garb of Ronaldo MacDonaldo and drove with artist Miguel Calderon to Mexico City stopping at each MacDonald’s along the way. Apparently MacDonaldo is an actual character that corporate giant Mickey D invented to assist in outreach to Hispanic populations, or at least I think this is true. Disgusting but probably true. Nao and Miguel gained access to a copy of a contract that entitled the character a free burger meal at any MacDonalds anywhere, anytime. Calderon filmed while Bustamente played havoc with managers’ minds.
In a 2003 documentation of Nao Bustamente’s performance “Sans Gravity” we first see a wood plank auditorium floor, at regular intervals are placed mounds of clear plastic bags which are filled with water and are spotlit, slowly one notices Bustamente in one of the darkened interstitial spaces between spotlights, talking with two assistants. People begin to filter in from all sides, voices first. They form themselves into an audience at some remove from the stage. Bustamente is seen passing through, casting a measuring glance about the space and dropping another baggy of water on one of the piles. There is overhead sound, perhaps it is microphones under water – definitely submarine sounds, and delay.
The artist moves to the stage and calls her audience forward, they come. She offers them a light comment and they laugh in relief – such generous acts often begin performances, they relax us, build trust and allow the artist more control.
She is barefoot, wearing flesh-toned clothes – pants and a half sleeve shirt. Next she is wrapping a wire, maybe a microphone wire, with clear packaging tape. She reaches with her face to bite the tape away – for some reason this motion feels very dramatic to me at the moment. Each of her movements are deliberate and hold my eye. She stands and an assistant approaches with an open, water filled baggy. Bustamente drops in her wire, takes tape in hand and inserts her head into the water-filled baggy. As the assistant raises the baggy, she quickly and tightly wraps tape around her neck, sealing her head in the bag. Facing us now, using a red marker she circles her face and makes a mark. When she can stand it no longer, only when she must breathe, then does Bustamente desperately tear the bag and realease her head. She leaves the tape necklace around her neck and the torn baggy hangs limp from this crude jewelry.
This sequence, or versions of it, are repeated thrice, then she descends from the stage and her feet are sealed in baggies of water.
Her walking is labored and graceful, sliding across the wood floor in a sort of dance. She stops and three assistants approach, each with packaging tape in hand. They select baggies of water and tape them to Bustamente’s body – to her legs, her arms, depending from her neck, everywhere, adding and adding and probably very heavy. With each baggy the assistant must reach in with her or his face and bite – like crows on carrion diving in and fleeing immediately the scene of the bite. Pretty cool, this is. Nao begins to walk as they burden her – her dance-like movements become more and more encumbered – at one point her voice reaches out, “You’re knocking me down.”
The taping, biting and burdening continues for a long time, Nao wandering to one then another mound of baggies. By this point she glitters with tape and glimmers with the water bags. The effect is quite beautiful.
The audience are uniformly respectful – when Bustamente is clearly blinded by baggies a young woman with a shoulder bag comes out of the crowd and gently holds her shoulders, guiding her to a clear space of floor. I soon appreciate this respect – moments later the assistants are back and are handing out pointy objects: I notice a plastic fork, hat pin looking things, chop sticks- I’m a little worried. Nao stands still and, slowly and at first one by one, they approach and each one gently pierces a baggy – as the people gather around her they again resemble birds of prey. Water streams out of the baggies, Nao stands, more pricks, additional streaming, more submarine sounds. She moves at times like a cocoon wriggling out of its skin.
As the performance comes to a close her assistants appear again, with scissors and with some difficulty and a great deal of care they cut away the tape bindings. Nao shrugs off her burden, walks out of it, nods and smiles and walks away.
But all of the above was then.
Now you ought to go see “Silver & Gold” at the Alexandria Hotel. Link to Nao Bustamente’s website with detailed information about your evening.
Also appearing in “Night Moves” on Saturday, July 16 from 9:30 pm to 2:00 am (well, it says 2 am. Probably if you play your cards right there’ll be an after party or two that one can attend. I’d say to dress light for easy access.) All this at the Alexandria Hotel: