Reading Recommendation: Monstress
Marjorie Liu transposes real-world issues into a fantasy world
Writer Marjorie Liu wastes no time in her new comic series, Monstress.
Within the first issue alone the main character has evolved three times over from slave, to prisoner, and beyond. Not only is the character development rapid and spot-on, but the world building is immediate and visceral. We can thank Liu's collaborator, Tokyo-based Sana Takeda, for her contributions to the ornate, mystical aesthetic of Monstress.
Perhaps most importantly, Liu is taking on heavy issues in the story of the series- identity, racism, the legacy of war and the degradation that comes with drug abuse.
I highly suggest keeping up with Monstress as the story evolves. The first two issues are out now from Image Comics.
Todd Christensen's Observing the Withdrawn
One way to view Todd Christensen’s very personal art installation “Observing the Withdrawn” (Art.i.fact, 930 Baca St., Santa Fe) is as a psychological game of hide-and-seek. The artist’s social anxieties inform this sprawling network of vintage decommissioned library textbooks, mostly stamped as "withdrawn” and shorn of their inner pages. Confessional journal entries and offbeat self-portraits riddle every spare surface.
By withdrawing into the shadows, Christensen steps back to observe society at large. Yet his work is so intimate: a spilling of secrets. As Christensen explained to me, the exhibit consists of standalone hard covers that he calls “pathways” to the more densely constructed patches of artwork that symbolize “groupings, social interactions, and conversation,” as if to contrast solitude with community.
How must it feel for such an introvert to have his first solo show in Santa Fe teeming with fearful memories from his childhood and raw musings on his inner turmoil? He says it does not bother him. I would argue that just as he removes his mask, he is hiding in plain sight.
According to the magazine Psychology Today, those who suffer from Social phobia (also known as Social Anxiety Disorder) deal with “overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.” What’s more, “People with social phobia have a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions.”
For extremely shy people, every social situation is an exercise in being more of an observer than a participant. It’s daily performance anxiety. One “self-monitors” with every move taken and every word spoken like an actor on a stage. When that shy person is an artist, whose job it is to tell some sort of truth from a somewhat removed perspective, the alienation from both self and others must become even more pronounced.
Christensen’s beholder witnesses a lot of despair. In one of his self-portraits, thickets of hair cover his face to the point of self-erasure. Then, there are even more negative portrayals of him with cactus pods sprouting out of his head—drawings that he hinted deal with a period of unhappiness and illness. As for his spacemen—mummified astronauts straight out of early science fiction—they are his “social alter egos.” The spacemen are the party people.
In his work, Christensen reckons with his most intimate, lonely side. There is a lot of self-analysis. In one panel, he lists the seven deadly sins as if outlining a possible scorecard. Also on display is a lot of talk of food and body image, including a humorous self-rebuke for hankering after “a big juicy pork chop” that he displays near a book with the title Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit. He clearly battles his demons with a touch of grim lightheartedness. Two great quotes from his exhibit: “Pain is essential” and “Sink or sink.”
But just what is private and what is public? Even as he opens the curtains, Christensen disguises himself behind a more straightforward persona. For example, he scolds the viewer for feeding on his secrets. Peering up into the guts of the busier sections of his installation is like looking up a woman’s skirts. Furthermore, he has booby-trapped those interiors of his work with hidden rebukes such as: “My pain is my pain, my business is yours it seems, you peeping Tom.”
Author, actor and comedian Stephen Fry once said about his social anxiety: ‘It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.”
In Christensen’s work, we are blessed with all of his mad intensities.
Visit the installation at Art.i.fact now through January 4.
Old World Songs at Sunset
The STRANGERS Run Riot in Santa Fe
You should flow!
Regional Slam Poetry Championship happens this weekend
Why stay at home reading the likes of Byron, Dickinson, Whitman, Plath, Levertov or Lowell? Put those dreary texts aside. Take a stride outside the normative literary scene found in dusty old books or a tattered magazine. Take wing, visit the local performance poetry scene!
It's a social possibility you won't soon regret. This weekend's slam competition is a sure-to-win bet.
Presented by ABQ Slams, The 2015 Southwest Shootout Regional Poetry Slam Championship beats the heck out of perusing grammatical diagrams.
But seriously folks, it's a chance to listen and respond to folks whose poetic proclivities also include performance, competition, and worthy word-smithery.
Preliminary bouts will be held at Winnings Coffee (111 Harvard SE) and the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice (202 Harvard SE) on Friday night, June 26, beginning at 7:00 pm. These events are free; the public is invited to attend.
The Championship slam happens Saturday night at the South Broadway Cultural Center (1025 Broadway SE) and costs a mere ten bucks for admittance. Doors to this fantastical foray into syllabic profundity open at 7 that night.
Spoken word artists, performance poets and slammers from all over the Southwest region will be in attendance and ready to fight it out for the chance to advance to the national competition to be held in August.
You ought to check it out, yo.
Chris Thayer on dry humor and being in the moment
I think every comedian has that moment when they watch a stand-up set from a particular comic and think, “This is my life now.” “I always had an interest in comedy when I was growing up, but I never thought of it as something I could or would do,” says comedian Chris Thayer. “When I was 18, I heard David Cross' album Shut Up You Fucking Baby!, which was conversational in a way that made me think that maybe I could do stand-up too.” Thayer, who will be at The Guild (3405 Central Avenue NE) on June 1, moved to San Francisco, a city that has spawned such comedy legends as Robin Williams at Margaret Cho, at the age of nineteen but waited three whole years before trying comedy. He finally sat down one night and began to write; a week later he did an open mic, and “within a year I had done over 200 sets,” says Thayer. “Now I’ve been doing comedy for seven years.”
It’s this dedication that got him a writing gig on the Pete Holmes show. Thayer has a dry sense of humor and often talks about his life on stage. His uncompromising style is reflected in his ideas on comedy. “The thing that terrified me most when I started performing was the fear that an audience would hate me,” says Thayer. With time this slowly abated and Thayer began to focus more on what he thought was funny rather than appealing to any given crowd. “I'd like as many people as possible to like me without having to compromise myself or what I think is funny. I would drive myself crazy if I were trying to change my stuff to get 100% of people to love me, so if only maybe 67% of people are into me, I'm totally okay with that,” says Thayer. “Not sure if that number sounds too high or too low. I'm trying to be modest without sounding unambitious.”
It’s not an unwavering ambition though. Thayer sees comedy as something that needs to avoid stagnation. “My favorite parts of performing are the times when I'm present enough and comfortable enough to try or add new stuff,” says Thayer. “I enjoy doing my material that I've been working on, but there's always a danger of feeling like you're on autopilot when you're doing stuff that you've memorized and said hundreds of times before. Thinking of new stuff for old jokes or trying to talk out new bits lets me know that I'm engaged in the moment and makes it fun for me.” Thayer has a way of balancing his strong and steadfast ideas on comedy with being open and present in the moment so he can engage with the live audience. “I want the audience to think, ‘Wow that guy is really funny despite being boringly sincere in interviews.’”
Chris Thayer: No One Asked for this Tour
The Guild (3405 Central Avenue NE)
Monday June 1 10:30 pm $5
David Koechner on satire, human flaws and story telling
The Greeks had it right. Socrates searched for real knowledge untainted by pride, and Plato was so done with irrational humanity he just wanted to crawl out of a cave and find a friend. It’s been 2,400 years since the fall of Ancient Greece and we’re all still tragically surprised we’re flawed and yet there’s something hilarious about that. “I start with a flaw like narcissism,” says comedian David Koechner about his creative process. “We all have narcissistic tendencies, but there are some who are fully narcissistic. We all are afraid of things at times, but there are some who live their life in fear. I look at that and think, That’s annoying, so I’ll make fun of it.” Koechner, who performs at Santa Ana Star Casino (54 Jemez Dam Rd., Bernalillo) on Thursday, May 21, satirizes these defective human tendencies through rich and outlandish characters.
Initially a political science major, in his third year at university he visited a friend in Chicago, watched a show at Second City, decided then he wanted to be a comedian and never looked back. “Once I decided this was what I wanted to do, I never had any doubts,” says Koechner. “I know that’s not the sexy answer. I love show business and doing comedy. I have a proclivity for it. If I could build things I would do that. If I was smart I would do that.” Koechner looks at comedy as his vocation, and it’s the small things about it that draws him to perform. “The best part is knowing that I was successful at something. My experiment worked. Something I created worked.”
Part observational humor and part hyperbolic storytelling, his shows are an experiment in human behavior. “I start from a small piece of behavior I notice. Something universal. Something we all share but an individual might live by,” says Koechner, “and then I blow up that aspect of my personality and create a character.” Admittedly, this process seems to be second nature to Koechner. “For whatever reason I’m able to access those parts of me. It's like algebra for me. I got the formula, and I can just keep plugging in numbers and getting results."
Known best for playing Champ Kind in the Anchorman movies, Koechner puts a lot of himself into his roles. “Describing your act is kind of like describing your personality. I’m loud and my comedy is loud,” says Koechner. “My comedy is wet, as opposed to dry.” It’s Sophocles’ Greek tragedy intersected with jokes, but with fewer people dying. Koechner has the rare ability to be silly and bombastic but maintain an underlying satirical tone that is smart and cutting. “It all has a satirical center,” says Koechner. “We all have flaws. We all have to deal with institutions. Whether it’s a child or a parent or a school, or work, government, church—everything is an institution that we have to interact with. I think ‘What are the rules of that behavior?’ And then I break them.”
The Stage at Santa Ana Star Casino
54 Jemez Dam Rd., Bernalillo
Thursday, May 21, 7 and 9:30pm
$15-$35 Ages: 21+