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Curatorial Statement

Curatorial statement By Tessa Wills, Artistic Director 2012

This Is What I Want 2012: The Economy of Desire.

“This festival deals directly with the power which lives in the vulnerability of knowing and speaking what you want,” said Festival Founder Jesse Hewit, in 2009.

Being invited to artistically direct a festival with that energy at its heart has been exciting. To say what you really want is a formational act of passion and promise. It’s an act of identification that has personal, social and economic significance.  Desire both generates and cracks open cultural paradigms. This is the bridge between personal identity and group identity.

I identify in the cracks between sex work and performance in this rich city of permissions, discourse and celebration. I’m inspired by desire. My experience and philosophy of desire combined with the views and decisions of the 40 strong person team of people who make up the community of this event converge; together we invite you to a series of events that are messy, powerful, experimental. Valuable.

We are developing the festival into something you can dip in and out of, or immerse yourself in richly for the week.

This year, I worked with a strong team of curators, including Jesse Hewit, Rachael Dichter who has been involved in producing the festival from the start, Anna-Martine Whitehead who performed last year in the event, and Doran George an artist and PhD candidate from LA.

The theme for 2012 is “The Economy of Desire”. We are looking at whether this event can fashion space for illuminating other economies, or imagining economy otherwise. There exist diverse economies of commitment, promise, bargaining, power exchange in relationships with ourselves and others. Not to mention the diverse economies around creative or financial survival and abundance in subcultures, migrational communities, artist communities, other communities. There is a transformative aspect to money, and also to desire. The artist Robert Paccitti taught me that if you read a fairy story, replacing the word “magic” with the word “money” it reads perfectly. I have since found that you can do the same trick with the word “desire”. What is it that links these words as forces in our culture? What other currencies are involved with desire outside of money for you? How/Do you make it sustainable? Where does shame live in that economy, where does power live?

Can we reflect on, or perhaps invent queer concepts of desire beyond the logic of lack and excess?

From San Francisco, Sara Kraft lulls and unravels the audience in “Truth++”, Mica Sigourney in his third year at the festival, challenges the audience with his piece “all this love”, DavEND creates space for the care and revelation of her community, integrated with her powerful voice in ”Intimasew”, and Dia Dear extends their practice to the Theater with a cutting piece “Inedible Darling”. From LA, Rafael Espanza brings Casa De Adobe, using the traditional practice of adobe making as an entry point to investigate his relationship to gender roles, NICK+JAMES address desire for liberation and confinement through performance, Taisha Paggett confronts us with the consumptive nature of viewing as an audience member. Finally, from Philadelphia, Mabel Negrete raises the stakes weaving her life and her practice together for “In Search of New Refuge”. Some are World Premiers, commissioned for this year’s event, some are existing pieces that the curators were inspired to include in relation to the theme.
As a concept, embodied or theoretical, “The economy of desire” is engaged with by these artists in ways that are as diverse as you individuals in the audience.

We are focusing on your experience as an audience member, expanding the event into the realm of audience practice and theoretical discourse. The stakes are high in these shows, for the artists, and for the audience, and this tends to invite interesting interactions. We make space to reveal and share those experiences by introducing a symposium and a participatory performance. The symposium is entitled “Slow Sex; queer exit strategies from economies of desire” and is curated by Doran George. The participatory experiential performance titled “This Is What YOU Want” is a development of my piece from last year’s festival.

Through these two events, we contextualize the performances at SOMArts through somatic practices and theories of revolutionary desire. For that we are working with luminaries including Kirk Reed, Carol Queen, Minax, Pele, TT Baum, Sadie Lune, Jim, Self, Syd Blaekovitch, Dossie Easton, Joe Kramer, Syd Nova, Captain Liam Snowden, and more.

This year, as an experiment, all the public pieces will be recorded through SOMArts, and distributed through the Artists Television Access and The OFFCENTER. We expect this will extend the impact of the event to connect communities nationally and internationally.

We have worked passionately, blindly, and with commitment in a way that defies any logic economically, inspired by the idea of connecting this work with you, our audience. Sustained by experiences of desire, and an intuitive understanding that it is a powerful subject. A political subject. A subject worth staging, and worth talking about.

We hope to meet you, here.