May 26, 2005 § Leave a Comment
Swedish artist Ann-Sofi Siden has spent the last 20 years being haunted by a creature of mud and hopes to exorcise the presence from her life in a new installation at Mass MoCA. “The QM Archives” strives to collect all known material on this mud woman called QM and present it to the art-loving public. The archive features videos portraying early biographical information in the hopes of clearing up some of the mystery, as well as equally interesting footage revealing that QM is actually a character that Siden plays. Siden covers her entire nude body with mud and metamorphs into some form of alien creature of unknown origin, with unknown intent, but with large potential for artistic investigation.
QM — or Queen of Mud — has been included in Siden’s work since the late 1980s, popping up in videos and installations and even making a personal appearance or two. One of her most notorious adventures involved showing up at a perfume counter in a department store.
“They threw us out,” said Siden. “It took a while to gather the guards so we probably had four or five minutes. Of course, the women who work behind the counter, they didn’t know if I had a permit or not, so they were sort of nice to me.” « Read the rest of this entry »
May 5, 2005 § Leave a Comment
Mark Bittner is quite a character. He arrived in San Francisco in time to catch the Beats, with dreams of becoming a musician, but that never panned out and he ended up spending his time wandering around town finding places to sleep and eat and just generally being Mark Bittner. One of the definitions of Mark Bittner was the expectation that his career, his calling in life, would drop in his lap someday.
He probably just didn’t expect it to be a parrot.
San Francisco is just one of the cities in the U.S. that has a flock of feral parrots flying around and several years ago, Bittner took an interest in figuring them out.
“I don’t really think of myself as an eccentric,” Bittner told filmmaker Judy Irving, who tells Bittner’s story in her film “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.”
Unfortunately, any guy who has personal friendships with individual members of wild parrot flocks can appear pretty eccentric to the uninitiated. At one point in the film, while tending to the parrots at one point, Bittner is challenged by some smirking guy who seems determined to disarm Bittner’s assertion that these are indeed feral. His relentless pursuit of the point seems designed merely to humiliate him as an crazy person in front of a crowd of onlookers. Bittner answers the man with a distracted patience and, true to the form that is revealed through the rest of the film, focuses on the parrots. Anything else is truly an aside.
As the film unfolds, the significance of what Bittner is doing takes solid form. As experts from the zoo attest, parrots in the wild are notoriously hard to document, so by chronicling the history of the flock and the behavior of the individual birds, Bittner is accomplishing the impossible. As a layman transformed into a researcher, he find himself adding to the behavioral knowledge of parrots — as well as his own purpose to life.
Perhaps Bittner’s turning point in life is his bonding with a parrot named Connor, whose blue head differentiates himself from the rest of the parrots and their red heads. Painting Connor as an outsider, the tale of their friendship unfolds to include Connor’s stay in Bittner’s home and his subsequent return to the wild of his own volition, and Bittne’s efforts to help Connor hook up with a female parrot begin to very obviously mirror Bittner’s own loneliness.
By the end of the film, the symbiosis between Bittner and Connor is resolved with a finality that is both sad and thrilling. Leastwise, there is no doubt that Mark Bittner, bohemian squatter, has transformed into another Mark Bittner entirely, one that is no longer a loner and no longer disconnected from the world he inhabits.