“Unseen: 35 Years of Collecting Photography” at the Getty Center deserves to be seen more than once. And imagine a time when you can download your consciousness and trade your body in for a new one; that’s the premise of Rogue Machine’s “Disposable Necessities.”
The Getty Museum’s photographic collection is celebrating its 35th anniversary with an exhibition of photos that have never before been displayed at The Getty. 200 images were culled from the Getty’s 148,000-piece collection, and it’s a beautiful show, beautifully curated featuring everything from the earliest days of photography to the most contemporary processes and imagery. Black and white, chromogenic, digital, Polaroid, rayographs, solar exposures…you may be amazed at both how old and how new the art of photography is.
There are juxtapositions of complementary and contradictory images: a wall featuring photos of hands, powerfully arranged in various forms, from fists to prayer to working hands holding objects. Pictures of reactions to tragedy: people covering their faces with their hands. Images of people behind bars and by the police photographer, Weegee, the original ambulance chaser.
There is a 2001 gelatin silver print, life sized, of a woman’s face, cropped to look like a classically sculpted head, by French photographer Valérie Belin from her series, Black Women 1. It’s so stark and stunning it will draw you like a magnet.
There’s a group of abstract images by Japanese American photographers associated with camera clubs on the West Coast and in Hawaii, created between 1919 and the 1940s and collected over three decades by artist and curator Dennis Reed. Were it not for him, many more of these images would have been destroyed as Japanese people were herded into camps during World War II.
If you’ve never been to our local Camera Obscura, stop in then stop by the Getty’s side gallery of images taken by, or in, Camera Obscuras elsewhere. It’s fascinating to see how a thin shaft of light on a reflective surface inverts an external view.
Just a few names to mention: Carrie Mae Weems, Dorothea Lange, Eugene Atget, Robert Mapplethorpe, Laura Aguilar, Osamu Shiihara, August Sander, Thomas Eakins, Walker Evans, Mary Ellen Mark, Nan Goldin,Man Ray, Lazslo Moholy-Nagy, Alfred Stieglitz, Irving Penn, Barbara Morgan, Richard Avedon, Paul Outerbridge, William Eggleston….that’s a sampling of the who’s who of photographic artists from around the world represented in “Unseen.”
The exhibition is up through March at the Getty Museum, located in Brentwood. Visit www.getty.edu for more information.
In Neil McGowan’s “Disposable Necessities” produced by Rogue Machine at the Electric Lodge in Venice, it’s 2095 in Maryland. Daniel (Darrett Sanders) and his wife Alice (Billy Flynn, now in the body of Al) are arguing about their son, Chadwick (Jefferson Reed), who intentionally fell out of a helicopter so he could replace his old body with that of a young black man. Their best friend Phillip (Claire Blackwelder) now in his sexy, new, curvaceous female form, bursts in to play a practical joke, pretending to have slept with Daniel.
Their daughter Dee (Ann Noble) announces she has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and will absolutely not allow them to download her consciousness into a new body. She wants to die the old-fashioned way and has made her wishes known legally; but Alice (in the form of Al) tricked her and against her will, attempts to download her into a different body after all. This takes on a twist of its own in Act II, but I won’t reveal the spoiler.
“Disposable Necessities” is half sci-fi, half sociology and all thought-provoking. The playwright imagines a world where the rich can go on living forever, taking the bodies of those who can’t afford to become immortal. Alice is getting a little tired of Daniel’s older man body, hoping he’ll use the occasion of his literary works being reissued, necessitating a book tour, to inhabit a new, young and preferably female body. As for Daniel, he never quite got over the fact that his wife lives in the body of a man.
The gender and race swapping are both amusing and revelatory. To see the very buxom Phil, a woman to the core, behave as tough as a man, including hearty laughter, jokes about body parts and man-spreading, makes for a pointed commentary on male-hood. Al and Phil end up hopping in the sack. Chadwick provides the comic relief, as we watch grown white man struggling to behave like a young black man.
Dee is the voice of conscience; the condition of the world grows worse by the day and she blames most of it on body swapping. While she can’t avoid the fate (implants went in when her wisdom teeth came out), she still has some control of who she will become.
The play is well directed by Guillermo Cienfuegos, who’s a master at making absurdity seem normal (as he did in his legendary take on Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros” at Pacific Resident Theatre). The stage is well-dressed, with futuristic door openers, head touching with electronic beeps to replace cellphones and computers, and virtual volume and size increases made with a spreading of the fingertips or uplifting of a hand.
This world premiere production of Rogue Machine’s “Disposable Necessities” will be onstage through February 3, in repertory with a play about global warming, “Earthquakes in London” at The Electric Lodge in Venice. Visit http://www.roguemachinetheatre.com for tickets and info.
Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.