Thursday, December 13, 2007

That Dreaded 4-Letter Word: L - O - V - E

I know that there is more love in the world than anything else because love expands and fear, hatred and ignorance contract.
Love someone and let someone love you back. It is the most political act you can make.
Love someone and let someone love you back. That is the most radical thing a person can do.

Penny Arcade

I've traveled to San Francisco for 10 days to lay the groundwork for Weimar New York at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The show is being presented on Valentine's Day 2008 in the grand atrium of the museum. Frank Smiegel, the SF MOMA curator who invited me to bring the show to the museum, selected WNY in part because he thought it would be a good antidote to typical, saccharine Valentine's fare. For my part I viewed the date as completely arbitrary. The should would be the show regardless of the date.

I should have known better. If Weimar New York is a response to so much creative output that seems completely disconnected from what is happening socially and politically then the show must necessarily be informed by the context in which it's being performed. Like it or not, Valentine's Day is part of the context for this edition of the show. As this dawned on me, I began thinking about "love." Just to say the word makes me fear I'll be suspect in the eyes of the half of the audience for this show whom I imagine to be, like I can be, very cynical about love. Plus I just imagine Frank clutching his temples in dismay, "This can't be another Valentine's show about love! I booked Weimar New York precisely because I didn't want a typical Valentine's Day program!"

I start to think about Penny Arcade in her sex and censorship show, Bitch!Dyke!Faghag!Whore!, and I recall a line from the show which I remember as "The most radical thing you can do is love somebody" (the actual lines begin this post). Suddenly the line has much more resonance for me than it did when I first heard her say it at Monkeytown in Williamsburg last year. In that time I had the experience of being in a relationship that for the first time in my life was romantic, committed, loving, reciprocated and not completely dysfunctional! If you think about it, that particular combination of elements is pretty rare on the periodic table of romance. This was not your hydrogen or oxygen kind of romance. It had weight and radioactive properties. It was transformative. Through my participation in the relationship I was changed, and my relationship to the world altered for the better. "That's what Penny was talking about when she said that the most radical thing you can do is love someone," I thought. "The personal transformation that occurs when we allow ourselves to love and be loved is a pre-requesite to social transformation."

Suddenly I saw the relationship between Weimar New York and Valentine's Day and San Francisco. Love as a revolutionary power is certainly the province of WNY inasmuch as the show speaks to the imperative of social transformation. Love as a marketing power seems to be the substance of Valentine's Day, and the watering down of this powerful human experience is in an of itself an obstacle toward realizing a more just and open society. Love and San Francisco, well, to put the word and the city side by side is to have already conjured up a multitude of associations. Certainly, however, The Summer of Love is probably one of our most widely held cultural references, and it was an explosive example of love's ability to transform society when embraced by masses of people.

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