Sunday, October 19, 2008

Leslie Thornton: Tuned Always to a Shifting Ground

Program 1: The Orientalist

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Examinations of orientalism are a central theme in Thornton’s work. An early memory: “When I was a child, I was enchanted by the image of digging through the earth and finding the Chinese on the other side, only upside-down to us… China was as opposite as one could get, since it was as inverted as possible.” Tonight’s program groups her 1988 major work, There Was An Unseen Cloud Moving, with two newer works on this theme. Unseen Cloud…, a collage/biography of Isabelle Eberhardt, a Russian author/adventurer who lived as a Muslim man in 19 Century North Africa, closely compares to Chris Marker’s work as a free form, impressionistic style of storytelling. Sahara Mojave (2007) miss-aligns, with unsettling affect, the backlot of today’s Hollywood with the forefront of 19th Century orientalist eroticism. Novel City (2008)–which includes a reprise of Thornton’s 1983 film Adynata–came out of a recent trip to Shanghai and embodies the estrangement that arose in processing capitalism’s ferocious grasp on China.