RADAR: but the show didn’t stink

Tues Feb 22 11, The Luggage Store

(Maureen Blennerhasset)

The last thing I expected when I went to the Luggage Store Gallery was to see someone take a shit on stage. Not a metaphorical shit, not a bad performance, but a literal release of feces-from-rectum shit.

I was there on Tuesday for The RADAR Show, hosted by Michelle Tea, with featured big name guests like Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket), Matt L. Rohrer (editor in chief of Small Desk Press), Kirk Read (author of How I Learned to Snap), Erin O’Briant (author and founder of Lit Books press), Sharon Barnes (documentary filmmaker commissioned by Barack Obama), and Lisa Brown (author and illustrator of several parenting guides and children’s books).

So like I said, the last thing I expected to see was someone take a shit on stage. After recently moving to the Tenderloin here in San Francisco, I’ve certainly seen my fair share of public defecation—but for the sake of art?  Well no, this was the first.

RADAR is a literary based local non-profit founded by Michelle Tea that “gives voice to innovative queer and outsider writers and artists whose work authentically reflects the LGBTQA community’s diverse experiences.” In other words: a vital lifeline for creativity in the queer community.

The show’s performers each used a different medium for their art. First, the readers: Erin O’Briant read from her novel in progress, Friendly, and Matt L. Rohrer, a Brooklyn high school English teacher, read a collection of poems inspired by his day job.

Then the evening shifted from readings to everything else. Daniel Handler fielded audience questions about everything from “I’m in my early 30s and want kids, should I wait for a partner or go it alone right now?” to “How do I go about being a successful writer?” If you’ve never met Handler, you should know that he is the type of person who is absolutely hilarious without trying to be (my favorite type!). His deadpan delivery style cuts through the fluff and reveals a glaring why didn’t i think of that? truthfulness. In the process of answering these questions, he told an anecdote that has stuck in my mind since I heard it. I’ll paraphrase:

One time, I had this day job that I drove to each day. Once I was running late and couldn’t find parking, but I saw this lot across the street riddled with signs that read, ‘TOW AWAY ZONE: NO PARKING!’ So I parked there anyway. Before leaving my car and running into work, I wrote this sign in all capital letters which simply said, ‘DO NOT TOW THIS CAR!’ and stuck it on my windshield. After work that day my car was the only one there.”

That is certainly a wisdom I respect.

Sharon Barnes, a renowned filmmaker who caters to the likes of Calvin Klein and President Obama, presented a tantalizing excerpt from her short film Fighter. It’s about a girl who enters an anti-gay Christian conversion therapy program only to break her girlfriend out of it. After seeing a clip at the show, I had to watch the whole thing when I got home. Definitely check it out here.

Sticking with the visual arts medium, Lisa Brown unveiled a new cartoon for The Rumpus, “Welcome to the Ten in One.” The series will feature ten different circus acts under one tent, one by one on the website; at the show Brown called upon some audience members to read the dialogue for The Wild Boy.

So, about that shit…

The last act of the evening was Kirk Read, an author and performance artist. Inspired by Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit, an instructional book in conceptual art, Read appeared before the audience as naked as the day he was born. Then he mounted a podium with his rear facing the bewildered faces, squatted above a Tupperware container and defecated inside. That’s not art, you say! When he finished, Tupperware in hand, Read approached a blank canvas and painted “ONE” using nothing else but his fingers and the contents of the container. Despite the audience’s nervous giggling and whispers, Kirk bravely applied more feces to the canvas, smoothing out the word, until the Tupperware was empty. With one last glance at his accomplishment, he slowly turned to exit (hopefully to wash his hands!)

So that’s how RADAR ended. Now I will end this article the same way, leaving you with your thoughts.