May 3, 2008

The New Talkies:
Portland–San Francisco Neo-Benshi Cabaret

Writers/performers from San Francisco and Portland turn down the sound and talk back to the movies, updating the lost art of "film-telling."

Spare Room (Portland) and kino21 (San Francisco) copresent
The New Talkies: A Portland-San Francisco Neo-Benshi Cabaret

Inspired by the film-tellers, or benshis, of the silent era in Japan, neo-benshi invites
contemporary artists to turn off the sound and perform their own scripts to brief scenes from films of their choosing. Previous installments of The New Talkies have brought together diverse audiences of poetry, performance, and film fans in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Saturday, May 3
7:00 pm

Admission $10 / $5 students

Due to limited seating, advance reservations are required:
email or call 503-233-4562 to reserve tickets and for
venue details

Performers include Portland-based writers and artists Leo Daedalus and David Abel, Maryrose Larkin and Eric Matchett, Kaia Sand, and Rodney Koeneke, joined by Bay Area poets and performers David Larsen, Mac McGinnes, Cynthia Sailers, and kino21's Konrad Steiner.


Performer Bios and Curator's Statement

Larsen is a visual artist, writer, curator and teacher, living in San Francisco. He co-curated the New Yipes reading series in Oakland with Cynthia Sailers in 2005, and solo from 2006 to January 2008. He is a scholar of greek and arabic literature and the author of The Thorn (Faux Press, 2005), whose first benshi performance to a scene from Troy in 2005 earned wide praise.

Larkin is the author of Inverse (nine muses), The Book of Ocean (i.e.), and Whimsy Daybook 2007 (FLASH+CARD). She is coeditor (with Sarah Mangold) of Flash+Card, a chapbook and ephemera press. She lives in Portland, and is a member of the Spare Room collective. Matchett's recent projects include Nest and Milk Crate Madness. Labor Day, an album made during August 2007, can be found at Internet Archive. He is member of The Taken Girls and Turkey Makes Me Sleepy. Eric is currently creating a glitch dub album with Tape Mountain's Jake Anderson.

Daedalus, who works in every medium except needlepoint, is the director of Helsinqi, a Portland design/media startup. He dons his videographer and performer hats for his first neo-benshi turn, and lives online at LeoDaedalus. Abel is a Portland wordsmith and gadabout, and one of the founding organizers of the Spare Room reading series, now in its seventh year. A dyed-in-the-wool Hollis Frampton fan, he was also a member of the Four Wall Cinema collective.

Koeneke moved to Portland from San Francisco in 2006 and is the author of two books of poems, Musee Mechanique (BlazeVOX, 2006) and Rouge State (Pavement Saw, 2003). He has performed neo-benshi pieces for Guru Dutt's Bollywood weepie Pyaasa (1957) and Paul Wegener's silent classic The Golem (1921). He co-curates The Tangent Reading Series in Portland with poets Kaia Sand and Jules Boykoff.

Sand is the author of interval (Edge Books 2004), selected as a Small Press Traffic Book of the Year 2004, and several chapbooks through Dusie. She co-authored with Jules Boykoff the recently released Landscapes of Dissent: Guerrilla Poetry & Public Space (Palm Press 2008) and co-curates with Rodney Koeneke & Jules Boykoff the
Tangent Reading Series in Portland, Oregon, where she lives.

Steiner is a filmmaker and independent curator living in San Francisco. His films have shown in off-multiplex screens around the world. He has been involved in the production of many live film narration events since 2003 in SF, New York, and Los Angeles. He was a film programmer at SF Cinematheque for four years (2003-2006) and currently with Irina Leimbacher he co-curates the kino21 screening series in San Francisco.

Sailers lives in Alameda, California, is the author of Lake Systems (Tougher Disguises, 2004), currently serves on the board of Small Press Traffic in San Francisco, and is a former co-curator of the New Yipes reading series in Oakland. She is currently writing a dissertation on narcissism and perversion in pathological group organization for the Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA.

Cole is a poet, translator, visual artist, and teacher, living in San Francisco. She is the author of many books of poetry, including the CD-ROM Scout (Krupskaya, 2004) and Collective Memory (Poetry Center and Granary Press, 2006). McGinnes lives in San Francisco and has been involved in theater as a director and actor for many years, most recently working with Poets Theater productions in San Francisco. Cole wrote the script for the scene chosen by McGinnes, who performed it first in July 2005 in San Francisco.

Curator's Statement

The "benshi" is the name for the accomplished actor/writer who wrote scripts to narrate live to projected films in Japan, where the profession reached its commercial and popular apex in the 1920s, more than in any other country, mainly because of a prosperous and prolific Japanese film industry.

There have been many variations of talking during a movie over the global history of film. The long tradition behind this current wave of interest in the form includes hecklers in theaters, dads in living rooms with their home movies, professional narrators of silent documentaries, the reknowned film-tellers in Europe and Asia, right up to TV shows like Jay Ward's Fractured Flickers in the 1960s and Mystery Science
in the 1990s.

The task of accompanying silent film is usually left to musicians. It becomes the task of writers to silence the talkies and revive the image whose meaning has been controlled and even restricted by the corporate culture of mass entertainment and mass profit. The benshi can take back the cinema, and anyone with a DVD player and a remote can give it a shot.

Konrad Steiner