Romantic songs of the Patriarchy
At the invitation of C Project the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson explored the sites and neighborhoods of San Francisco, investigating the myriad buildings and landscapes for a performance that would respond to the unique conditions of the city. The selection of the landmark Women's Building in the Mission District was inspired as much by the people that occupy and direct this remarkable center for women as by the striking presence of the mural titled MaestraPeace that envelopes both the exterior and interior hall and staircase. Considering the building's function as a safe space for women to get health, social and legal advice and services, and in consultation with the Women's Building staff, Kjartansson developed Romantic Songs of the Partriachy, a three day series of durational performances by over thirty women from the Bay area, singing throughout the public spaces that make up the building.
Selecting a wide range of songs written by men (with a few co-written by women), Kjartansson's choreography reveals the subtle (and not so subtle) ways in which many of our most popular and widely-loved melodies contain lyrics that range from sexual insinuation to abject objectification. In this new work, the first to be commissioned by C Project, Kjartansson takes on the role of artist as producer, orchestrating a performance realized by participants drawn from varied walks of life; a diverse group of women selected by both invitation and open call. As with much of Kjartansson's work in live musical performance, theater and film, Romantic Songs of the Partriachy engages the audience with a double-edged humor and seriousness, utilizing duration and repetition, presenting the viewer with a mesmerizing encounter. As with the Women's Building's colorful mural, Romantic Songs of the Partriachy is conceived as a many-cultural, multi-generational collaboration with women from throughout the San Francisco area. For the artist, the mash-up of songs into a spatial sonic chorale is both charmingly seductive and darkly oppressive.
Tom Eccles, Curator