Sunday, July 13, 2008

Omega Recoil at the Fire Arts Festival

Tonight I went over to West Oakland to see the Fire Arts Festival, and particularly to see Omega Recoil's "Rat Scientists" performance.

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It's a really fun bit of absurdist theater, in which giant rats in lab coats conduct experiments on "human" subjects beneath a giant upside-down Tesla coil. That's right, monkey boy: beneath an upside-down Tesla coil!

Beyond that, the amazing thing about the festival is all the fire. Fire looks really good. Really big flames look really good. But I actually didn't see much of anything that I'd call "fire art." Not because the art itself is the typical aesthetically immature Burning-Man-Outsider-Art sort of thing - of course it's that, and more power to it.

The reason is that it's "art with fire" instead of "fire art."

Ooh, what about a giant metal tricycle... WITH FIRE?

How about large-breasted women standing in front of.... FIRE?

Or maybe a big meditating Buddha made out of scrap metal.... WITH FIRE?

Or how about some flying trapeze artists, risking life and limb on a giant scaffolding... WITH FIRE?

To be fair, I did see a couple things that seemed to deserve the name Fire Art. There was one thing that seemed to be just a metal bucket with a flame in it. Assuming it didn't later turn into a whirlygig machine-art dingleberry WITH FIRE, then it's probably in the clear. And there was a guy who had a square column about a meter high, on a pedestal, with a fire in it, melting something on the outside. That probably qualifies too.

In that sense, the Omega Recoil show really stood out. It was fun, it wasn't self-important, it was frankly a whole lot more death-defying than any of the fire games, and it was actually about Electricity and the Tesla coil. (Presumably as a condition of participation, some wooden chairs caught fire while the hu-man subjects were basking in their electroshock mating ritual.)

(Disclosure: I live with John Behrens and Fearghal O'Dea, so I probably would have said something nice about the Rat Scientists even if I didn't like the show.)

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The coil at rest.

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Art With Fire.

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