This week, flowers and fetish photos hang one on top of the other at LACMA, the Getty throws a party for an 80-year-old mural and an artist shadows a possibly imaginary former classmate.
5. Nine-year-long sci-fi opera
Kathleen Johnson's Brainchild, a performance in nine parts set to unfold over nine years (the first performance was last held in 2011), tells the story of a girl named Brainchild who happens upon the ruins of an ancient race. This race, it seems, knew about space travel eons before we did. Composer Gregory Lenczycki arranged the hypnotic soundtrack for Brainchild II, which premieres at Human Resources this weekend. Actress-dancer Dominique Cox plays the lead, and two performers with opera in their backgrounds, Bianca G. Marrero and Juliette Dwyer, make up the chorus. The show will stream live on kchungradio.org. 410 Cottage Home St.; Nov. 3, 8 p.m. (213) 290-4752, humanresourcesla.com.
4. New chapter for the Yellow Pages
Phone books still turn up on doorsteps, but in Lipschutz & Lipschutz's show at Concord Space in Cypress Park, they look entirely archaic. Father-son collaborators Jeff and Mike Lipschutz build big, waist-high cylinders or off-kilter totems out of phone books, turning them from data sources to awkward infrastructure for sculptures that are the antithesis of systematic. 1010 N. San Fernando Road; through Nov. 9. concordspace.org.
3. Party on Olvera Street
When Mexico exiled muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros for militancy -- he'd started a weekly called El Machete, among other things -- he came to L.A. The mural he painted on Olvera Street that year showed a man bound to a cross, menaced by an eagle. Pre-Colombian imagery crowded in on either side. Siqueiros sprayed it into the still-wet outside wall of the Italian Hall and so figured it would last forever. "[Rains] will never wash it off, nor sun dim its details, for it is cement," he proclaimed. But the elements did dim the mural and it had nearly disappeared until the Getty joined the city's preservation effort. It's hosting a daylong festival at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes Los Angeles this weekend that includes a performance of American Tropical, the opera named after the mural. 501 N. Main St.; Sat., Nov. 3, starts 10:30 a.m., opera at 4:30 p.m.; free. (310) 440-7300, getty.edu.
2. Low expectations
"It's not that I don't trust the director, but he seems to be underestimating the challenges ahead," says Q, the long-haired, listlessly elegant protagonist of Pablo Pijnappel's film Quirijn. Q has just explained -- via subtitles because the film has no sound -- that he agreed to be filmed for the money but doesn't expect much else from it. Shot in Berlin on 16mm and screening at Ambach & Rice, Pijnappel's film looks vintage but isn't. It follows Q for 10 minutes or so, and for the first half, it's hard to care about Q's laid-back stream of consciousness. By the second half, Q has become endearing. By the time the director steps in for a few minutes at the end, to talk about why Q became his subject, you genuinely want to know about how Q probably has "normal desires" but finds "the act of seduction" too much bother and yet goes far out of his way for good coffee. 6148 Wilshire Blvd.; through Nov. 24. (323) 965-5500, ambachandrice.com.
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1. A good excuse for flowers
"As soon as everyone knew about his fisting photographs, his lilies gained
an edge," curator Edward Steichen once said, remembering how Robert Mapplethorpe got away with shooting unquestionably pretty photos of flowers in a 1970s and '80s art world wary of beauty. It was because he'd also shot unquestionably pretty but explicit and unnerving photos of men in compromising positions wearing S&M masks. LACMA curator Britt Salveson has installed Mapplethorpe's X (S&M images), Y (flower still lifes) and Z (nude African-American men) portfolios in rows, stacked one on top of the other. So you can't look at an iris or a rose without seeing a man in leather or with his fly unzipped. 5905 Wilshire Blvd.; through March 24. (323) 857-6010, lacma.org.