This week, one artist poses as a hypnotist, another digs deep into occult ritual and a third makes an uncharacteristically buoyant ad.
5. Low-stakes Breathalyzers and eye charts for fun
DMV: After Dark is one event at alt art space Machine Project that I remember even though I wasn't there. I saw the video on Vimeo: the guy in ill-fitting glasses sitting behind a podium calling numbers, with a digital eye chart lit up behind him, taking bites of his sandwich when someone didn't hear their number and he had a prolonged break. The guy taking a Breathalyzer test and coming out well below the legal limit. People posing awkwardly for headshots in front of a blue sheet. Percussionists playing on car parts. It's nighttime, so lighting is limited to flashing numbers or cameras. If you want the low-impact, redux version of the Machine experience, come to the DVD release party at the Downtown Independent. Machine will be screening a selection of short films about itself, and the crowd will be inviting but insider-ish enough to laugh on cues foreign to the uninitiated. 251 S. Main St., dwntwn.; $10 with DVD, free without. (213) 483-8761, machineproject.com.
4. Earthquake opera
Last month, in a performance at the REDCAT theater, artist Tyler Matthew Oyer put a fictional Beyoncé in conversation with a fictional version of futurist composer Luigi Russolo, who had said in 1913 that “musical evolution is paralleled by the multiplication of machines, which collaborate with man on every front.” Now, 100 years later, Beyoncé, who does employ machines, tells GQ, “I try to perfect myself. I want to grow, and I'm always eager for new information.” Was her perfection what Russolo imagined? This month, Oyer is staging his own libretto, Shimmy Shake Earthquake, at Cirrus Gallery. A hypnotist, a lecturer and a nightclub dancer, all played by Oyer, come together on a glittery set inspired by tropes of Americana and made by the artist. 542 S. Alameda St., dwntwn.; Sept. 14, 5 p.m. (213) 680-3473, cirrusgallery.com.
3. Pseudo stage
“The Stand-Ins,” the three-month exhibition at Public Fiction, explores, as its title suggests, things that stand in for other things. What if a still life serves as a portrait, for instance? It has three iterations, the first of which is called “An Unbiased Teal,” and the show itself stands in for a stage this weekend, when artists/choreographers/dancers Flora Wiegmann, Amy Granat and Alexa Weir perform in it. 749 Avenue 50, Highland Park; Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m. publicfiction.org.
2. Mattress ad by a master
From 1900 through the 1960s, Edward Steichen photographed gowns, buildings, artists, actresses and aircraft characters. Usually the images had an air of seriousness, even if they were melodramatic, like the one of sculptor Auguste Rodin staring at (and posed like) his iconic sculpture The Thinker. Most of the images in the small Steichen show on the third floor of LACMA's Hammer building have that seriousness: artist Constantin Brancusi glowering through heavy eyebrows and unruly beard; actress Lillian Gish looking ethereal. But then there's the ad Steichen did for Simmons mattresses, showing a man in white pajamas amidst white bedding, stretching out his arms and looking infectiously pleased. 5905 Wilshire Blvd.; through Dec. 8. (323) 857-6010, lacma.org.
1. After the Scientologist and the rocket scientist
Between January and March of 1946, Scientologist L. Ron Hubbard and Jet Propulsion Lab rocket scientist Jack Parsons performed a series of rituals called “Babalon Working.” They listened to Rachmaninoff in Parsons' home temple and tried to conjure a divine feminine archetype. Parsons believed they succeeded when exotically beautiful fashion illustrator Marjorie Cameron visited his home with a mutual friend. Parsons then tried to conceive a magical child, which didn't work quite so well. Artist Brian Butler, fascinated by the strange legacies and rituals of occultists, debuts his film Babalon Working at MOCA and then, immediately after the screening, stages Transmigration, a performance based on the Babalon experiments, which involves, among other things, strobe lights and geometric shapes. 250 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Thurs., Sept. 19, 8 p.m.; advance RSVP required. (213) 626-6222, moca.org.
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