Complex Positions Dance takes an outspoken turn at the Bay Area Dance Series as Michelle Spencer speculates on what history's female models would say about their experiences as nude subjects for some of the world's most famous paintings, in The Model Speaks. Spencer, a dance-maker and scribe who collaborated with John Cale on his opera Life Under Water, is joined by Patricia Reedy & Dancers, who offer At What Moment Did She Become, Freely and Willingly, the Mother of God? Reedy's grandmother, a devout Catholic who was institutionalized for years, provides inspiration for this larger treatise on the ways church and state hold women back. Later this weekend, Quebec's Compagnie de Danse L'Astragale, led by the Merce Cunningham-trained Sonya Delwaide, also magnifies culture through a choreographic lens in Depart, a comment on fear of the unknown, as demonstrated by clashes between the French and English populations in Quebec. The Ruth Botchan Dance Company, meanwhile, sets a suite of contemporary dances about the struggles of Eastern European Jews before, during, and after World War II to traditional Jewish music in Mothersongs. The Spencer/Reedy program runs tonight at 7:30 p.m. (8 p.m. Friday); the L'Astragale/Botchan show runs 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon, Oakland. Admission is $14-16; call 392-4400.
Gimme an F Pretty ... Slow, the last CD by local band Fuck, offers none of the aggro disenchantment that the band's name might suggest. Slow and pretty it is, with heart-sore, lo-fi tunes hovering somewhere between sleepy and lonely, as blues-tinged guitars and tinkly piano surge into brief discord. The band's new full-length CD, Baby Loves a Funny Bunny, is "a little more upbeat," according to Fuck's sometimes-guitarist, Tim Prudhomme -- "sometimes" because the band switches instruments around a lot. ("We play whatever is given to us at the time," he says.) Fuck celebrates the recent release of Funny Bunny and a split single with Fish or Fry, who join them for a local show; the Wrens open at 9:30 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F. Admission is $5; call 621-4455.
Large Type A Girl a Guy a Landscape: Novel on the Wall provides a sort of unofficial prelude to next month's San Francisco Bay Area Book Fair. This installation, created by independent publishing company Burning Books, lets the viewer amble though the pages of a story taken from a novel by Sumner Carnahan, designed with a variety of printing techniques and interspersed with portraits and landscapes by painter Patrick McFarlin. Viewers may add to the story by choosing from a set of sentences. The installation is part of the ongoing series "Burning Books: Installation and Retrospective," presented by Mills College's Center for the Book and Book Arts Program and the installation site, the San Francisco Center for the Book, 300 De Haro, S.F. Admission is free; call 565-0545. Novel on the Wall is up through Nov. 9. In a related lecture, Renee Hubert speaks of book arts in "Book Revelations: From Flames to Electronics" Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Danforth Auditorium at at Mills College, 5000 MacArthur, Oakland. Admission is free; call (510) 430-2047.
All New Bill It looks like Bill T. Jones has rebounded completely from the nearly 2-year-old furor surrounding that New Yorker article. Art world icons like Tony Kushner flooded the magazine with letters after critic Arlene Croce's attack on what she called "victim art," or work made by people suffering from terminal illnesses, using Jones' Still/Here and some of its ailing dancers as a reference point. Since its inception 16 years ago, the company Jones founded with his late partner, Arnie Zane, has seen both controversy and acclaim for its theatrical, emotionally charged modern repertoire. Jones now presents two programs with seven new or newly restaged works, including Ballad, based on recordings of Dylan Thomas reading his poetry, and Love Redefined, set to Daniel Johnston's song cycle for toy instruments. Program 1 runs at 8 p.m. tonight; Program 2 runs at 8 p.m. Saturday at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $18-30; call (510) 642-9988. Jones also reads and signs copies of his memoir, Last Night on Earth, one day prior to the show's opening, Thursday, Oct. 24, at 12:30 p.m. at the Alexander Book Company, 50 Second St., S.F. Admission is free; call 495-2992.
Family Affair What the butler saw remains a mystery until the curtain rises on Chamber Theater's production of Noel Coward's Relative Values. Coward dedicated this play to his own butler, Core Lesley, and penned a pivotal butler's role into a satire of British society's run-in with Hollywood film types. This comedy about a young film star who returns to her native London to marry an earl became a comeback vehicle for Coward, after his musical Ace of Clubs flopped. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and continues through Nov. 24) at the Phoenix Theater, 301 Eighth St., S.F. Admission is $18; call 346-3107.
The Body Eclectic With 72 contemporary and turn-of-the-century pieces created by Picasso, Matisse, Rodin, Brancusi, and several others, "Masterworks of Modern Sculpture: The Nasher Collection" is being hailed as the most extensive sculpture survey the Bay Area has ever seen. The works come from Raymond and Patsy Nasher's private, 300-piece Dallas collection. Curators will capitalize on the varied lighting and scenic sites both inside and outside the Legion of Honor to show off the artwork, like putting Jonathan Borofsky's Hammering Man, a giant steel sculpture with a motorized arm, next to the reflecting pool. The exhibit opens at the Palace of the Legion of Honor (and continues through Jan. 12, 1997), Lincoln Park, Clement & 34th Ave., S.F. Admission is free-$7; call 863-3330.