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Miranda July

Wednesday, Sep 26 2001
Miranda July's genre-spanning productions burrow deep inside secrets of self-image and sexuality, confronting difficult issues with a calculated mix of honesty and entertainment. While she's gained international attention from all levels of the art world, the Portland-based performer sticks to her punk roots by continually encouraging a DIY approach to self-expression, spawning new art communities along the way. This week, she comes to San Francisco to showcase her latest effort: a collaboration with a crew of local girls.

July understands the desire to be creative at an early age. The now-27-year-old artist has been performing since high school, when she produced plays at Berkeley's punk haven Gilman Street and co-created a zine called Snarla. In 1995, she moved to Oregon and started the Big Miss Moviola movie chain letter. (The continuing project -- now titled Joanie 4 Jackie -- compiles and distributes video shorts by ladies from around the country.) Eventually, July expanded her talents into multiple realms, recording albums for Kill Rock Stars and K Records, playing a bit part in Jesus' Son, consulting on Wayne Wang's Map of the World, and shooting the video for Sleater-Kinney's "Get Up."

When July returns to the Bay Area for the second time this month (after performing her piece The Swan Tool at Theater Artaud), she'll take part in Zeum's "Build It!" residency program. The youth center's ongoing, interactive project matches well-known artists such as composer Mikel Rouse, musician/sculptor Frank Pahl, puppeteer Basil Twist, and multimedia artist Tana Johnson in collaborative efforts with groups of young adults. For her part, July spent two weeks with 10 teenage girls, and the fruits of their labors -- a mix of video, writing, and other forms -- will be shown three times during the weekend. Given July's endless creative energy and her passion for sparking expression in others, this event offers a rare phenomenon in the art and punk worlds: a chance to witness an underground icon concerned with new voices as much as she is with her own.

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Jennifer Maerz


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