Every year I struggle with how to describe MIX Festival and it’s magic and wonder when I plug the event on my blog and social media. People fly in from all over the world to gather for this experimental film festival/queer community gathering/installation art. After my epic Wednesday night in the MIX Factory I thought I would just give it a good Bevin narrative, maybe that’ll tell you what’s up with MIX.
I arrived right on time for my appointment with the XFR Collective. It was early for MIX, 5PM, and the house lights were still on. The XFR Collective is a media preservation organization that works to provide low cost preservation services for obsolete media to non-profits and artists. I had a couple of VHS tapes I wanted preserved for my art. When I looked into doing it myself locally it cost $125 and I put it in the “I will get to this someday” pile and having the opportunity to do it for free was a high priority for me!
The first tape was a collection of Feminist Films from my Feminist Film and Video class in 1999 at UC Davis. It was my first foray into body liberation activism even though I didn’t know it! My friend Dianna and I did a five minute video talking about plus size shopping and how marginalizing it is. The soundtrack includes Indigo Girls and Ani Difranco. (I come by my Deep Lez tendencies honestly and earnestly.) The other video was my dad and step-mom’s wedding video, which I am going to use for a performance piece about her affect on my life I’m developing. (Liz died of a heart attack when I was 19 after having taken Phen Fen. Dad never joined the class action.)
The tape transfer process was not smooth because I was the first person of the day and there were technical challenges, so I just hung out with the volunteers. All three of them were librarians or archivists (shout out to my librarian babes!) and they were sweet and charming. A couple of them were even wearing vintage media themed outfits, like a sweater with folks in 3D glasses emblazoned on it! By 6 they hadn’t resolved things, and said I was free to wander instead of waiting for my tapes. Jacqueline thought it was funny when she arrived that they were archiving a wedding tape and didn’t realize it was my tape! “Deep 80s fashion” she mused. It was Merced, CA in 1990.
I mentioned in my last blog post I find the schedule hard to navigate on their website (I really just need a trailer for the festival) so I like to let the Goddess guide things. And here was the opportunity! I ran into my friend L.A. Teodosio who was screening a film I had heard about at that very moment but didn’t realize was at MIX.
I bought a ticket and slid into the screening with my roommate Damien (who is on the MIX Board) and a bunch of our pals. It’s called Peace of Mind and is about Teo’s partner Flo McGarrell, an artist who was killed in the Haiti earthquake. The movie is perfect for MIX because it’s a bit documentary, a bit art film, a bit fiction. The soundtrack is sumptuous and sweet, the scenery is beautiful, as Haiti is so gorgeous. It was shot both in Port Au Prince and the seaside town of Jacmel and there was a marked difference between the two places, though the lack of resources were consistent between the two. Flo made an interesting comment in one of the archival pieces, that when he was in Haiti cooking food was so difficult and food was much harder to come by, so he would lose weight. When he would go back to the states he would gain it all back. Flo worked with local artists as part of a project that taught artists and curated work and many of the artists were interviewed in the documentary.
Also in the film was a subfilm, a part of the movie KATHY GOES TO HAITI, based on the book of the same name by Kathy Acker, that Flo was working on with the director Cary Cronenwett (who directed the documentary, along with Teo). Zachary Drucker played Kathy Acker and it was interesting to see it, though from what I understood from the documentary the book itself sounds White feminist colonialist. We only saw a part of the book as they had only shot the last chapter, with the intention to shop it around for funding. Due to that and that it was in a larger narrative that addressed a lot of what it was like for LGBTQ people in Haiti, I thought it was redemptive of the source material and appropriately critical of her perspective on Haiti. Check out the trailer for Peace of Mind and if the movie tours in your area I highly recommend seeing it.
Because it’s MIX, filmmakers come to screenings and there are often talk backs, so the awesome Haitian editor of the film (and collaborator of Flo’s) Zaka, was there as well as Teo, discussing the film.
There’s a thing at MIX called “MIXoclock” where they say stuff happens at a certain time but that’s kind of an idea and isn’t really something to count on. Again, with MIX, best to just let the Goddess guide you. So I noticed on my phone that by the time the talk back of this one ended it was already a half hour later than the next screening (I had bought tickets for online). There’s only one screening room so I guessed I had a bit of self care time between the films to go buy some water, check my coat as the coat check was finally open and the house lights were down and everything was doused in purple lights and blacklights. Sitting in a theater for three and a half hours straight is a lot but I was glad for it! ART!
The next screening (the one I prioritized and planned my whole night around) was curated by Queer Rebels, a duo made up of Celeste Chan and KB Tuffy Boyce, both Bay Area artists who I’ve performed with and love their work. Their curation of Queer People of Color made films is always spot on. A mix of lengths, narratives and stories, each is on a theme. This one was on Home and my highlights were a short music video about queers of color in the Bay vs tech gentrification and a short film about a gender non-conforming person coming home to their mother who does not accept them and is awash in grief. Another highlight was Orient, a film about the tension between Black folks and Asian Americans and internalized colonialism. Queer Rebels is incredible and the talk back afterward was also great.
After all of that art I stumbled dazed back into the MIX Factory thinking I’d visit with some folks and then head home. It was already 10, I had been there for five hours! Jacqueline and I went out on the smoking deck, I was aggressively hit on by a person who self-identified as “transexual satan” who I then referred to a different friend of mine. Kind of like, “You’re not for me but I have someone else in mind for you,” which is something I have done before and, listen, I roll with babes. It was a successful match in the end and I’ll save the rest of the dirt for Snapchat.
I rolled through the space here and there, looking at installations. You can go into a cat lounge area through its butt. You can sit inside a triangle. You can wander and look at all the outfits. Even the bathrooms are installations this year! I saw people who don’t live here anymore visiting, hung hard with some local friends and had a lot of fun. I was really tired and every time I felt my energy flagging somehow the space would fulfill my need. The best thing that helped me wake up a bit was a decaf iced coffee from Dunkin that Victoria brought me when she arrived at 11PM. I get a zip from decaf that can really turn around an evening and it worked.
Dinner was served at 11:30PM, it was a pasta with a side of root veggies and salad. Delicious! And free with entry/going to one of the films.
Damien’s look for MIX that night (as photographed from my desk chair when I screamed “OMG Frye Boots with a vintage power suit!” as she checked herself out in our wall mirror). Here is her on video talking about MIX in her capacity as a Board member!
Victoria and I peeled off from our friends and laid down in a nest of pillows in a small side room where we watched a forest scene with a man “hatching” from a plastic bag. Again and again. The more I watched the more the art came alive. Also, resting laying down was really helpful. When can you do that in social spaces?
I was about to leave at midnight and then DJ Average Jo, Holly and Topher arrived so I ended up hanging with them. I was under no intoxicants yet was a bit high on socializing. Full disclosure, I did take a tiny bit of adderall to try to wake up around 9PM and that had zero effect. All told, I was there chatting and admiring outfits (two of my favorite things) until 1:30AM. By then DJ Battyjack was spinning, there was a band playing and other people were still arriving. MIX! It’s magic!
I have a conference this weekend that starts painfully early in the morning but I’m still going to try to go tonight and tomorrow! If you’re curious and you’re in town, go! I coaxed Drae Campbell to come last year for her first time and this year she was there on Wednesday fully in the mix and emceeing!