Cavellini gets Cavellini'd in performance at Victoria Theater. Photo by Steve Caravello.
San Francisco in 1984 was THE world’s art happening place. Not NYC, not Paris, not London. Having traveled in ’81 and ’82 I witnessed first hand the art scenes in these places so I’m not being provincial when I make this declaration. There were activities non-stop in the city – artists’ events in vacant lots, shows in new galleries sprung up everywhere, exhibits in old motels, new and established clubs holding events. On one night you could go to five events and openings and still miss another ten. I could not have achieved a full week of art events in a major city like San Francisco if this charged energy had not existed.
For those reading about Inter DADA 84 for the first time, it was a week long arts festival held September 2nd through September 9th, in San Francisco, CA. It was a celebration of DADA. Co-organized with Terrance McMahon, it was loosely modeled on Inter DADA 80 held in Ukiah, CA (well documented in Cavellini’s book Cavellini in California) and the Fourth of July Parades of my childhood. Because Terrence was working at a full time job and later started organizing another show with refrigerators, Inter DADA 84 became MY full time job in the summer of 1984. Fortunately Terrence had a well equipped press so we were able to produce promotional and event media at marginal costs, such as the program and event posters. But my job became chief organizer, mail art tracker, manager, fundraiser, promoter and publicist of the event - which was what I had not signed up for initially. It was to be Terrence and me organizing together with no other “directors”, self-proclaimed or not, but Terrence’s job consumed his time up until the week of the event.
DADA dance contest at Victoria Theater. Photo by Steve Caravello.
As one could expect organizing a group of artists who are not DADA is no mean feat, but for the most part the Dadaists were onboard to make it a memorable event. We’d had a long tradition of Bay Area Dadaists organizing events so the locals were used to working together. It was the out-of-towners from LA spearheaded by one protagonist who was the thorn in my side the whole time leading up to the event. These Dadaists could be very touchy and wanted things their way, but it wasn’t what I was there to do. I had a job to accomplish with no funding to start and a lot of enthusiasm to make up for a lack of staff.
Photo taken at Hotel Utah by Skooter: Abdada, Eva and JES.
I made calls to a select group of people I knew and trusted to do a job well asking for volunteers. No collective group decisions to bog things down, no long weekly meetings but everyone had to have a willingness to work an event to make it happen. For the most part this went smoothly and everyone did a wonderful job. The only management nightmares occurred when people I did not know were given responsibility, against my better judgment. Let’s just say Terrence’s friends were less than cooperative with me at the helm. I’ve seen this sailing when a crew member is just not agreeable to a woman captain being in charge. Times are changing and today people are more likely to work for someone who is different from them than ever before. Some people have authority issues..
Me in front of Victoria Theater taking a break on the convertible. Photo by Steve Caravello.
I went around the city securing sponsorship and space for the events. Terrance wanted to hold an event at the Victoria Theater so we could have a burlesque type of night and he basically was in charge of that and the mail art show hanging. A local bookstore was our headquarters and people checked in there to get a packet that included a T Shirt, program, button and pen (I still have some of these available for sale). Anna Banana was our liaison at this space and signed people up for the various events such as the fashion show, open poetry reading, and dance contest. I can barely remember it all so referring to the program the events included:
- Original DADA books and films at the Goethe Institute
- Lectures at Goethe Institute
- Welcome and info center and art sales
- Photo Show
- Gaglione’s Stamp Art #5 compilation
- Mail Art show
- DADA Classics at the Roxie including the premiere of Cavellini in California film and Super 8’s (by artists who brought films)
- Poetry reading at Hotel Utah
- Dance and costume contest
- Dinner and sound poetry at LaMamelle
- Performances, fashion show and dance contest at Victoria Theater (2 nights)
- Cavellini Writiing Performance with Eva Lake
- After hours club
- DADA Scream in Emeryville Flats
- Videos showing at several clubs
- Cavellini Car Raffle
Cavellini performs his writing on model. Photo by Jes.
The mail art show was huge and filled a complete room including the ceiling. So when you entered you literally entered the mail art. During the week people added to, subtracted from, and/or modified the art hung on the walls. I believe there were even pieces put on the floor by the artists installing the show.
Terrence, Barbara, Carl and Georgina at mail art show, photo by JES.
As at the Hotel Utah (well documented in Mark Block's excerpt posted here), the performances and fashion show at the Victoria Theater had an audience that was jumping up and down in their seats, armed with wads of paper to throw whenever the mood struck, and heckling. One of my fondest memories was sitting in the theater next to Patricia Tavenner hollering and screaming at the show until we were both hoarse with laughter. In true DADA fashion it was a bloody fun fiasco.
Dinner with Ray Johnson masks. Photo by Steve Caravello.
The sit down dinner at LaMamelle catered by Mark Rennie's Billboard cafe, was a classic reunion of people from all over the world meeting and greeting. We had a great laugh with the Ray Johnson masks and again it was one of my favorite events. In fact I enjoyed myself immensely during the week. By the time the festival start arrived I was able to step back and let the volunteers do their jobs and let the events operate on their own steam. Other than a mail art show that wasn’t hung yet four hours before the opening, I didn’t have to step in to take control of any other event. Due to the wonderful volunteers, led by Jurgen Olbrich’s experience it got done!
Of note, the Goethe Institute provided sponsorship in several critical ways. They presented an exhibition of original Dada books and materials shipped in from Germany, original Dada films and lectures by Eva Lake and Anna Banana.
Parade with Cavellini in the sticker car with Pan (Mark Block) on back. Photo by Steve Caravello.
The final event was the parade around a square block Are We Really obtained a permit for. The city was perplexed as to why we only wanted a square block and wanted to have us go down a street in a straight line but we Dadaists’ would not have it. Cavellini and bride rode in the convertible wearing a cowboy hat chauffeured by the new owner of the raffled off convertible covered in the Cavellini red and green stickers.
There are many more stories and lots of people involved. Write up your story for me to post! Send photos!