November’s issue – Past and Present


Welcome to November’s issue of Synchronized Chaos Magazine! Happy Thanksgiving to our North American readers, and happy fall, or spring, for everyone everywhere.

This month brought in highly developed, specific, and very individual submissions, centered on researching and remembering the past to carry it forward, study it, or reinterpret it somehow through art. This emphasis fits with the holiday concept of thanksgiving – reflecting upon one’s history and one’s heritage, the gifts and sorrows of the past which shape our lives and cultures today.

San Francisco multimedia artist Sally Larsen compiles and curates photography of Native Americans, and serendipitously came across manifestations of the unique German aesthetic and thus focused her anthology on the Germans. Her work reviews the confluence of cultures which came about during the period of exploration/colonization a few centuries ago when Europeans first arrived in the Americas, and draws upon new software technologies to critically re-examine much older photography.

Painter and bullfighter Kate Leffler also delves into the wealth of centuries of tuaromachia – the courage, passion, and pageantry enacting humans’ struggle to survive and assert our identity against the wilderness. She let me know that the statement, the concept, the memory of humans’ past contests against the land, wild animals, etc was the critical element of a bullfight. Nowadays, one does not have to kill the bull to make that assertion, but during the ceremony one allows oneself to remember and re-connect with one’s own vulnerability and the Romantic, tragic contest with external forces.

Leffler’s personal bullfights serve as artistic research, informing her current paintings. In the same way, returning poet Danielle Searby highlights the journey of aging, philosophical when happening to others and personal when one becomes older oneself. Searby examines physical change as one’s body ages: people still undergo the helplessness of surgery and age, the modern ‘bulls’ of our time.

Essayist and short fiction author Cynthia Lamanna also draws upon the past in her essay memorializing her Italian immigrant grandmother, yet her modern adult perspective also informs the piece, as she knew her while she was a child, but now speculates on the grown-up concerns her grandmother may have experienced. Grandma Littier moved across the Atlantic while very young as a new bride, and worked hard to care for her family and her sick husband when older, and likely experienced a mix of feelings which Lamanna can now understand.

The Pennsylvania State University crew working on the upcoming independent film Determinism combine older influences, such as other notable crime-drama filmmakers, but produce their own unique product. Their work depicts a South Asian college student who robs a drug dealer while trying to find the cash to escape the expected hardworking, straight-A, humble, ‘geek’ lifestyle. Can he, and how far will he go, to change the destiny his family and culture have planned for him? Does he control his future, or does his past inevitably shape who he’ll become?

Returning author Patsy Ledbetter also deals with issues of choice as related to memory and the past, but in a positive sense. In her vignette, she chooses to remember her religious heritage every time she passes a certain random roadside sight, tennis shoes tied to telephone wires. Her second piece relates how she decided to stay open to learning from people who communicated differently: children with limited hearing and sight. She discovered ways to reach out to young Tori and Mateo by paying attention to how they communicated over time. Ledbetter’s submissions remind us to take time to learn from others, to notice others, to think through what we encounter in daily life. Through this careful listening to the world around us, we can learn enough to begin to communicate with others so they can understand us.

WordsFirst/Solo Sundays, the new-ish San Francisco solo performance theater events, make use of communication much more than some people expect from a single person on stage. Actors and actresses develop work as a group effort, building ideas and humor off of each other, and then engage the audience, so each show becomes an individual event. Many WordsFirst performers reference and remember the past, notably Julia Jackson, imagining herself in the place of the mother of a woman about to give a child up for adoption, and another performer, meeting his husband online in the days of early dialup modems.

As we remember the past, we speak of the past, and acknowledge and experience anew how it has inspired and informed our present, and likely our future. Whether our pasts are something to celebrate overcoming, something to heal from, or something to gratefully celebrate for Thanksgiving, they represent a source of creative material, as shown by our November Synchronized Chaos artists.