From September 22-25, 1999, the Harry Partch Foundation mounted a photographic exhibition entitled "HARRY PARTCH: I Was A Bum Once Myself".
Produced by Randy Hoffman and Jonathan Szanto, the exhibit consisted of nearly forty rare photographs from the composer's lifetime collection of materials. Our idea was to show as long a time line of Partch's life as possible, view some of the many interpersonal relationships he encountered along the way, and in particular give a nod of thanks to the San Francisco Bay area, which for so many years and in so many ways formed a creative center for Partch. This document will give you a little idea about what it was like.
(To see the four views enlarged and with descriptions, either click on one of the four 'photos' above or click on the Once inside, use the and to move around the room, and the to return here.)
It was difficult to narrow down, but in the end the limitations of the space determined the number of photos that would be possible to display. Additionally, the site for this first exhibition is a living, breathing art/performance center: OmniCircus. When we saw that we would not be able to actually hang photos on the walls, Randy came up with the idea to hang the majority of them from the underside of the U-shaped balcony, in essence hanging them in space. The photographs were framed in clear glass frames of uniform size to minimize distractions; the prints themselves are of varying format, size, quality, and condition. To gain extra display space, various methods were used: specially constructed racks, easels, and free-hanging. Each photograph also had suspended beneath it a second, small frame, containing identifying captions reproduced in Harry Partch's handwriting, courtesy of the clever font designed by Philip Blackburn (and aptly named "Bastard Partchiana").
The photographs were arranged in a chronological format, only interrupting the bounds of time when visual distinction called out for breaking the rules. As patrons entered the space, they proceeded counter-clockwise through the exhibit, ending roughly where they began. To enhance the depth of experience, a guide book to the exhibition was also produced, reproducing a small thumbnail on each page with a short essay on events surrounding the photograph. (See the end of this page
for a link to an online reproduction of a portion of this book.) During the exhibition, some of Partch's music was playing at all times. While there was debate regarding this, in light that Harry detested music being used as a background (especially his own!), we felt that everything that we could do to engage all the senses would be a plus. Additionally, we chose only the rare instrumental pieces that Partch composed; we hope Harry will forgive us this time...
This first exhibition was successful far beyond the short amount of time to prepare (the beautiful poster, designed by Rita Hoffman and seen on the entry to this page, has apparently become a collector's item), and firmly convinced us of the need for future events of a similar and deeper thrust. There have been ripples already from this short foray: a complete survey, cataloging, and preservation of the Partch Archive photographic collection, the infamous T-Shirt offer, and the many correspondences and connections that have come from this one brief trip. We are not done with this, as there is much more light to be shed on the creative contributions of Harry Partch, and this is just one way we can increase the wattage. If you have any ideas to share, don't hesitate to drop us a line here at the Harry Partch Foundation: HPFoundation@corporeal.com