Wholesome Roc Art Gallery and Cafe, an alternative art space opened in Chicago in 1987, provided a place for artists, particularly black queer artists, to display their art and engage with one another. This video contains footage from the second half of the Wholesome Roc First Anniversary Show, celebrating Wholesome Roc Gallery and Cafe's first year in operation and featuring various types of performance art.

0:04Copy video clip URL Performers prepare their instruments. The videographer talks with a performer, asking him why he wasn’t allowed to film in another space in the venue. Another performer commiserates with the videographer after the first performer leaves. The musicians and videographer continue to chat before the show starts.

3:31Copy video clip URL A man in a suit and tie sits down, the videographer asking him about his favorite writers for film and prose. The man talks about his interest in science fiction, explaining the writings and writers that interest him and how it relates to his own poetry. “With poetry, I think it’s very hard because it’s not a visual thing. It’s a feeling thing. An atmosphere and a mood.” 

7:55Copy video clip URL An event organizer cuts off the interview, directing the videographer to the front. Video cuts out.

8:11Copy video clip URL The video resumes with a musical performance art piece, featuring intentionally discordant and chaotic instrumentals occasionally joined with spoken lyrics. A small crowd looks on. The camera zooms into the instruments (drums, guitar, and saxophone) as the three musicians  play.

18:35Copy video clip URL The first piece ends, the audience laughing and clapping. A second, slightly calmer, but still discordant piece begins that gains, a tenor saxophone player, George, stepping in to join the piece, adding a low, hollow sound. The piece continues to gain intensity, the guitar player picking up a bottle to use to strum the guitar with.

26:05Copy video clip URL The second piece ends, the audience clapping. A third piece begins, of the same style as the first two. The camera pans over the audience, several members of which have left, leaving empty chairs in their wake.

33:43Copy video clip URL The third piece ends to applause from the audience. Another slower and calmer piece begins, the drummer switching to mallets rather than drumsticks. The camera zooms in on the artwork around the room and several audience members standing to mingle with one another.

39:23Copy video clip URL The fourth piece ends and another piece starts, also discordant and chaotic. The first saxophone player walks into the audience area and a member of the audience joins him in headbanging. As the saxophone player leaves, he closes one of the doors, and the members scurry behind it, hiding from the audience. The camera follows the players into the room, who try to dodge out of sight. The camera pans to different objects in the room, including the menu for Wholesome Roc Gallery & Cafe. An audience member playfully steals one of the band’s chairs as the band continues to push against various norms of performance.

50:57Copy video clip URL The song finishes and the members introduce themselves as George  (tenor sax), Jack Wright (saxophone), and Tim (drums). The guitar player introduces himself as well, though his name is drowned out by background noise.

52:23Copy video clip URL The host introduces to the stage Patrick, who reads aloud one of his poems, dedicating it to Karen McClure, Rebecca Ellis, Tiffany Adams, and Linda Adams. The poem, titled Fantasia for Artist, Dreamer, Gallery, and Chamber is reminiscent of mythological odes, to which it makes continual allusions, as well as figures from a number of folklore traditions. The camera pans over his notes and face as he speaks, capturing him from a variety of angles.

1:02:17Copy video clip URL The cameraman asks if Patrick has a poem he can read. Patrick agrees, then introduces a second poem, about a romantic evening he spent with Linda Adams.

1:05:16Copy video clip URL Patrick finishes his second poem. The audience applauds, and the cameraman, Ken, hands off his camera to read a poem himself. He recites a cynical poem, Marriage, going through the stages of a relationship with a woman from a man’s perspective. Halfway through the poem, the phone rings, Ken picking it up before continuing his poem.

1:10:58Copy video clip URL Patrick hands a poem to Ken, who struggles to read his handwriting. The host also struggles to focus the camera, calling Ken back to help him. Ken reads a poem from a woman, though he says it’s too short to perform. Ken hands the camera to another woman as multiple poets hand poems to Ken for him to read as others talk in the background. Ken ends up reading a poem from a book, The Bean and the Nuke, matching the poem’s discussion of change and music by half-reading, and half-singing the poem.

1:17:51Copy video clip URL A man reads aloud a verse of Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll in French. He and the woman operating the camera recite the poem in English from memory. The man talks about the difficulty of translating a poem like Jabberwocky into another language.

1:20:19Copy video clip URL The host invites the camerawoman, Angela, outside. They interview audience members, asking them what they enjoyed about Wholesome Roc. After slightly joking around, one man says he enjoys a “place that tries to give art and culture that normally is not available.” The Wholesome Rock members joke around as the camerawoman and the MC ask more members what they liked about Wholesome Roc.

1:23:54Copy video clip URL Members gather and chat with one another in the cafe, the camera zooming in on different people. 

1:27:17Copy video clip URL Angela heads outside with the camera to do another interview, with the same question: what they like about Wholesome Roc. The man from the first interview of the night talks about the artistic and open culture of Wholesome Roc. “Wholesome Roc is an experience. That’s it,” says one man as he leaves.

1:31:33Copy video clip URL The man who recited Jabberwocky talks about what Wholesome Roc means to him, talking about the fashion styles at Wholesome Roc and the magazines they offer. Angela talks to other members of the event.

1:41:18Copy video clip URL The camera cuts to another interview with a woman who works at Wholesome Roc, talking about her experience at Wholesome Roc and her thoughts on the events of the night. She says that she liked the “jam session between Jack and the Elvis Messiahs.” The cameraman asks her what drew her to Wholesome Rock and what art she herself does.

1:48:38Copy video clip URL The cameraman interviews a series of people, starting with Wholesome Roc’s barista, who gives his thoughts on the cafe’s importance. A young woman who also works at Wholesome Roc follows him. Another woman talks about how Wholesome Roc creates inspiration for artists.

1:54:54Copy video clip URL More patrons head out. Patrick talks about the environment at Wholesome Roc, saying that the cafe is a place for people of all beliefs. A young man talks about the potential of Wholesome Roc. The place closes down as the remaining patrons say their goodbyes. The cameraman places the camera down, where it continues recording. The MC expresses his wish that more people had actively participated in the events of the night. The cameraman and the MC talk about the footage until the camera dies.



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