Pamela Z explores baggage on many levels 

Pamela Z says the fact that she’s been lugging odd pieces of luggage around for years was among the first notions that led to her new show “Baggage Allowance,” opening at Theater Artaud today.

“I spend a substantial amount of my life traveling: hauling things — many overweight, odd-sized things that raise eyebrows of security officials — it made me want to make a piece, not just about literal luggage, but about the attachment people have to objects they think they need,” says the San Francisco and New York-based performance artist, who has been creating experimental work since the 1980s.

The subject has rich metaphorical value. She says, “It’s tied in with memories, families and relationships, things that are filled with heavy meaning.”

The multi-media production — featuring Pamela Z’s voice, her own original music, video and sound design accompanied by a corresponding gallery exhibit — isn’t meant to provide answers.

“I’m almost against having a message. I ask questions that evoke feelings and rough up the audiences’ feathers. I layer stories, using them to shake people up,” says Pamela, who has been developing “Baggage Allowance” for more than a year.

Research involved interviewing friends, fellow artists and travelers in airports, making mundane queries, such as “What do you pack when you travel?” or even asking if people pay to keep stuff in storage or if they’re concerned about what might happen to their parents’ belongings. 

She also points to recent ironies in her own life that reflect some of the show’s themes. For one, she couldn’t pass up sudden opportunities to present work in Berlin, New York, Illinois, Austria and Indiana (“you kind of have to take things as they come”) and that she had to move because a new studio became available in her building “at the absolute worst time.”

Baggage Allowance

Z Space @ Theater Artaud, 450 Florida St. (at 17th Street), San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. today-Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $16 to $20
Contact: (800) 838-3006;;

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Leslie Katz

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