20 Questions: The Lab's Dena Beard

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The Lab, based in San Francisco, is an institution. Besides hosting a number of phenomenal musicians and artists, including but not limited to: Jack Smith, Nan Goldin, David Wojnarowicz, Lydia Lunch, Mike Kelley, Bruce Conner, My Bloody Valentine, Barry McGee, Mark Flood with Culturecide, Carrie Mae Weems, Wolf Eyes, Orlan, Barbara Kruger, Caroliner, Kathleen Hanna, and Jello Biafra, the place is an influential hub for experimental art. We sent the director of the lab, Dena Beard, a bunch of questions and she told us about her vintage tape measure, a river vortex, and not believing in facts.

Tell us about the last great meal you had: 

U Guh Ji Gal Bi Tang at PyeongChang Tofu House in Oakland two days ago. All this Telethon planning gave me laryngitis, so kimchi and hot stew are sweet ambrosia.

First movie you saw in the theater: 

Return of the Jedi! Long after its first release, but my mom still covered my eyes for all the good parts.

Small thing you can’t live without: 


Place you wish everyone could visit:

The Lab, of course.

Last idea or factoid you came across that stayed in your brain:

I don't believe in facts, and ideas are slippery beasts. But I've been obsessed with ossuaries for a long time and missing this fabulous Capuchin Crypt in Rome. They have something like over 4,000 bones in there.

An experience you’ll never forget: 

When I was nine, I sat for hours watching birds duck in and out of Iguazu Falls, an incredibly powerful river vortex on the border of Argentina and Brazil. The falls were deafeningly loud and would kill a man in an instant, but these birds didn't give a hoot.

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Music you loved as a teenager: 

Anything with heavy narrative and high drama.

First book you remember being really affected by: 

Shel Silverstein's Where The Sidewalk Ends.

How do you start each morning? 

Cafe La Llave brewed in my stovetop espresso maker. I'm a bit like a National Geographic special in the mornings, so I usually stub my toe a few times, walk into a few walls, grunt a bit, and then repeat the phrase on the can a few times, "Tostada especialmente para el gusto Latino," till I become something of a real human being.

Favorite app? 

Dictionary.com. I like the word of the day...

What’s your computer desktop/phone lock screen? 

For my phone, Marcel Duchamp's The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même), often called Large Glass or Broken Glass since it was shattered in transport. I figured it would look appropriate when the screen to my celly eventually suffered the same fate. As for my desktop screen, it's just black. Like my soul.

Your favorite personal item of clothing: 

My leather jacket.

What do you carry with you every day? 

A Stanley tape measure from the 1950s. They made them better back then, and it's flat and has good ridges, so it doubles as a worry stone.

Person in your field whose career/life/work you admire:

Chus Martinez, Constance Lewallen, Helen Molesworth.

Who did you learn the most from?

My mom, of course.

Favorite thing about the place you live:

There are still people here who are individuals, who live their lives refusing to deal with the mediocrity that is shoved down our throats everyday. They inspire me.

Favorite place to eat: 

Uni off the docks in my hometown, Santa Barbara. I basically like any sea creature dragged from the watery depths and immediately prepared in closest proximity to my plate.

Person in your field whose career/life/work you admire: 

Chus Martinez, Constance Lewallen, Helen Molesworth.

Favorite time of day and why: 

Cocktail hour, for obvious reasons.

What is the last thing you made? 

I've been working on creating a uniform for over a year now. I'm still sussing out the patterning and sewing bits of that game, but I'm convinced it's my ticket out of the horror of clothes shopping.

Favorite thing to work with:

Great art.

    1. Jok Church on

      Any project with Duchamp on their telephone's home screen should be backed, if nothing else to see how is all grinds out. No really, kick in a few bucks.

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      Gordon Brickey on

      Great reading. However, the Stanley tape measure is model # MYT10... a pocket size 10' tape measure with "Life Guard Yellow" blade was first seen at retail in 1962, and continued to be manufactured through the 70's. Your tape, although vintage, was most likely made in the 60's or 70's. The model from the 50's was round not square.

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      Namaku Keren on

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      teguhbejo on

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      Doa Ibu Tersayang on

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