Juggling Giraffes with Mikl Em

San Francisco lost another amazing artists today. Mikl Em passed away this morning after a year long battle with brain cancer.

Mikl was a doer. I have many talented friends, but what set Mikl apart was his ability to follow through and make things. He’d always tell you about some crazy idea, then a month later you’d get a call from him asking if you could help run the door or fill in some specific role that he needed.

Seriously, of all the qualities I admire in an artist, the ability to follow through and make things happen is at the top of my list. He was an organizer, a writer, a people person, a visionary, a performer, a planner, and a marketer all wrapped up in one package. He was also prolific as hell.

I helped perform at a few of his projects over the years, mainly as a visual artist. He was really into exquisite corpses, a surrealist writing challenge where writers start a story, then pass it on to other writers to work on. Each writer can only see the last sentence of what the author before them had written, so the stories can often get quite silly. Mikl had heard that some friends and I had developed an exquisite corpse-style portraiture process, where an artist folds a sheet a paper into thirds and then draws 1/3rd of a person’s portrait, before passing the paper on to two other artists to complete. Mikl loved this idea and had us come to quite a few of his exquisite corpse plays to draw “corpstraits” during the intermission.

All of our visual artists loved these events and would frequently ask when we could do our next one.

We hung out a lot throughout the years and he was one of the most supportive artists I know. My only regret was that we never got to work on a whole project together. Start to finish. Not that Mikl didn’t try to make that happen. He tried several times, but I always felt too busy to take on another project. Especially something as ambitious as what Mikl would often dream up.

I could barely manage one project at a time, but Mikl could be in the middle of 4 other big projects (plays, events, immersive installations, public art performance) and still find time to be plan something new.

We did manage to make one thing together though. Something small, but I love listening back to it throughout the years. Really it was Mikl doing the hard work. I just hit record and played guitar while he improvised this strange story about the sounds giraffes make when being juggled.

Despite being the most prolific artist I knew, he somehow managed to come out and support so many other folks in SF. When you spotted Mikl at an event, you knew you picked the right place to be. He will be missed so much by all of us that were lucky enough to know him.