Seth Eisen is a San Francisco-based artist creating a hybrid of live performance and visual media. He engages LGBTQ history as a living, breathing dialogue by researching lost legacies and reflecting his findings on stage. Central to his artistic vision is the combining of puppetry and object manipulation with visual art, writing and dance in a layered and unified aesthetic. He devises work through rigorous historical research and creative interviews revealing subversive histories. Eisen’s work expands the dialogue between static and live art as a vehicle to broaden human perspectives and effect social change while honoring queer ancestors and evolving queer culture.
He performed as a member of the Butoh companies Harupin–Ha and Ink Boat from 1994-99. From 2000-2010 he toured with Keith Hennessy and Circo Zero across the US and Europe, developing his unique voice for performance, puppetry and object manipulation. His solo performances and installation projects have been featured in the San Francisco Bay Area at The Oakland Museum of California, Yerba Buena Center, as well as being presented in art spaces on both coasts. For the past 20 years, Eisen staged performance pieces, street spectacles and installations and has curated and appeared in a number of collaborative projects created with other Bay Area artists. In 2007, Eisen founded Eye Zen Presents, a theater company that promotes social change by linking Queer history and aesthetics to contemporary Queer culture.
Eisen has a four-year certificate in painting, printmaking and sculpture from The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; he holds a B.A. in Contemplative Performing Arts from Naropa University and an M.A. in Transformative Art from John F. Kennedy University. Puppetry has been an integral part of Eisen’s work since 2004. He worked with puppet masters Annie Hallatt, Sha Sha Higby and K. Ruby (Wise Fool Puppet Intervention) in the Bay Area as well as training with Handspring Puppet Company. Eisen was a featured artist in San Francisco’s annual Puppet Love Festival in 2007 for his work Hishi Musical. A cover story in the San Francisco Chronicle for the festival featured his puppets of the gay disco diva Sylvester and drag queen turned Zen priest Issan Dorsey, founder of the oldest Zen AIDS Hospice.
Eisen has taught visual arts, performance and puppetry for over 15 years to people from all walks of life, age groups and abilities. He ran a thriving art studio in the Tenderloin of San Francisco for 3 years, was guest artist at many Bay Area Arts institutions, Art Centers and K-12 schools from 1995-2005. Since 2004 he has taught at New College of California, Berkeley City College and The College of San Mateo. Since 2005 he taught in the B.F.A., M.A. and M.F.A. programs at John F. Kennedy University’s Department of Arts and Consciousness, where he designed a specialization in Performance. Eisen has toured his LGBTQ historical performance (A Queer Vocal History) to high schools, universities and art centers since 2008 and has had the honor of performing his queer history related performances at the memorials and benefits of several queer ancestors who live on in the magic of his work.