Anna Marie Shogren, like Eric Clapton, is God.
And so inevitably in time, she’ll be — just like the Beatles — bigger than Jesus.
1. La Brea. Tar Pits: “home to over three million fossils from the last Ice Age.”
2. Death. Death. Death.
3. Living (or Trying To) In This Pisspot
4. I Am A Jerk
It was killing me that I hadn’t found time to write my comments to Ms Shogren to let her know how moved and (of course) impressed I was with her piece. Then today I met one of her compatriots on the sidewalk who suggested I write it here. And so I am, in this more public venue — even though details now escape my memory. Because her work deserves welcome, attention, support, and as much intelligent response as possible. Because believe you me, friend, if we don’t recognize what a world-class artist we’ve got in her, as sure as turnips are turnips some other state will snatch her up and we’ll once again be left holding the honorary “Bob Dylan slept here” plaque, desperately clinging to the fading illusion that there’s more to this “home of the arts” than Foundations and new buildings. I wish I were up to the challenge, but I’ll at least put my two cents here.
1. Simple question: where will we be in 40,000 years? You think dance, you think art…heck, you think People in any shape…will matter then? Okay, now make a dance for Momentum. (Keep that in mind.)
2. Representing death in performance is one of those tricky things that tend to draw opinions out of people (particularly some French theorists). So maybe not surprisingly, I’ve got one to share. Say something comes up as you’re making work and it’s beginning to look like Death. How do you talk about it? “Over-the-top, cartoonish death imagery,” she says. Yes. Exactly. How you talk about anything that is as “unpresentable” as death is good, but most importantly: how does it come out in the work?
“Saving Private Ryan” (okay I hit the far wall with this one) is a war movie that gives you a good feeling about death and dying, despite its “antiwar message” (for contrast, see Godard’s “Les Carabiniers”)
Stick with me here for a sec.
In “La Brea” the music is distorted, muffled, the speaking hesitant and sometimes garbled. Talk about yer lo-fi. The movement is like this too: when it’s big and open it is too far, cartoonish — ironic maybe, but certainly not acceptable by Broadway or MTV. And when it’s small it’s micro-human: its the nerves working on their own, its the anxious stomach, the chewed fingernails and the bleeding gums. Catharsis? Ha!
Why? It’s on purpose. It’s intentional. It is a mighty fist in the face of the way art/the world works: “I will not join in this party of destruction, you total goat fucks.” (I paraphrase, natch.) Everything that can possibly go wrong has gone wrong and this piece will have none of it. No excuses, no simple gestures, and definitely no “entertainment” to keep you busy while we send for more ships of death.
So there’s Death everywhere here and it’s a little cartoonish, a little unreal, a little funny — but also a little creepy, don’t you think? Katie Rose McLauglin gestures frenetically (like in a cartoon!) over the still body of Nastalie Bogira (like in a cartoon!) as Anna Marie Shogren watches impassively (is that really what she is?).
Then Ms McLauglin gives up and leaves. Ms Bogira gets up and leaves. Ms Shogren stays there watching. She is left (in a manner completely unlike a cartoon) to watch the space where the body was, a circle of light on the floor near a mattress. This absence IS death (death is absence), certainly more than any possible representation of death could be.
And all this after dancing and dancing around in circles, being the lifted star, being dragged around, posing to Ricki Lee Jones –is there humanity here any more? Who’s in charge here? Who put them up to this? Yes, I’m dumb but not completely stupid: this is dance about dance — but it’s also presentation, representation, power, image, truth and lies, bodies and blood. Doesn’t this sound familiar? Isn’t this a model (onstage in movement) of this world?
Which brings me to number three.
3. There once was a child who had no mother and no father. He was all alone. He looked all over the earth but there was no one left. Everything was dead. He went to the moon but that was an old rotten piece of wood. He went to the sun, but it was a withered sunflower. He went to the stars, but they were little flies stuck to the night with pins. At last he went back down to the earth. The earth was an overturned Pisspot. He was all alone, so he sat down and cried. And he is there to this day. (Apologies to G Buchner and T Waits)
Not to get too political here, but this country has been at war since before my second child was born and for more than half of my oldest child’s life. Sure, the economy’s in the tank, people are losing their homes and jobs and the SUVs still clog the roads, arts funding is part of a corporate marketing budget, and seemingly established art centers are closing their doors right and left — but we’ve got it good. Some people are getting their bodies blown apart because they’re working hard at a job where the bosses have abdicated responsibility to say the least.
Pisspot? Maybe that’s too kind. There’s some seriously bad shit happening, and I don’t need to hear stories of love gone wrong anymore.
Upstairs Bathroom, I’m a Jerk, La Brea. This is what it is like to be alive and awake and helpless today (or at least was in mid-July 2008).
So put your fingers in your mouth and bounce on the bed.
Can we really look for potency in movement here? This is entirely about its opposite. Fumbling, clownish, agonizing anxiety and inhibition. Fascination with the hole in your leg, watching the bugs crawl around in your flesh. (And you didn’t see that, you hear it.)
4. I believe Ms Shogren is nothing if not utterly self-aware of her place in this world. “ I tend to thrive in a solo situation, or I separate myself in group situations by hogging attention. I don’t know how to play the middle ground, and this piece is a comment on that.” I know she is very very smart. And I’ll bet it is impossible for her to place her fist in the face of the world and not realize that it is a fist, her fist, and how that reflects on her. With the graceful humility of the true genius Ms Shogren has not left herself out of the critique of this place and hour, and speaks for no one but herself.
I help make the world I despise whenever I do not actively make the world I want.
I wanna be a part of Ms Shogren’s world.