Time passes…time passes… Days go by.
Days go by filled with modest projects to occupy minutes and hours. Days go by comprised of pauses, silences, awkward exchanges, minor hopes, inconsequential embarrassments, forgotten and forgettable encounters. Weeks go by and Serge creates 1-3 minute performances for a small assembly of acquaintances. He invites them in, he invites us in. The actor playing Serge shows us his environment, its possibilities, its limitations, and the objects that make up his world. And we, or rather a small group of us, gather afterwards to discuss the performance.
Book ended between a show we didn’t see and show we won’t see, L’Effet de Serge, offers an extended, quite reflection on the minute accomplishments, formalities, and routines that make up a life. An interview included in the program notes presents the essence of Vivarium Studio’s work as centered on the human need for one another and the “reliance on a poetic spirit to transcend mundane lives of sometimes astounding insignificance.” Given the profound smallness of any one life, what is L’Effet de Serge – Serge’s effect, or impact, on the world? Is the life presented before us beautiful or tragic?
As one participant proposed, Serge can be viewed as a blank slate onto which can be projected subjective assessments of success or failure. In this respect, the piece is evocative, opening a space for musings and personal interpretations, as opposed to provocatively inciting a response. Serge’s life is beautiful because rather than generating meaning through the consumption of commodities, his weeks are centered on active creation. Serge’s life is tragic because his activities are so subdued; he has no grand aspirations and does not change dramatically over the course of our time with him. His life is easily trivialized because his successes are so incremental and so modest. In this character, we can read the relative absurdity of most human social dramas generally – immediate and important to those involved, utterly insignificant in the larger course of history.
As brought out in an opening night blog written by Theresa from Mad King Thomas, an individual often marks life as a succession of important events, strung together by the seemingly unimportant time in-between. Viewing linear time in this way, the focus is on advancement and the achievements that punctuate a timeline. This progress is intensified in the heightened reality of theatre where so often audiences are presented with concentrations of activity flowing quickly from stasis to conflict to climax, through denouement and resolution. In L’Effet de Serge, we marinate in the time of Sunday late afternoon transitioning to early evening. Time passes without dramatic reversals and unexpected twists. Time passes Sunday to Sunday and Serge continues to occupy himself with endearing spectacles. Neither tragic nor exquisite, his life simply is.
Serge’s theatrical productions, although brief, are surrounded by ritual and formality. While offering a comic element, this aspect also serves as a microcosm of the theatre world where the time taken up by a performance is a fraction of the time leading up to the performance event. In Serge’s brief post-performance exchanges, one can read variations of a desire or attempt to connect on both the side of the creator and the side of the audience. What results is perhaps a misconnection, but one that is not uncommon when dealing with translating art and the experience of art into a language of response and explanation.
L’Effet de Serge offered a performance centered on the passage of time without dramatic development, the small activities that give life meaning and structure, the routines that propel us slowly forward through minutes, hours, days, and weeks. Rather than marking time event to event, the performance offered a different means of perception, a view of life as something small and precious that is not held and possessed in accomplishments, but rather cherished as it slowly slips by.
Thank you to all the participants for the engaging discussion reflected in the above paragraphs! Readers interested in continuing to explore related themes at the Walker are encouraged to visit the exhibit The Spectacular Vernacular, on view through May 8, 2011.
Our next SpeakEasy post-performance conversation will take place on Saturday, February 19, following Sarah Michelson’s Devotion.