I know I live under a log, but even so sometimes a tiny bit of the outside world filters in and I don’t remember any hype about this show. Which is fine with me because I have a tortured relationship with pre-show information.
I hate to hear anything about a movie before I go see it. I am regularly disappointed by the relationship between program/advertising material and performance, usually because the material colors my expectations in an unhelpful shade. To say nothing of the injustice of having to create a blurb and press release months before knowing what the performance will be. (Just some of my innumerable weaknesses.)
All of which is a way to begin with the front of the program for this puppy. Beginning with “1906 die bruke” there’s the list of art world monikers in lower case and chronological order, interspersed with the performance’s title (or maybe it was the preamble) in all capitals ending in 2006 with “PERFORMANCE“. (I had trouble getting the strikethrough into the title of this post.)
So this is what I was thinking: it’s nice to see something that appears to take into consideration the long work of people dealing with representation and its place in the world. As if art was something that didn’t need to be defended. As if art had its own history, culture, economy, social institutions, practices, discourses, etc. that are simultaneously as independent and as engaged with the world as the practices of medicine, economics, architecture, agriculture, etc. are. In other words, as if the way so many relate to art as external, peripheral, irrelevant, misguided, elitist, self-indulgent, or ignorant was just plain wrong.
I also thought, in my smalltown Minnesota way, “What chutzpah.” Or hubris, maybe. As if this performance was the culmination of a century-long process. But in a way it’s inevitably true, as it is for any contemporary work no matter how thoughtless or badly done. And this of course points out the weaknesses of the whole idea of historical progress. Which in turn is tied into the notion of “career” and any associated endpoint.
So with that as my preamble, I will mention that I liked the depiction of creative work among those of us whose personalities fluctuate between the petty dictator and the under-appreciated laborer. And the necessary interdependence of these perspectives — creation of pop songs and performance works aren’t all that different in abstract essentials from the daily of work of “real” jobs. (As those of us who work a “day” job to survive know from experience.)
Following the formal device of the creation of something and to its presentation was a comforting storyline, particularly so when its a pop song. (And it was catchy, although hearing any three notes over and over for an hour is bound to make them stick in your head — not until I went to Cub afterwards for some groceries (shopping without the kids! Freedom!) and had one of those 70s pop song pummeled in.)
I also liked the use of projection and material used so well by Shimon Attie and others. There’s something exciting that happens when you project images of material on the material itself. And of course the smoke/fog shifts from clarifying to dispersing to obscuring the image.
There was a lingering whiff of self-righteousness in the relationship between the creator and the audience (there she was, two rows in front of me with her headset, now she’s onstage adjusting the positions of the instruments, now the show is over and she moves downstage with a crew member, watching the audience). She was an advisor on Sarah Michelson’s Daylight (Minneapolis), and the two works seem to share an investigation of audience/performer power relations that assumes audiences know little to nothing about their expectations, role, power, etc. which ends up being condescending.
In general this was the most interesting thing I’ve seen there this year in part because it was aware of its own history and practices, in part because it didn’t hesitate to be entertaining as well as thoughtful, and despite a sometimes condescending or hubristic attitude.
There were also the writings inside the program which for me worked like parallel, or distinct, lines of thought with the performance — and were also something to read when things got dull. Thanks!