The Green Room: From on stage, back stage and the theater seats, the Performing Arts blog illuminates the intersecting worlds of dance, theater, and music.
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 [...]
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.
Okay, I’m back. Still waiting for the relief to kick in, but let’s just swim ahead and hope we hit shore before we drown. The thing I’ve latched onto here is the thing I’ve latched onto elsewhere: the movement vocabulary. Or style. Or…something. (Not knowing what the proper terminology is can be fatal, but my [...]
Okay, I’m back. Still waiting for the relief to kick in, but let’s just swim ahead and hope we hit shore before we drown.
The thing I’ve latched onto here is the thing I’ve latched onto elsewhere: the movement vocabulary. Or style. Or…something. (Not knowing what the proper terminology is can be fatal, but my arms are still doing the strokes…)
The solo that Mr Medlyn did that I mentioned last post is maybe the best way to get into this. It started from, I think, a baseball pitcher’s conventional rubbing of the ball in the mitt. It went from there into something like a fevered, panicked version of this — still attached to the reality of what we know (even those of us non-fans) but extended to parody or commentary. But then it went hogwild or apeshit…
(Briefly: how many times can we hear fuck and its relatives in an evening — and is that more than comedy?)
…and it, for me, exploded into a kind of movement that nearly approached trance-inducing. The way the movement became disconnected from the body as well as from any motivation, rationalization or impulse and sort of floated there in the light.
And I think to get there you have to get around the huge Wall of Art that goes up whenever there is a presentation of art. I don’t think this is a new thing, but I think that people have to find new ways of climbing, skirting, tunneling under that wall because even to see something twice or to know what you will be seeing is just another brick in the wall. The Wall that kills the life of the work.
It’s death, really. The way it is so inevitable, so unforgiving, so immediate and so final. It erases the life. The movement’s fascinating quality is in its surprise, its mobility of thought, its fragility, its ephemerality, its fleeting delicate presence that is so direct and beautiful (even heavy ugly art can have this fragile beauty).
And so to escape this Wall of Art that is Death someone has to continually reinvent the world (in dance, in movement, in performance…whatever). It is not easy, clearly. It is also not always recognized as a goal of art. But it also has nothing (or very little) to do with whether the work is enjoyable or not. But if it doesn’t escape the best it can be is entertaining or boring.
When I come back as God, I would make feedforward about 38% shorter and work for those moments of escape.
That said (’cause now it’s out of the way and can be seen for the useless, pointless and petty comment that those kinds of comments really are) there is a movement afoot that, in the best cases, skirts this Wall of Angry Implacable Death by skirting Art with pedestrian movement.
But not always that. There’s something more reality-based than that involved. True, sometimes the movement comes from everyday life, but sometimes everyday life itself takes part in the performance — not chance (or not only chance) but a version of reality that is brought into the performance that works sort of like a talisman or even a weapon against the Ancient and Evil Edifice of ArtDeath.
Which is kind of funny — but maybe that inversion of the relationship between art and life is why it has the potential to work.
I swear that title was a major coincidence. It gave me a little frisson, if yknowwhaddamean, when Neil started singing it. Okay, now I know where “David” and “Neumann” come from. Duh. The title is beyond me this morning though, “feedforward.” Okay. It felt a little like old home week with the guest performers and [...]
I swear that title was a major coincidence. It gave me a little frisson, if yknowwhaddamean, when Neil started singing it.
Okay, now I know where “David” and “Neumann” come from. Duh. The title is beyond me this morning though, “feedforward.” Okay.
It felt a little like old home week with the guest performers and the many connections to ABG. I’ve even seen Neil Medlyn on YouTube. Which makes him familiar.
And sports were more like an excuse or justification than a tool or subject, I thought.
I have a little headache that has been sitting behind my eyes for about 24 hours so I realize that my experience last night was probably not the most generous. Even so, I didn’t look at my watch until about an hour in, just before the guests and the squirrel-suit with pink penis.
All right. Sure. Fine. Whatever. You know what I’m saying?
I was sort taking it all in for the first 20 minutes or so, more engaged by the text than the movement — I think that there was a connection between sports commentary and dance criticism (or at least trying to talk about dance) which is an interesting subject to me (how do you talk about something that is fundamentally nonverbal — and I think this is true of most if not all disciplines: if we could say what the pieces we make were about we wouldn’t have to make them…).
Sorry, not up to par here in the brains department.
But I did get a little tired of the cleverness. Until Neil’s solo. Not his monolog or the video or the whole baseball thing, but that thing he did that took it away from the pitchers mound and into a very frenetic thing with his hands and arms. For me that was worth the price of admission, had I paid it.
So I’m going to take a little break here, get some pain killers and come back to try and be more articulate.
Just as an experiment, I am posting now — before I see the show — to see what kind of preconceptions I have about the performance and how my experience tonight will be different. Or similar. I’ve seen the picture from the Walker brochure frequently over the past week because it is sitting on a [...]
Just as an experiment, I am posting now — before I see the show — to see what kind of preconceptions I have about the performance and how my experience tonight will be different. Or similar.
I’ve seen the picture from the Walker brochure frequently over the past week because it is sitting on a table in my kitchen (not The Kitchen) and I remember a relative close-up of faces, hands and arms in what looks a little like a tussle. But I am also remembering this is dance or dance-based, so I’m guessing there won’t be actual fighting. Also there was something in the written material about sports and Merce Cunnigham. The sports reference did nothing to excite me, given my predilection for non-sport sedentary events. I think there was something about the name “David,” but that may be the name of the artist or group.
Sheesh. Okay. I have virtually no recall. Can’t even remember the name of the show.
Oh, and there are Rugby stripes on the shirts.
The sports thing sticks in my head because it is something that does not make me want to see the show. And I have nothing against sports in principle, just as a personal preference I find participating and watching them kind of boring. Questions about funding for a sports stadium will bring out a slightly different response, but let’s not go there.
So this thing is at the Walker, at the McGuire, both of which I am pretty familiar with. But given that I know I’m not seeing a dog fight or watching paint dry, this doesn’t say much.
Until tonight then…
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 [...]
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!
Hello again. I came home and was looking out my window on the stairway, procrastinating, cause it’s cold out there and that’s what I do, and I see lots of old snow. And old snow is dirty, hard, and to me it always looks very old. (I feel a metaphor coming on…) And I feel [...]
Hello again. I came home and was looking out my window on the stairway, procrastinating, cause it’s cold out there and that’s what I do, and I see lots of old snow. And old snow is dirty, hard, and to me it always looks very old. (I feel a metaphor coming on…) And I feel old, not like not-young old but like worn-out old. And it’s dark out there. The street lights were doing that streetlight thing on the cars and streets, and it looked romantic. Like Hallmark-card-queasy romantic. And if this were a story I’d say, “My mind began wandering and from out of this beauty arose the question: Is theater dead?” But this is not a story, it’s off-the-cuff writing on an old portable computer done in a dark house while the rest of the family sleeps because they work or go to school in the morning, supporting me more-or-less — indirectly or directly, so what I say better count. So something more truthful would be: “My mind continued its wandering that it had done all day when not whipped into submission by the exigencies of schedules, obligations, duties, and commitments. And along this current of mindlessness that often accompanies washing the dishes and getting things ready for the kids’ breakfasts in the middle of the night came the thought: Should I write ‘Theater is dead’ in the blog? Didn’t someone already say that? Isn’t there some more clever way of writing it so that I will look like I know more about what I’m saying? A way that will be simultaneously uproariously funny and emotionally devastating while still giving all the outward signs of a demonstrable truth articulated with panache and consummate skill? A way that maybe I could teach a workshop with and pay some bills with the fee?”
But actually no. I’m just worn out. Or worn down.
Because (here comes my point) stories (and their narrative brethren: moral, subject, form vs content debates, subject/object relationships, theme, message, and those gazillions of other simplifications) are inherently evil, right, which is why so much art throws itself bodily in the face of such literal straightforwardness and splinters, become surface or facet, uglifies, deconstructs, masks, parodies, or otherwise subverts the habits of weakminded literalists who don’t feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth unless they give a standing ovation at the end of every punchline. So that we can feel like we’re alive down here and not just screwing caps on toothpaste tubes.
I overstate my case, naturally. Let’s not get carried away. It is a blog after all.
Particularly in the Heartland was another TV-sketch-comedy-theater piece. Amusing in parts; topical certainly (although I missed any reference to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster). As their website says, “avant-garde meets MTV.” Inspired, apparently, by the work of the Wooster Group and its various progeny there is a reputable and honorable theatrical intent here (again from the TEAM website): “The work combines aggressive athleticism with delicate examinations of the social and political factors shaping our world today, keeping the brain, eyes, and heart of the audience constantly stimulated.”
Excellent, but the splintering “multi-tasking between hyper-intellectual commentaries and exuberant physicality” is no longer enough. If it is true that they “know of no other way to behave” I suggest looking elsewhere. One possibility is that same MTV, which is now a stronghold of Reality Television, while music videos are sold as products for your iPod. And Reality Television (however much we may adore, despise or ignore it) has a mode of representation that is more in tune with the way the world currently functions than television does. (I’m not saying that it’s real. Please.) Even email is dead now — texting and IMing are how communication happens. Is TV sketch comedy, no matter how versatile and athletic, a viable mode for such examinations and stimulations? I was not bored by the performance, the subject matter, or the event of Heartland. I was not bored any more than I was excited. I was entertained. But I’d seen it all before and it didn’t achieve any moments of imaginative flight. I particularly liked the egg toss, but audience participation in and of itself does not alter the fact that these boots have been on the ground for too many years already and people are losing limbs and lives in defense of a policy of political fundamentalism not entirely unrelated to rapturous americans from whatever state. Nor does it really deviate from the standard format.
(And here I’m going to say about Kansas and Rapture and the question of the Heartland’s value as a part of a nation…no. “Nation” is an outmoded term, to say nothing about the obscenities of the term “Heartland.” Enough already. Of course, yes, we’re all human and I turn my cheek all too frequently, but when a million people are whacked out on Religio-pharmaceuticals in the form of fundamentalist pill popping it doesn’t make it a viable alternative lifestyle. A million people can still be a million wrong people. And, no Virginia, we can’t all just get along. Maybe in the real world, but not in the theater. Am I the only one who wanted to see that connection made somewhere?)
But regardless. “Why watch TV when you can go to a live theater event?” I was once asked as a student. My reply should have been “Why go to a live theater event when you can watch TV?” because that reply reflected the state of theater then (in them olden moldin’ days). Now the question that comes to mind is “Why go out at all when you can order in Jan Svankmeyer and Werner Herzog via Netflix?” If theater is anything besides a mummified zombie (and I say this as a practitioner in the field for many years) it’s only hope resides somewhere outside of itself. Who’s going to stimulate my brain eyes and heart? I look to the elsewhere-mentioned Laurie Van Wieren’s 9×22 Dance Lab at the BLB and the vibrant network of performers (who often blur any disciplinary lines) that I’ve seen, met, spoken with, worked with, or missed and hated myself for over only the past year. And there are others, but this is not the place for that, my child.
Regardless of the fun bits and the dull bits of this most recent Out There performance, there is a more fundamental question at stake and it is one with which I wrestle daily (except when I’m too busy putting food on the table and wiping noses, fer cryin out loud it’s only art). It’s like the mid-fifties in New York (another small arts community holding an inferiority complex to external geographies) when the reasons for Abstract Expressionism were becoming obscured by its overwhelming presence. A dichotomy between figurative painting and abstract painting was being solidified. Taking sides was going nowhere, merely reinforcing habits. Old modes reduce even the most radical ideas to pablum.
So it will take another Jasper Johns moment — something that (combining both figuration and abstraction or ignoring them both) restructures the terms so that no longer is it a question of live theater vs television (For example, for example! I know there’s plenty of other things to do with all your free time and money…) but of a work that practices a different mode of representation. A painting-flag.
Now it’s bed time.
Still can’t get past the spam filter, so here goes: I, on the other hand, found the text exciting, moving and interesting. Couldn’t tell you if I am a text person or not, though. I felt that one thing that putting the audience on the stage did achieve, and quite well, was to make the [...]
Still can’t get past the spam filter, so here goes:
I, on the other hand, found the text exciting, moving and interesting. Couldn’t tell you if I am a text person or not, though.
I felt that one thing that putting the audience on the stage did achieve, and quite well, was to make the auditorium into an object. This wasn’t about audience roles vs performers, or mixing up the boundaries, or any version of inclusiveness — it was about objectifying the position of the audience, the seats themselves, and most highly and significantly, the space of the McGuire.
It’s even more apparent when you see the promo photo of that auditorium in New York with the gorgeous green seats. It makes the beauty of the house apparent (the prettiest part of the McGuire) and, to me at least, functions in part as commentary on who’s got the money.
Unintentionally perhaps it also shows up the inherently more interesting space in (this) theater: the place that does not try to erase itself.
My last response to Galen got lost in the spam filter so I’m doing this directly. The upshot was: I agree. The Audience was The Audience and unless you do some higher level intervention like in Heiner Muller’s “Mauser” it’s not doing much for the relationship. Sometimes community is oppressive and you just want to [...]
My last response to Galen got lost in the spam filter so I’m doing this directly.
The upshot was:
I agree. The Audience was The Audience and unless you do some higher level intervention like in Heiner Muller’s “Mauser” it’s not doing much for the relationship. Sometimes community is oppressive and you just want to get out.
And as far as the cliches go, I don’t know enough to judge if they’re cliches or not so I don’t know what they meant as cliches. But sometimes (and this is where my reference to children is applicable, sort of) it felt like it does when you’re the only sober one in a room full of drunks. This did seem to “examine…embodied presence” In MG’s words, but not what I’d call the “wonder” of it. Sometimes kids are as dull as they are fascinating.
Which is only to say that this piece, as in all good work, surpasses or escapes our ability to articulate a message, subject, or agenda. And although at the moment I am not able to articulate how it worked for me, I know it has something to do with the true nature of Real Kids(TM). I promise my brain will get to this somehow…
Them krazy kids! What’ll they think of next? I had a reel-to-reel tape recorder when I was a kid. No, that was a lie. I didn’t. (why did I say that?) But my father had one and the four of us kids used to take out the microphones and amuse ourselves for hours at it. [...]
Them krazy kids! What’ll they think of next?
I had a reel-to-reel tape recorder when I was a kid.
No, that was a lie. I didn’t.
(why did I say that?)
But my father had one and the four of us kids used to take out the microphones and amuse ourselves for hours at it. Years later, still before it self-destructed…
(0kay, not “self” -destructed — multiple sticky handlings and excessive reuse is not easy on the medium, not too mention uses for which it was never intended)
… you could hear some stuff that Everyone reminded me of. And now that I have my own wee tots (who similarly abuse my various technological marvels) I am doubly right there with Mr Gutierrez and his band of marauding avengers.
or parading extenders
or ecstatic pretenders
(You know, this medium here, this newfangled “blog”-thing is just a magnet for self-indulgence.)
So I’ll try to keep this short and sweet. When someone says “childlike” to me I bristle. The short hairs go into rigor mortis. Usually they mean sweet, innocent, naive, or (more charitably) short. But real kids, at least kids like mine (for which the term “real kids” was invented, I kid you not – there’s a patent) — real kids(TM), I was saying, are not like that — except the short part. They are inventive, perceptive, crazy, alternately fascinating and deadly dull, beautiful and disgusting, and so completely without maturity, but of course that’s why they’re kids: you don’t want that in a kid.
Everyone was sort of like that, but not exactly.
Things I plan to come back to:
Staging, build, surprise, movement, smooches, belonging, music, the beauty of resistance and resistance to beauty, indulgence against self-indulgence, and the eternal burning overlayered question: Don’t You Want Me Baby?
Now back to the taxes…