By Anna Gray + Ryan Wilson Paulsen
Every year I find myself treating the festival as a riddle, looking for the substantive reoccurrences in the performances, exhibitions, and public conversations, hoping I guess to unlock the hidden theme. This year is no different, although I feel as if I don’t have to look as hard. Over the past few days, I have fit in The Quiet Volume, Mo Ritter’s Understanding Witches Now, (part of) The People-Portland, El Rumor del Incendio, Miriam, Lisa Radon’s re-enactment of Alex Cecchetti’s Summer is not the Prize of Winter, and Miguel Guttierez’s Heavens What Have I Done. (All of which I have critiqued, partially re-enacted, and lauded in my kitchen, late at night, for an audience of one or two. It’s really the best place for unfounded claims and making a fool of oneself.)
Throughout the experiences of TBA 2012, I have been involuntarily tying mental threads, binding the overlapping objects and gestures I see. These physical echoes double themselves into recognition through and across performances and performing objects. I have found basins of water, debris, and fragile hands. Coins tossed defiantly from green bags and plastic sacks. (Artists don’t have to make cents!) Blindness, illiteracy, and the inability to speak. Cigarettes being tossed lit or unlit. Rubble and stones and pebbles and pieces of ground, propping things up or being knocked down. Writing on the wall, sitting on the floor. Cats and rabbits and fish.
There is no key in all of these patterns of things. Art isn’t neatly riddlic (which is good because if it was, I would walk away). But for my brain these small concretes are how I anchor and organize the larger abstracts.
Precarity is everywhere: in the struggles of the creative worker laid bare (and rainbow-clad), in the process of re-telling a story, in balancing a column of objects or a community’s political opinions. All of the work I have seen teeter-totters between easy categorical units. (Someone I talked to, reflecting on the heavy abstraction in End Things, suggested the feeling of being stranded. I think that is one way to look at it.)
We are seeing the shape of things between studio and stage, artist statement and artwork, rehearsal and performance, audience and participant, a thing and its representation. The in-between is a romantic place, a place for reinvigorating a new phenomenology and embrace of reverie. This is where new imaginaries are formed. And that is the charge we have now–to create and learn to recognize new stories, histories, and images as our own. Ones that will support a slowly redemptive future rather than a seemingly unavoidable apathy and cataclysm.
When I brought my 2 1/2-year-old son Calder to Washington High School this afternoon. We walked amidst Mo Ritter’s sculptures and video screens. He repeated the question: “What is she almost about to do?” These things are just things, but (my interpretation of his inquiry is that) he recognizes that they are somehow more than that.
“We are constantly shifting between moving the object and the object moving us.
–Please don’t touch”