Formation

“Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important.”

– Viktor Shklovsky

 

I am turning into wind, I am studying the empty stage. I don’t mean to giggle at theory—but the artfulness of an object. The inherent joy of an object losing it’s objectness into artfulness. My body an object turning into wind even as it curls against a sturdy futon mattress, beneath a woven blanket that felt grass and sun through summer, spread at a park, a Frisbee flying between bodies, a dog curled in the shade.  The rain outside falling falling. Ice in my glass melting and the glass sweating against a coaster, as if the coffee table is worth protecting. My lips taste like lime.

There is a difference between entertainment-theater and theater-art. I never thought about the way theater migrated from text. A writer, not thinking about the migration away from text? Even as I find words limiting, even as I push words out of my body to feel the motion of my bones again. My mind moving away from text.  A teacher and friend from graduate school, reading on a stage. He tells me after, as I stand in line to say hello, you’re smiling more than I’ve ever seen. Keep climbing. That’s your poem. He turns to my friend, see how happy she looks? I remember clapping my hand over my mouth in the middle of the evening to stop a burst of laughter. One doesn’t laugh at a poetry reading. And then releasing the sound into the darkness, because JF was laughing too. Poetry is more than a page. Let’s move away from text. I mean to say, this thing on a stage is more than entertainment. (That thing? I read a story on the shores of the ocean, between a teacher and student. This and that. How this is an intimate gesture, including an object into your own world rather than pushing it into that. This stage.)

I’ve always been slightly uncomfortable around theater. This is despite the way I found myself on a stage, my arms covered in air vents, or my hair bright blonde and teased into a Blonde Character, or kneeling as a fence post in a children’s theater production of James and the Giant Peach. I’ve been in plays, I’ve sung the songs, I’ve danced in black heels made for dancing.  I clapped coconuts together and put on my best Monty Python accent. Are you suggesting coconuts migrate? Cue laughter, because I know this script, and we know the way it plays. I’ve never been able to commit.  Fear of losing myself, fear of the way a self needs to dissolve away into someone else. Self-aware fencepost. Robot with human heart. Cloak of uncomfortableness, settled around my shoulders.

I read about theater as audience becomes actor—the tricks of the Dada movement. Put glue on a seat. Liberally distribute itching powder. Audience begins to act. To react, the audience breaks the wall because they cannot sit still (or they can only sit still, glued as they are.)  I read about Marina Abramović and the audience finally intervening, covering her with coats, carrying her bleeding body off. I imagine myself in the audience—would I move forward to stop something that is Art? I imagine myself Marina. Would I slice a star into my stomach for Art?

Nox- Anne CarsonI am shocked that I haven’t returned to Anne Carson yet—the queen of my heart. The way she plays with space—beyond page. A poet who forces the page away. The text is not privileged. I am laughing at theory, curled on my couch, and Anne sits on my shelf, pressed into pages. How can one read about a movement away from text? Giggle. Take a sip of gin. Read more about how text is unimportant, how the movement matters. Read movement.  Are instructions for a performance the same thing as a performance? A friend sends me Bruce Nauman’s Body Pressure. “Press as much of the front surface of/your body (palms in or out, left or right cheek)/against the wall as possible.” I read and feel the wall. The futon against my back. This is my performance, for an audience of self, for a quiet, gin filled audience, giggling into a rain filled night.

The problem with reading is the way research begins to spider web. I begin one book and now have Rilke and Viktor Shklovsky, Carson and Marina. I have a collection of short stories and a dance performance. My table is stacked, my gin has run out. This isn’t a finished thing, there isn’t a curtain to drop, I’m not sure who the audience is or when s/he will come wheeling in to cart me off.  This is the fun part of a project, the formation.

 

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Approximation of Music

I am having difficulty.  Music is such a huge part of my life, but I can’t seem to write about it.  There’s something akin to taking a picture of a sculpture– the two dimensional space isn’t enough to capture the volume and heft.  If I could capture what music does perhaps I wouldn’t need the music.  Still, I’d like to articulate what it is to find the right song for the right moment.

Music has always been a large part of my life.  I cannot count the number of grungy loud punk and ska shows I went to in high school.  It was always more than just the music though–we piled into cars with our uncertain teenage selves and danced ourselves sweaty.  We tumbled into all night diners for french fries and muffins (and, memorably, the mixed vegatables at Louise’s. But only the once).  I met the boy who would later be a man I loved at a battle of the bands and I dyed the wall pink with my freshly colored hair the next time I saw him and the first night we really talked.  I don’t remember the bands from either night with any sort of specificity but it was always more than that.

If anything my love of music has become stronger, and the music itself matters more.  My love has evolved, as I would hope anything would over a decade.  I am no longer the girl who blasts The Aquabats and Inspecter 7.  I listen to things now that I would have never given a chance then.

I am attempting a project.  An essay of collected vignettes, moving through genres.  I have a suspicion the form will change as I work with this, but I need to convey what music is to me.  Here is an early draft of one of the sections.  At best, any of this will be an approximation.  I think a mix cd will have to accompany the finished piece.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

************

I am in the passenger side of my roommate’s car.  We have Hercules and The Love Affair on and we are singing along but the music is too loud to hear anything.  I am dancing as best I can beneath a seatbelt, writhing my body against the constraints to the heavy pulse.  We are returning home and he swings around the traffic circle at the corner by our house but instead of pulling beside to his parking spot he keeps the wheel cocked to the side and we continue to turn.  Again and again, we loop. Four, five, six times, my seat-dancing arrested with the centripetal force, my singing caught into laughter, the music vibrating down my backbone.  He finally cuts the wheel back but we aren’t returning—we are tearing up the hill and away.  At each intersection I expect another spin but he has other plans.  We crest the hill and to our left is the park, sleepy with night.  He pulls the car to a stop and as he slowly begins to K turn I think we are retreating.  Then he has pulled forward where I thought impossible.  I feel the wheels bump over the curb and the path seems too small but we fit—there are swings to our left, the dark fields to our right, the park expansive.  We should not be here, and he turns the music even louder.  I am laughing too hard to speak, the park passes on either side—this is where dogs are walked and children run and we are a car tearing through the path, the music more than can be contained within this small space, our faces lit by the dashboard light.  With a second bump we are over a curb on the opposite side, the path has spilled out and we are back on the street, careening home.

Later I ask how did you know we would fit? How did you know it wouldn’t just end in the middle of the field? and he grins. I didn’t.

Recently Rediscovered

Apparently I am gravitating towards green.

Is it Seattle? I look around my room and shades of moss and lime and forest abound.  And after a recent package from home- my bed is now shades of green as well.  As was aptly pointed out to me, my bed is now the color of Kermit the Frog.

I know that we watched Sesame Street when I was little, but in all honesty I remember more of the Muppet Babies cartoon than the live action show.  We watched the movies in grad school and determined they were all based on the dare: “I bet you can’t make a muppet (fill in the blank)” but the movies are a different beast entirely.  However, in trying to properly mimic “Kermit the frog here” with the proper cadence, my housemate and I pulled up some clips on YouTube.  They are brilliant. 

It makes me wonder what else has slipped from my memory that is worth returning to.  I should re-read Journey to the Center of the Earth, I should start taking Full Moon Walks again, I should find the recipe for Peanut Butter Balls.  There’s nothing wrong with being a bit childish sometimes.

So here’s to Kermit green.  And thanks mum, for sending boxes across the country that lead to laughter.

Welcome May

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Yesterday I ducked low beneath cherry blossoms, an arbor over the sidewalk like a portal into another place.  The irises are beginning to bloom, the tulips exploding with the last of their strength, stamens like bits of char at the center.  I even see California poppies, though we are no where near California.  The sun is too hidden to be mistaken for California.  Then again, my California is a southern one; smog covered, hot and burning.  The ash here is of a more dangerous sort- mountain ash, volcano ash.  Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it.  

I battled rain and wind, after the archway of blossoms.  My umbrella a sail; comedic.  The gusts pushing me into laughter.  What else are you supposed to do; wind torn, drenched, a black sail pointed and threatening to carry me across the street?  I dissolved into gazelle laughter.  Leaping.

By the time I reached my bus stop my shoes were frothing.  Animal shoes, hungry for distance. A detail that reads as false but no, my shoes frothed.  Sometimes the truth is entertaining enough to refuse embellishment.  (There was a good reason, but I will let the reason remain hidden.  I have to keep something hidden, and why not why my shoes frothed? It is a silly detail, a superflous detail. And you don’t need to know all of my reasons.) 

 

[Again, this is taken from text written at work.  Lovely day at MoF actually.  Usually no better than a chair, or another placard with information sprawled on its surface, today I was a Person with Ideas and Thoughts to at least a few patrons.  Maybe something was in the water, maybe it’s the spring time. Also, I need to read some more Robert Burns.  After a quite pleasant conversation I find myself yearning for some words from the other side of the ocean.]