“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?
I 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.