Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Today made me think of Stepan

So I went to grad school with this guy from the Czech Republic. He was a directing student. The joke was that at the end of every one of his shows the stage would be an absolute mess – I mean just stuff everywhere. Ripped up paper, things were written on, trash, things knocked over – just a mess. I always wondered if that was just him or some kind of European aesthetic – the will or desire to tear things apart. It seemed in direct contrast to the American sort of coolly distant aesthetic – kind of clean lines and cleared stages.

The American experimentalists – folks like Cage, Cunningham, Robert Wilson, always seemed to have such a cleanliness about them. I realize of course there are exceptions – there are ALWAYS exceptions – Sam Sheppard’s stuff comes to mind, as does Karen Finley, The Wooster Group, and even Warhol. But I liked (like – he may still be doing this I haven’t seen him in a while) this approach to the stage – it was as if at the end of the show you could see where you had been – kind of an accumulation of layers – a palimpsest (if you don’t know look it up it is a very cool word – so is Portmanteau – but for a different reason – or maybe the same reason – I am not sure).

Every once in a while I teach a class that is messy – generally only isolated to that specific day – but occasionally drawn throughout the term. I will have Dadaday or a ChaosDay or a Fluxusday or a Happeningday in which we explore certain ideas. Even though I have a pretty good idea of what will happen – although I was surprised by one incident that involved a blindfold and another that involved a pile of chairs, paper clips, and string – it is always fun. It is like play – or is play – in the good old fashioned sense that kids get to play but grown-ups (for the sake of argument I will include college students) or even “Artists” are supposed to have a purpose, a direction, a goal, a conclusion, a valid reason, an outcome, an objective, a plan, a clear route, insert linear movement metaphor here. So I keep thinking of play (and of palimpsests, and Portmanteau words (apparently only “p” things)) and I realize that kids need play - they can not survive without it. What the hell happens to us?

I keep thinking of this class this way. Not just because the gym was a mess by the end of class, but also because I keep seeing the projects as sort of one big project – I suggested at one point that this whole class may just be one big project by Bob and I. But the end result is a layering – one idea or image on another – the order of which is randomly generated by whomever feels the urge to direct us to their piece next. Does it mater if the piece worked as planned if the migration to an outlet or the intervention of those not directly connected to the piece become part of this layering? My head is now filled with sugar tigers, marbles, rain, mud, water, fake blood, paper – in various stages of markdness, action and decay, brine, motors, big macs, and a seemingly endless supply of paint – funky smelling or otherwise.

What does this all add up to? A trip? A journey? A set of questions? Is the destination important? Is it less that “I don’t care” about the outcome than I can’t predict the outcome so I am interested in the dynamics of the shared space. Ultimately I am interested in what is produced by the projects, the discussions, the exhibitions in the hallway, the readings, the blogs, and the experimentation that happens outside of class. Whatever the case – the level of engagement – or at the very least – the amount of rubble – increased with this second project. I can only wonder what the third (and fourth, and fifth, and sixth, and seventh, and ) will hold.

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