I have spent the better part of this year's fringe carrying around a camera (and getting an unintentional bicep workout as a result). While filming shows and 'candid' moments of myself, I have been acutely aware that my perspective has been very skewed. Not just in that it has been subjective, like any blog post is, but that I am filming moments which are meant to be experienced. Seeing a show on a screen gives the illusion that we are there, when really it is reporting with no more accuracy than any of my fellow MNPlaylist cohorts are with their written words. To be specific, I guess I bring up the camera-as-an-all-right-but-not-sure-fire-way-to-document-or-report-things thing because I am going to begin talking about dance in this post.
Several nights ago a thunderstorm o'erswept the twin cities--that's right, I used the apostrophized word o'erswept. I don't even know if that is a word, but it's the one I felt needed to be used, lack for a better use of thesaurus or writing chops that the other bloggers have in their posts. Anyway. There was a storm. And being the 'dedicated' idiot that I am, I didn't let that rain and thunder and wind stop me from appeasing my nicotine craving.
So I stepped out on my back deck with a white and blue striped umbrella. This is one of those BIG umbrellas, too; big enough for me to have my little smoker's fort. Each time the thunder and lightening cracked, it would illuminate the inside of my little fort like an ex-ray flash from the movies. I know romanticizing 'deep' thought in combination with the image and sound of rain is facile and cliche, but I don't care.
I was crouched under my umbrella mesmerized by how the lightning caught the smoke in the air. Everything was illuminated as I said, like an x-ray. I felt, as I often do, as a poet once put it: 'jailed' out by words in this moment. How does one even begin to describe the beauty of this image and experience? It is this subjective and inarticulate feeling of intimacy with image that attracts me to seeing dance.
On Sunday I was graced with Ready At Will Dance Collective's Re:Trace at the Colonial Warehouse. Not only does site-specific performance stand out amongst the plethora of shows that there are in the fringe, but these six women, Denise Gagner, Laura Grant, Mandy Herrick, Taja Will, Mary Clare Lindsley, and Erin Drummond, knock your socks off. How do they do it? I don't know, but they do.
Alan Berks talks about context and how that influences the characters in his plays in his most recent article. Though the women in Re:Trace don't speak or offer any kind of personal background that gives context to their characters in a way that plays often do, they are specific enough to not lose us. Partly, this is thanks to their well-thought pedestrian movements. I never felt anyone's nose go up in the air.
They revamped their movement continuously via their interactions with each other and the warehouse space. Their movement through the space created many images, beautiful images that I couldn't understand--and I don't think I minded. I was perfectly content to be left in the dark--at one point, literally--and stew in it. What do we do when we see a meteor shower, a sunset, a beautiful man or woman? We gawk with few, if any, decipherable thoughts or words. That's what I did at this show. This is why I fucking love dance.
These young women made me re:consider the space and the architecture around me. We literally had to chase these dancers down the halls, up/down stairs, and into the bathroom. Some audience members kept back, but I, not only wanting to get good shots with my camera, followed because I felt like I was being let in on a fantastic secret. It was like a PoMo haunted house, except curiosity and gawking replaced jumping and screaming. This, in conjunction with the voyeuristic aspect, made for a very exciting feeling, like the anticipation or the aftermath of opening a birthday gift.
What value does performance like this have compared to the social commentary of Phi Alpha Gamma, or the hilarious storytelling of An Intimate Evening with Fotis,
or the consumer satire of This Show Will Change Your Life? Does a series of images hold up to these other more literal, accessible, and--dare I say it--marketable productions? I venture to say yes. I suppose I do partly because dance has to work so much harder to win its audience; and when it does win us, it feels like a small miracle. This 'small miracle' feeling made me feel very humble, but excited as I left the Colonial that afternoon. This humility followed me back home on 94 east to my house in Saint Paul, storm clouds at the horizon.
This brings me to late that night underneath my umbrella surrounded by images and sounds: lightning and smoke. The tapping of the rain on the deck. My over-sized pant cuffs soaking water. And the overwhelming urgency: "I want someone else to see this."
Sure, I could have fished my phone out of my pocket and called someone, but that's like describing colors to the blind. And even if I did call someone and ask them to meet me, the moment would have faded. So instead of trying to cram meaning or importance or articulated significance into it, I just stood still. I stood still, o'erswept by the image and the moment. Stood still and stewed.
There's too much video and too little time it seems. I cannot seem to keep up with the wits of my comrades; perhaps because my dumb ass insisted on shooting HD, which is a very cumbersome and clunky format. Nerds, am I right? Nerds? Bird?
UPCOMING: John Munger's 'My Body Made Me Do This', 'Masha 3000', 'This Show Will Change Your Life', and--forgot that it's halfway across town--'Boobs', MAYBE. Otherwise, I will be at the Mixed Blood tonight for Steve Moulds' 'Buyer's Remorse,' which I look forward to after seeing 'Killer Smile' 2 years ago.
Oh, and yes, there will be more video, but this white boy needs a little time. Just a little time.
Ben McGinley is a video and performance artist; he often creates work in tandem with his wife Laura Holway. Together this fall they will be launching McGinley Motion, a company dedicated to connecting creative businesses and artists to their audiences through consulting and video services.