CRIME BUSTER BLAST-OFF at Capital Fringe and SOAPBOX tonight COMCEPTUAL ART
“Where there is a stink of shit there is a smell of being.”
-Antonin Artaud, “The Pursuit of Fecality” from To Have Done with the Judgement of God. (1947)
Tonight is Soapbox: Comceptual Art Edition Vol. 2, in conjunction with Complexities: Nuvo-Avant-Garde. That is, I curated a show in Hillyer’s front gallery- and we are having the second (annual?) Comceptual Art Soapbox showcase after I had so much fucking fun at last year’s. So, a few of the artists in Complexities are performing in Soapbox- not all, and a few performers are not in the show. I like to mix. Even more exciting- most of the guys in Soapbox are also in a show at Capital Fringe, Crime Buster Blast-Off 3000 Yeah!
I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Crime Buster Blast-Off 3000 Yeah! on Sunday. A veritable acid trip of a stage-play, my companion and I were left speechless for some time. It seemed that all the words yet written had been spoken in that small theatre. What just happened? How did I get here? Was that real? How do I determine what is ever real? Set in the stark and set-less future, presented by the Bradford Guild, Crime Buster is billed, “Earth’s last remaining rock band must defeat the cyber mafia.”
But for real, it is a thickly layered work about information and anxiety, a totally destable & destabilizing narrative. It is about trust and truth, glitch, transformation, love, futility, humiliating performance gigs, pending apocalypse, and like a million other things. It mashes together familiar plots like flipping channels in the big screen section of a Best Buy. Furthermore- while the ‘plot’ disintegrates and twists, the hidden constructedness of theatre itself alternately falls apart or is highlighted. A favorite moment is when each of the characters return to the stage in masks (?) for sound check. Disconnected, each figure moves through the space- wandering around the limits of the stage, each repeating a phrase like “check one two, check one two.”
Later, when speech returned, my companion made reference to “that part when they actually fucked up.” But- what part? All the stops were pulled out and really nothing was certain. Not once do you get lost in some illusion of a narrative, but you are consistently uncomfortable and confronted with confusion between what is in/out of the narrative. “He’s having an aside,” one character told us about another. As Julia Kristeva, the abject of my affection, wrote- “Abjection is above all ambiguity. Because, while releasing a hold, it does not radically cut off the subject from what threatens it —- on the contrary, abjection acknowledges it to be in perpetual danger.” Along with heavy sci-fi references to our dependency on and relationship to information, the piece had enough boner and butt hole jokes to fill my teen boy heart with abjection. And confusion. Theatre accelerated by adderall, hot pockets, and tumblr. It is the beautiful junk of the Internet being performed live.
There are a lot of similarities to this work to my favorite shows on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. However, the safety of my Netflix can’t compete with the potential for discomfort of the theatre. French playwright, theatre director, poet, etc, Antonin Artaud developed what he called the Theatre of Cruelty. I am willing to bet that if Artaud had a Tumblr the Bradford Guild would follow it. For Artaud, theatre should not be a place of comfort, passive absorption, but function in a way much more like life, if in extremis. “The Theatre of Cruelty has been created in order to restore to the theatre a passionate and convulsive conception of life, and it is in this sense of violent rigor and extreme condensation of scenic elements that the cruelty on which it is based must be understood. This cruelty, which will be bloody when necessary but not systematically so, can thus be identified with a kind of severe moral purity which is not afraid to pay life the price it must be paid.” Crime Buster does away with illusionistic costuming and set, and engages with overwhelming and conflicting realities about the internet, strung together with a narrative of characters motivated by basic lust. I think Artaud would follow back.
And, there are a number of similarities between Crime Buster, and my exhibition Complexities. I’m very interested in sincerity, authenticity, authority, ambiguity, humor, and personal narrative. Exhibiting artists include Melinda Diachenko, Amanda Lineweber, Ian McDermott, Lindsay Rowinski, Sviatoslav Voloshin, Justin Zamieroski, Kirk Zamieroski, and myself. I am interested in what happens when I curate myself into a show. This is what I call Comceptual Art.
My curator’s statement:
“Truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.” -Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
The nuvo-avant-garde represents synthesis, and dwells in the synthetic. As the twenty-first century moves through a kind of puberty, parts of culture are progressing at a rate that society can’t quite reconcile. The N-A-G manifests just such a growth spurt in comceptual art. Through thinly veiled acts of manipulation, the curatorial/authorial impulse gives way/meaning to the works on view.
The site of exhibition itself is uncertain. Through pervasive and atmospheric destability, truth participates in a fog/system of ambivalence. The distinction, were it ever clear, between mediation and meditation is now lost in the aether.
We find meaning in disintegration. The fleeting significance of our dynamic images/actions. Disjointed, we embrace chaos. Alone, we snuggle our technologies. The Nuvo-Avant-Garde is no more or less miserable than our ancestral vanguards, but maybe we care a little more/less. Our hearts bleed/tweet for the promise of ambiguity. Our bad jokes shadow your longing and the shortcomings of human expression.
The nuvo-avant-garde dreams in screen savers and intuits when to ford the river or to caulk the wagon and float. I got the internet before I got my period. It is through that very disambiguation that we are united, that we post, like, follow.
Eames Armstrong, Exhibition Curator
“The terrain of the comceptual is a playing field fraught with dilemma and tufts of opacity. How do we, does one, determine authority in a world of tangents? As Perth O’Duibhdiorma states, “There is no longer such a thing as a veritable source.” This very unique, progressive, fresh, white-hot practice is more nearly a force of nature than a traditional ‘movement.’ C.A. challenges centuries of misconceptions surrounding both academic and pedestrian positioning of art/life life/art, mapping the hollow place in our souls, a harrowing tragic-comic discourse which falls confrontaionally and squarely in our millennial lap-consciousness.”
Starmonger, Sam E. Review of N-A-G Retrospective. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Artforum 42.0, no. 10. (Summer 2013): 319-320
See you tonight at Soapbox. 7-9pm Hillyer Art Space
“[the abject] is simply a frontier, a repulsive gift that the Other, having become alter ego, drops so that the “I" does not disappear in it but finds, in that sublime alienation, a forfeited existence.”
Julia Kristeva, The Powers of Horror
“There is in every madman a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for whom delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him.” Antonin Artuad, From VanGogh, the Man Suicided by Society
Antonin Artaud, “The Theatre of Cruelty”, in The Theory of the Modern Stage (ed. Eric Bently) (1968)
Originally posted to DC PERFORMANCE ART:
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