Sunday, February 22, 2009

Art/Performance: FLUXCONCERT 20090220-21

After Mr. Garvin’s last FLUXCONCERT—epic on a Fluxus scale—this evening of Brecht event scores, pulled at random from a surprisingly ornate vase, and enacted by an unrehearsed group of performers (the usual crowd), felt a little small, incidental, mild. As most of the chosen scores give little—if any—specific instruction, responsibility for the audience’s engagement rested with each performer. Because this is a creative group of fellows, those scores with the least-specific instructions generated the most interesting events (although the audience was in surprising good spirits and applauded avidly after each event (perhaps too avidly)).

One score, Suitcase, which instructs “from a suitcase” and nothing else, somehow inspired Anthony Clune to roll onstage in a wheelchair and pop the longest wheelchair wheelie I’ve ever seen (have I ever seen a wheelchair wheelie?) while telling a story about a night spent at a bus station. The literal suitcase never appeared. Another score, called Smoke, instructing “(where it seems to come from)/(where it seems to go)” brought Ethan Wagner on stage with an elaborate candelabra plugged with unlit burgundy tapers. But rather than light the candles, he pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and stuck one in his mouth. But rather than light the cigarette, he struck an elegant wooden match with a flourish, watched it burn a bit, and blew it out. He held the smoking match to the bottom of the cig, and then left the stage.

These open scores made me wonder what could have been for those scores listed on the program that were not performed (the program adhered to a time limit, rather than a certain set of scores, and the surprisingly long Winter Event, expressed simply as “antifreeze,” for which Wagner melted an ice cube in his right hand (refusing to transfer it to his left hand, or his mouth, as the audience occasionally demanded) burnt up a good amount of performance time). What, for example, might a person do to enact “-yellow/-yellow/-yellow” as part one of Three Yellow Events?

Alternately, Mr. Garvin chose to include a few of Brecht’s very specific scores, including Comb Music, Recipe, and Concert for Clarinet, Fluxversion 1. These fail to interest, despite the performer’s flourishes (in Recipe) and determination (in Clarinet), because the scores explain almost precisely what the performer will do. They leave little room for the visual punning, the surprise physicality, and the threat of the unknown which make Fluxus events worth watching, rather than just reading (because they do have a particular lean elegance on the page*).

Two events staged by Ryan Anthony Donaldson, which all engaged the audience, came off particularly well: Event Score (“Arrange or discover an event. Score and then realize it.”), for which he staged an impromptu three-minute birthday party, complete with invitations, silly hats, and a cake, and Position (“an insect nearby”). Position, in particular, got a delicious rise out of the crowd; Donaldson released a small spider from a Tupperware container onto an upper riser in the audience. Responses ranging from detached interest to embarrassed fear rifled the audience like an unseen breeze for the rest of the show; the older woman sitting next to me, who had often checked the time and jangled her jewelry with boredom, bent down and picked her handbag up off the ground. Fluxus can teach us to fear the ground! Later, when the creature reappeared near the stage during Winter Event, I shouted “Kill it!” and the vegans sitting in front cried “No!” in various tones of ecological self-righteousness. Too bad I was too far away to stomp on it; the ensuing brouhaha would have been another version of Event Score.

*Less so, again, the longer, more specific ones, which begin to read like technical manuals, whose jargon shoots your interest on a trajectory away from the text.

More about FLUXCONCERT at

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