Monday, August 10, 2009

Frenetic Fringe Festival Week 1 bullets

Friday night I attended day one of the Frenetic Fringe Festival at the Frenetic Theater out on Navigation. This was the first night of a month-long series that combines theater, dance, and film/video pieces. My expectations were for some really avant garde stuff. But what counts as avant garde today, after a 20th century full of it? I imagined the theater would be Samuel Beckett or Charles Ludlam-type things, or maybe pieces related to modern performance art, or Antonin Artaud-Alfred Jarry-like provocations. For the film, I imagined Bruce Conner-like assemblages, Stan Brackhage-ish abstraction, or even Andy Warhol-esque minimalism. And I know nothing about dance, so I didn't have much in the way of expectations there--or so I thought.

The Festival was not as radical (so far) as what I expected. The pieces were all pretty approachable. I was hoping to be challenged a bit more.

Nearing Velocity
  • A short play by Liz Gilbert.
  • In fragments, we see all the people who were involved in a car accident at Richmond and Montrose.
  • One driver Mallory is now paralyzed, a man, Boyd [sic], in the other car paralyzed with guilt.
  • It was a strong opener, with good actors and a play that unfolded in an interesting way.
  • I now realize that they bookended the opening night of festival with their two best pieces (of the night).
  • It might be my old age, but I sometimes had to strain to hear what the cast members were saying.
Beyond the Sphere
  • Three women dancing.
  • Supposedly about life after death. Music combined with a tape of someone relating a after death experience.
  • I have a preconceived notion that all dancers are perfect physical specimens, strong but elegant and beautiful women.
  • (See Olga Khokhlova and Lydia Lopokova of the Ballets Russes, for example.)
  • But one of these women was a bit on the chunky side.
  • People in glass houses should not throw stones, yet this slightly disturbed me!
  • The piece was long (it seemed) and by the end, I was in a pleasantly hypnotic state.
  • Despite having not understood it at all.
Nevel Is the Devil
  • This short film was mildly amusing, but not particularly "fringe."
  • Office Space was a better movie on a similar theme.
Bruna Bunny and Baby Girl
  • The second play of the evening had a tepidly surreal premise.
  • A former circus performer's 12-year-old daughter has hair on her chest.
  • The girl, Baby Girl, was actually played by a little girl, who did a hell of a job.
  • But the play's point was lost on me--it seemed silly without being all that entertaining.
Access Pending
  • This dance piece seemed a little more what I would expect from a dance piece than "Beyond the Sphere."
  • At least, so it seemed to my dance-virgin eyes.
  • I was impressed but the dancer's skills, but not particularly engaged by them.
  • But again, maybe that's just me.
  • I don't know what to look for really.
Kuliman mixes YouTube--ThruYou
  • This was a rather astonishing piece of appropriation.
  • Kuliman took bits and pieces of solo music uploaded to YouTube.
  • (Often these were music lessons, sometimes they were musicians showing off some of their skills.)
  • Out of all these disparate bits of music, he created coherent, multi-instrumental songs.
  • The lyrics were often based on spoken-word YouTube videos auto-tuned.
  • I recall Thomas McEvilley discussing Hellenistic poetry that consisted of appropriating different poets lines into a single poem.
  • McEvilley was making the point that post-modernism's practices of appropriation was an ancient practice.
  • But this piece reminded me very specifically of those ancient Greek poems.
  • The skill shown in finding and mixing these fragments is astonishing.
  • But the results, while perfectly good, are not great.
  • This is a complaint that can be made about much OuLiPo-style art.
  • i.e., art that puts a really complex, limiting constraint on the artist with the intent of fostering new, creative ways of making art.
  • It's amazing, for example, that A Void was written at all.
  • The fact that it is also a great novel is a fucking miracle.
  • Kuliman's mixtures are totally listenable--but won't stick in my mind.
So the Fringe Festival's first night was a mixed bag. I would have been surprised if it hadn't been. I will be there for the subsequent shows. My hope is that someone in Houston will amaze me.

(There is an art show along-side the Fringe Festival. The artworks are for sale. Stephanie Toppin, for some insane reason, is selling her drawings for $25 apiece. I personally think this is a bargain. I encourage anyone who liked her work at Diverse Works and Box 13 to pick up a drawing or four, before Toppin comes to her senses.) (Toppin, not "Tobbin"--corrected now.)

No comments:

Post a Comment