Saw great show last night at Marygrove College. Holly Hughes read kind of funny and sweet improv-y piece that started out riffing on "her" "come", "coming," and frustrated relationships. "Her" or "she", in a nice funny perverse twist away from assumptions abut lesbians and sex and queer relationships, turned out to be her dog, which then turned into thoughts on playing with queer identity, and living in Michigan after being a "professional homosexual" in NYC. It was good; she's funny and natural, not like what I expected. In other words, she was way more Michigan than NYC.
But let me back up...I came in a bit after the first performer, Blair, had begun. he was singing a snippet from a Journey song, which immediately made me grin (the "born and raised in South Detroit" song, of course). Then he read a few pieces which were basically about being a queer black man, Detroit's down and dirty landmarks, poverty, desire, knowing someone/yourself. It sort of reminded me of Samuel Delaney. Then he played acoustic guitar and sang a beautiful song and then ended it with this piece called "Dig," which was sort of about telling the truth about oneself. The way I'm describing it makes it sound not that good, but it was actually really amazing. I was very moved not only because he is quite talented--beautiful voice good performance skills--but because it was so heartfelt. It wasn't all that sophisticated (some obvious metaphors, too concerned with his presence) but something about his sincerity and the beauty of some of the lines and delivery and his gestures were just very refreshing emotionally--direct and lovely. I had tears in my eyes when he finished. When Holly Hughes took the stage after him she was just blown away, kept saying "that was AMAZING." You could tell she was a bit startled by being in Detroit and coming across something actually good. She does, after all, teach at U of M (snob central). At one point she said" "why haven't I heard of this guy?" and," I have to follow that?" So that was cool, to see that reaction.
Then there was a stupid interlude where some chick had piled a bunch of rocks and a cluster of rolled gauze bandages in the middle of the gallery space off to the side of the performance stage. She and a few people sat on the floor and started rolling the gauze around the rocks. The audience stood there and watched for a while and then rocks and gauze got passed around and people rolled the rocks together. A rock and roll gathering. Get it? And I'm guessing it had something to do with war. Now I love rocks and gauze is pretty cool too, but I hate shit like that. I want to *throw* rocks when I'm supposed to do something meaningful with them. It was a sophomore art project, but then it also did become kind of fun to stand in the corner with my friend Lindsay and make fun of it and chat and think about gauze and rocks and just hang. So, in an unintentional way, it *was* about community and gathering things together. But the larger commentary was lame. I hate participatory art. "Fuck you! I don't wanna play your art reindeer games." Yeah, that's right..I'm a bad ass.
Finally that ended and it was Carla Harryman, Anna Vitale and Lindsay (aka Viki)'s turn to perform a piece by Carla called "Sue." Carla and Anna read the piece in a double voiced, echoing splitting loud/soft play off each other while Lindsay/Viki had her electronic set up behind them coming in at certain points with noises, atmospherics, rhythms, boops, rattles etc etc. I've seen Carla read this piece before at my friend Lisa's house as a solo and this was a very different way to hear/experience it, which was a nice comparison to have in mind the whole time. Carla reading it the first time solo made it seem like a narrative that, while difficult to follow in its elusive framing as both prose narrative and poetic voicing, held togeher and built a kind of spatial, accretive meaning. This time, with the two other "voices" echoing and splitting it into a dynamic work, it was much more difficult to keep in mind what was being spoken or narrated, sometimes the words were hard to hear even when they were echoed between Carla and Anna. You really had to work to "get" it, but then, because of the way they were reading, the meaning shifted to being about the performance too. Like someone said afterward--I think it was Christine Hume--it was like watching free jazz. So "Sue" was pulled open by sound. (I'm leaving out any direct summary of the piece itself since I just can't do justice to it, but it's really great, so I feel a little bad at my inability to say more about it.)
It was really great to see my friends collaborating. I've just recently met Anna and she's so cool and friendly and smart and real I feel like she's a friend already. Carla and especially Lindsay I've known for a while and it was so nice to see/hear three women I've admired personally and as artists coming from quite different aesthetic and personal places, backgrounds, ages, sensibilities making something together. I hope that wasn't the last time they work together.