For this week's post, a very vivid and specific moment spring to mind, however, it isn't a theatrical performance per say, but rather a museum experience with a painting. I had always rolled my eyes at contemporary art in museums and mostly walked through the exhibits to make fun of them. Sometimes, I'd see a drawing that just looked like scribbles on a paper. Other times, the artwork was a toilet just sitting in the museum in the same exhibit as the scribble paper. This kind of art doesn't always communicate something of importance to me; instead it feels like a joke that an artist is pulling on me and other museum-goers because we think it's trying to "say something" when it's just a banana taped to the wall with duct-tape.
One time, however, I was at the Seattle Art Museum and I was on my way through doing my usual overlooking tour of the contemporary art when I came to one very predominant painting. It was a large square with solid white and black paint split by one line down the middle diagonally. At first, I said something like "it's just black and white paint. How is this hard?" and I stayed there waiting for my family to catch up to me. As I stood there and waited, I kept looking at this gigantic painting that seemed so simple. Then it hit me. And I began to cry. The longer I looked at this painting, the more it started to have meaning. It symbolized a great divide between blacks and whites in our country and our world. It symbolized the simplicity of problems and how only having two options for solutions is largely ridiculous. It symbolized the injustices, fights for liberty, and daily struggles that were everywhere in my sphere of influence but that I was blind to really seeing because I judged them too quickly.
That experience changed my way of looking at modern/contemporary art. At first, it seems ridiculous or silly or too simple, but when given some attention and some attempt at understanding the art, it can actually say and inspire a lot of things. Learning to be an advocate for the text in my Script Analysis class last semester helped me do the same with art. I begin my experience of art with the expectation that the artist put something meaningful into their creation and I can get out of it what I want. I can judge it and roll my eyes or I can take a harder look at it and try to understand something deeper.
Another good example of an experience like that for myself was also in Script Analysis after discussing Sarah Kane's Cleansed. I was fervently upset that I had to experience reading that play at first because it was disturbing and troublesome and had a great lack of hope that I could muster from the story. However, after discussing it in class with my colleagues, I found that it had more to it than the surface level read that I did. My approach was quickly withdrawn as I didn't want to engage with the text beyond what I already had prepared to engage. It asked too much emotionally and viscerally of me, that I blocked it off.
Avant-Garde Theatre and the various "ism" movements are full of opportunities to learn something, explore an idea, simply play, and/or comment about social issues. Much of the Avant-Garde theatre is funny in its absurdity and strangeness and great material both for revelation and for comedy. I want to finish this blog with a video that makes fun of the Avant-Garde theatre, because we shouldn't always take ourselves so seriously. Sometimes, it's okay to laugh at ourselves and our movements, too. This video is called "Dicknanigans," a play on words with the word "dick" and "shenanigans" where Key & Peele hit each other in the nuts in a series of vignettes to make commentary about society, love, and consumerism. Enjoy!