posted by Mead Hunter
Right up front, let me acknowledge that I believe The Wooster Group is one of the best things that ever happened to live performance. And not to be too phatic about it, let me add that while long-time followers of the Group’s work will recognize certain tropes and modalities in its new piece, in other ways it represents an explosion of previous concerns.
There Is Still Time…Brother is a wholly immersive experience. This afternoon we entered Brunish Hall in the dark, made our way carefully alongside a circular wall, and entered a round space studded with white swivel stools of different heights. Wherever we sat, we were in the center; the piece was already in progress on the seamless screen that ringed the space.
In this way, as in most Group pieces, the audience must relinquish narrative expectations and submit itself to a delirious cascading of various story fragments. At the same time, however, we entered this prepared space knowing that one member of the audience was somehow controlling how much of the presentation the rest of the spectators was seeing. I wish I knew more about this; I saw no one in the act of messing with the piece, nor do I know how s/he would have done it. In theory, though, as one controller replaces another, you would never see quite the same presentation twice.
What you do see are fleeting seconds from a series of different narratologies. The “character” who has the most authorial power devotes his time to explaining the technology behind the piece — so much so that, disappointingly, too much of the version I saw devolved around a fascination with its own process. While this is indeed absorbing (the “spherecam” that shot the various segments is pictured below), I hoped the technology would give way to finding its own content.
Eventually it did, although (in vintage Wooster Group form) it was up to the audience to assemble meaning from the hurlyburly of visual and literary information coming literally from everywhere. There’s a war story represented by a model of a blasted terrain populated by toy soldiers; scenes from a (seemingly) vintage film showing desolate streets; a woman working on a video project who eventually moves into the movie along with the show’s narrative authority. There’s also reading in progress of a war story; I thought I recognized The Red Badge of Courage, but it turned out to be On the Beach!
The signal that we’d reached the end of our version of the piece was a scratchy, black and white still image that read “THEND” — a perfect glyph for the synaesthetic experience we’d just undergone. To me, this experience was a welcome relief from the traditional notion of “good” writing being that which controls the reader’s mind the most. In There Is Still Time…Brother, we have the illusion of artistic anarchy, at the very least, and at the most, we have the power to construe our own meaning.
This is a piece I plan to revisit as many times as I can while TBA:10 continues.
The Wooster Group + the Delirium of Narration
posted by Mead Hunter