Friday, September 17, 2010

arts dispatch: TBA festival: Why it matters:

Free, we start building prisons for ourselves -- we want strong leaders, we want to avoid voting, we want to return to conventional wisdom or power politics or survival of the fittest or the religious nation. Free, our artists stake out their territory, defend it against all comers, seek to align themselves with power in the society.

Or so it has often been. In the instability of our present time, though, I find some signs of hope, a commitment to freedom. And I find that at TBA, in general and in the particular artists I've seen perform -- Mike Daisey, Maria Hassabi, Conor Lovett.

Daisey dealt with social justice issues seated at a desk, using the needle of wit and the broad strokes of slapstick (yes, even though he was seated, somehow). Hassabi transformed what we might perceive as weakness and even silliness in women's social attitudes and gestures (the actress, model, painted subject) into something powerful and engaging. Lovett channeled the deep skepticism of Samuel Beckett and at the same time Beckett's relentless pursuit of something true about the world, about us, about himself.

They attempted to see the world as clearly as they could; they sought a practice that allowed them to convey this material (an Adorno word) in a fresh way, unencrusted by the conventions of monologue or dance or theater. Their performances found their own logic, coherence, consistency. We never knew what to expect next. We believed them. We found inspiration in their freedom.