This is a response to Laurie Van Weiren’s piece 4×4=100 Dancing Outside, which happened in an grassy field of the Walker Art Center, unfortunately for only 10 of the planned 30 minutes due to weather. It’s not a review or a critique; notwithstanding the fact that I have no language or theory to consider dance and performance art in depth with, I’m also just more interested, in this platform of group exchange, to extend others’ work through my own experience of and associations with it over posing here as a critical peer.
Well: the African dance dancers, the dosey-doeing viking, the queer flourescent flowery two with sparkling water and foil, the kiddie pool one, the ladder-climbing i-phone selfie/grouper, the shorter person on shorter ladder measuring abstractly, the macho manifesto megaphoning, the panting rabbit groin-wagging, the stern stiff mover with fedora and sunglasses, that crazy pair out of bounds with their plastic people, the two dozen more general jigglers, groovers, writhers, and posers. God, it looked like a blast out there. It looked like an absolute zany party of all colors and stripes in the rain. It was a dance marketplace and window-shopping for once sufficed. It was like how dogs are satiated of food from just smelling it (I have to think). It was big fun, in good fun, and like fun it was, art. Where was Waldo?
Where was my stand-in, my anchor to recognize and reorient the rest of the weird world through? My white boy with the tuque (CAD) and stripes, always having a good, balanced time in the freakshow of life on my behalf, since I could never make it myself in the fray… I always felt that way about Waldo. I was looking for my representative, the one doing nothing–relatively speaking, not dancing but observing–but from the inside out, put there by the creator in a strange reversal of the multifarious world we live in: once you find that likeness, it’s as if the whole wild world is in fact superfluous to your Other, right there yet in the middle of it. Where there seems to be no meaning but an endless array of actions and subjects, suddenly you have a point of reference; a parallax for your judgement; your very own subject looking back at you–you found me—are we not in an utterly diffuse world.
Not to belabor it, but to the extent that this dance piece brought Where’s Waldo to my mind, the accompanying notion of someone writing a review of one of those books is completely silly if not somehow invertedly facetious–and therefore maybe my attempt to critically consider this piece. They are just fun. It is self-evident. But my comparison here might have just a touch of traction if the audience there was in a way looking for, and unlike me–finding, their own corollary in that outrageous dance mix–their friend/partner/family member; their dance or dancer type; their symbol to stand meekly and meaningfully among all the freed-of-meaning characters and behaviors. Or was it indeed an estranging spectacle we communally shared? An exercise; for sport? What if; so what? We know taping a bunch of cats together doesn’t make a horse (Simpsons, 1995). The piece was sort of like a community of cats: cats–solo creatures doing their dance like they were the only one that had one; community–known to one another and audience (I’m sort of new here if that made a difference). In that case, everyone’s Waldo. That page. Uncanny; friends; alienating; who’s to say. But it is viscerally stimulating to see so many (cats, Waldos, dancers) in the same place, at the same time (this echoes Laurie’s Walker Blog quote about the piece), is it not?
I circled and stopped and peeked and fixated and retreated and tried to “look into it,” but I couldn’t see straight. Twenty more minutes would have changed that, surely. It was hard, when mustering a perspective of the whole panoply, not to cast it as a vigorous set of free agents working their thing without regard or harm or relationship to others, and forget the little guy. What else could result in such a piece with so much talent, so many personalities, free-for-all? All the accumulating fun and weirdness was on such intense display, sometimes the glimpse I really caught was of the not-fun buried underneath–the effort and energy, wracked brains and bodies, and cornered vanity or perhaps humiliation that underlies making art, and then having fun with it. This is one way to describe “creativity” I would have to say–fun un-light, un-easy. I really value just that about it. But it’s still [a]kind of fun, isn’t it; like fun. What’s wrong with that, I ask? Earnestly. Nothing–I keep telling myself that, sincerely.
Laurie Van Weiren, 4×4=100 Dancing Outside
Walker Art Center
July 19, 2014