What is this thing called "Art"?
by Yvonne DiVita for The LipSticking Blog. November 20, 2011
Last night Tom and I attended Art as Action's performance of "a beautiful mistake." I've discussed Art as Action before - in my innovation post here and my post on the idea of art here. Today, I'll share how I felt last night, sitting in the dark at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder, CO, while the troupe of performers amazed and astonished us... with their art.
During the year, like many of you, I think, I'm not too focused on this "what is art" thing. I fall back into complacency where art is a painting or a musical score. I might see a TV show with fantastic performers who knock your socks off singing or dancing. I might get a glimpse of what's happening at the local theatre or museum - and recognize the 'art' of the event. But, I don't experience it. I don't feel it. I imagine it. I let it touch me with a whisper, and I feel ok.
Imagination is good, don't get me wrong. Imagination is what the Art as Action troupe embodies with a passion. But, what they do...what they share...what happens at one of their performances, is something you don't hear about much. It takes you beyond feeling 'ok'. It's the experience of being in the art, part of the art, with the art. It's allowing the art to be you; the whisper becomes a song, a shout, a full-blown body connection, invading your heart, your mind, your soul with a sense of being that's hard to put in words.
As I sat there, at the Dairy Center for the Arts, last night, next to my 13-year old granddaughter, surrounded by people I assume came to be 'entertained', and left with a more complete feeling of being embraced, I took a deep breath and opened my heart to the evening. I let the week's worries slip away and gave the art my full attention. In the dark, I crept down to the stage and became a performer; silent and invisible, but part of the joy that was happening there. I felt the energy and the sweat, as it touched my skin and tingled in my muscles. I moved slowly around the performers to see them from all sides - to experience the message they wanted me to hear. Understand that the message is not 'their message'... it's my message, gleaned from how the performance spoke to me as an individual.
And that is what art is about. It's not about the performers. Well, it is - but, more importantly, it's about how the performers make you feel and think and how they bring an experience to each audience member. The art doesn't happen on stage as much as it happens in the hearts, minds and souls of the observers. Art isn't so much what you see - it's what you are when you're in that moment of true confession: I understand! They're speaking to me, about me! Oh yeah.
I'll go on record as saying that all the performances were amazing and worthy of the cheers they received from the audience. But, my favorite performances were Simulacra - a story of rebirth, of letting go; it spoke to my granddaughter and Tom as a Frankenstein-like story - where the 'monster' breaks free of his creator. It spoke to me as a mother - letting go of her children, but loathe to do so. I was sorry when it ended. I thought it could have gone on much longer.
Next, I was totally engrossed in Sarah Leversee's performance of calm:collapse. Sarah is the Founder & Artistic Director of Art as Action. Her strongest talent is bringing herself to these performances, and sharing the art that pulses in her soul, with us. It's clear she has much to give - and we will see more of her in future performances, as Art as Action grows.
Last, I have to mention Wayne Gilbert, Uncle to Sarah. He's of my generation and speaks of experiences I not only relate to but have shared with him, albeit I only met him a year or so ago. His poem, Between: A Letter in Response to an Old Friend, which he performed last night, talked of growing older, of questioning life as it appears to be, and wondering if reality is more or less a belief we fabricate from the nuances of our day-to-day existence and that it exists only within us - not without. He brings me back to my youth - to remembrances of a girl who rejected the reality around her and lived on the edges of a world of shadows - imagining things that never were. I feel differently about being Between - but, I understand what he speaks of. I think.
If you were there, I am willing to bet your experience was different. I'd love to hear about it.