Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 2010 Poetry Lab

(from left: stevenallenmay, Lauren Bender, Allison Clapp, Mike Maggio, Graham Pilato)

I knew what I was getting with Lauren Bender. I have seen her perform/present 3 times previously and each time was completely different from the time before. I say "perform/present" instead of "read" since that's what she does. Reading my interview with her is instructive. Her background in visual arts helped to create her aesthetics as well. Twice I took in Lauren's performance at DCAC in Washington and at that time I had merely a glimpse of an idea to find a space similar where I could also present artists like Ms. Bender. My lucky break was finding The Soundry. The primary difference between DCAC and The Soundry is that The Soundry is an arts incubator while DCAC is a gallery and performance space.

When I started The Poetry Lab, Lauren Bender was one of the first people I contacted. I was put in touch with Mike Maggio through a posting on the George Mason English Dept. listserv. When I contacted him, he readily accepted my invitation. Only afterwards did he mention cloudism which never was clearly defined, nor actually should it have been. What I gleamed from his work I got again from my interview with him and some postings of his work online.

But he said "Happening" and I knew what that was. Not that I ever attended a Happening, but I was very aware of them. Also, Mike Maggio stated that one of his influences is Yoko Ono. 'Okay', I said to myself, 'Fluxus as well.'

When the event itself began, my cohort and myself discovered the perimeters of where a performance at The Soundry could begin; The Front Door! A white cord ran from the edge of the counter in the front of the building and wove its way to the room where the event took place. Past painters working on their canvasses, down hallways, around corners.

We were led to the performance of "cloudism" by a mime in a bowler (hints of "Ghosts Before Breakfast"?), holding onto the cord as we proceeded. Once we entered the room, we found a TV set on white noise. A cellist. A mannequin's torso. A ladder leading into the clouds. Pens dangling from the ceiling. A human sized shadow wearing a T-shirt which would, in short order, be written on (the shadow turned out to be Mike Maggio). The mime pulled members of the "audience", actually witnesses more than audience members as there were no seats. People climbed the ladder to see a large blue eye gazing down on them. People used the dangling pens to write on the shadow and the torso. The cellist began to play, the white noise on the TV rose to annoyance.

Nothing like this had taken place before at the Poetry Lab (all of 5 months old), and it led to some awkward moments as people coming to attend a "poetry reading" found themselves in a much difference space. Some time later the shadow fled the scene, and confused members of the audience followed - outside, into the parking lot and back through the front door. The performance was over, although no one was certain. Unlike a movie, there were no "end credits".

Allow me to offer some here : cloudism is Mike Maggio, Allison Clapp, and Graham Pilato. The cellist is Tina Hughes.

After a brief intermission, Lauren Bender took the stage and presented a new text/video piece called "Epic Ochre
Subverts Other", which was about fear, travel, the desert, and telepathy. While a film was shown on a large screen, Bender read a prepared text. It was completely different from the preceding event yet equally engaging and challenging. Overall, the evening was nearly exactly what I had imagined the Poetry Lab would become back in November 2009 as I dreamt this all into being.

Bravos all around.


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