Letter to K, 10 April 2011

(Aside: I'm still working on this Iliad thing. I'm just moving in a strange timesense, is all.)

Dear K--

I'm working on a strange, heathenish, practically self-immolating piece about the Iliad and social work. Enclosed you'll find a rough copy of my notes.

I performed a version of what you'll be reading a week [sic] ago, at the Someday Lounge, a bar and music venue in Portland's Old Town. I wore a ragged set of mechanic coveralls, I used a microphone, and I had onstage a milkcrate concealing 2 bota bags of cheap Shiraz. I merely read off what you're seeing, plus some additional lines about what a Sacrifice is, and whether the Gods prefer flesh or wine, and then I demonstrated how to proplery sacrifice to the Gods, concluding by emptying half-a-bota-bag of wine over myself.

This piece is already growing of it's own volition. It wants to be more physical than these notes convey. it's a mingling of the radioactive obsession I have with Ajax and Diomedes from the Iliad, plus my equally radioactive vocation for Incident Reports--

--also enclosed please find an Utne article discussing why I love Incident Reports. Now, my IR tone is not quite so dispassionate as a police academy would require, but the purposefulness, and the incisive, persistent agendas are definitely there, hidden yet inexorable in the identity of the writer, of their authorship.

The Latin 'auctoritas' is at the root our words--and, I argue, our understandings--for 'author,' 'authority,' 'act,' and 'actor.' Auctoritas signifies a creator's responsibility for their work; the ability to call things as you see it; the 'doing' of things, more so than the 'planning' of things.

When I write Incident Reports, I see it both as a (supposedly) dispassionate act of recording, of witnessing what's happened; but more so I see the writing of it as an act of auctoritas, an exercise of the subliminal agenda...

...for more often than note, the Incident Reports I write tend to be a cry in the dark, the only response our purportedly rational world will sanction, in the face of such terrifying things as whatever I happen to be writing about.

And that's pretty much exactly how I feel about the Iliad, and about really good and penetrating performance work. At their best, so many of the works I really care about in this world are cries in the dark, hopeless but desperately brave confrontations against obscene odds, ultimately useless but also, mystically, enough. Profoundly enough.

There's a vein there that I need to mine, about loyalty in the more current context, or surrender; and piety or trust in the meta-context...

As it is, there's solid stuff for maybe 7 minutes. But the veins are rich beyond telling. As I write this my mind's eye ravenously wanders throughout, as distracted in the detail as I am in the telling of all this. I'm confident of building something really special, but there's quite a lot of work to do, clearly.

And I'm just beginning to realize, in the wake of performing what I have on 1 April, that in fact the real work is happening through and during actually performing, with an audience on top of me... Jad Abumrad talks about how he designs Radiolab's sound for the 4th or 5th listen. What if that deliberate meticulousness was radically mixed with the ultimately ephemeral ethic of performance? Stringent, manic, visceral qualities evolving each time I perform, with new and freshly discovered substance/text, borne aloft by a durably built structure, a set of fixtures, pole stars around which all these constellations revolve.

Thus, in, say, a 6 show run, every night is different, a progression through the themes, but each night is held together by the same hinge-pins. And each of those hinges grow, and emerge more and more clearly with the telling...