I like to think about the idea of the mixtape because It is otherwise such a mystery – how people are introduced to certain musical artists or genres. The music that I listened to as a child was my parent’s music, then my older brother’s, and then I attached myself to music I heard in my favorite skateboard videos. The mixtape, as a gift from one person to another, is that special curation of music introducing or further developing the intellectual provenance of said music.
Art can be transmitted that way too, which is one reason that art school is so great; of course that’s also why social networks are so great, why mass media is great, and why libraries are great. What follows is something of a mixtape- an “artist mixtape”, that I was introduced to over a long period of time by a single person. These particular artists were most active in experimental theater of the late 20th century.
I saw the Japanese duo Eiko and Koma perform “Caravan Project” in the lobby of the MoMA. From January 16-21 of 2013, during open hours, the duo crawled-around, clung-to, and climbed-on a caravan at an infinitely slow pace. They were draped in whiteness of varying textures: tattered rags, dry cracking make-up, and dusty cobwebs. The interior of the caravan shared an equivalence to their bodies. I was thrilled to watch them, to settle into their tempo and the non-existent space between improvisational and rehearsed movement. It was as if they were simultaneously being born out of the caravan womb, and dying in the caravan coffin.
George Coates is a theatre director who produced elaborate performances using cutting edge technologies to push the limits of perception and reality. His works rarely developed from a “script,” but instead took shape as the movement artists, musicians, and technicians worked through an idea together (this process typically took 9 months). The company called “George Coates Performance Works” took residence in a massive cathedral, equating the experience of seeing live performance with the sublime and the mystical. Critic Robert Hurwitt, in a February 1990 article for SF weekly titled “Coates of many colors: George Coates Orchestrates the Theater of the Uncertain,” describes walking into a show at the Mcallister st. cathedral theater :“Imagine if one had to stoop through a tiny portal to get inside the Sistine Chapel—this sensation would be akin to entering George Coates Performance Works.” I have never seen one of Coates’ theater works, but regularly listen to his weekly political satire radio show.
Spalding Gray must be called a tragic comedian, writing and performing hyper self-conscious monologues until he fell/jumped from the Staten Island ferry to his death on a cold winter’s night. In stark contrast to the sublime absence of dialectic process in the work of Eiko and Koma, Gray vocalizes the racing mind. His voice has considered every possible outcome and remains paralyzed by indecision. Gray embodies the furthest reaches of western thought: let us build build build, try everything, later we will climate change reverse. But Gray does not go onstage and let loose his darkest mind, floundering as an actor in the abyss of his constantly firing synapses; he is in control and well rehearsed. Gray’s externalized internal monologues find the universal in the specific and exemplify that thing which torments a person towards defining themselves as an artist.