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Everybody Loves Bob Dylan

Sunday, 24. March 2024 22:19

Actually…they don’t—not everybody. Admittedly, a great number of people love Bob Dylan, and an even larger number like him, but some only like one or two songs, and some don’t like him at all. And that’s the thing about art: most art does not resonate with everyone, and some art resonates with just a few people. This is what makes it so difficult for an artist to make a living doing their art—finding enough people who not only like the art, but like it well enough to spend money on it. It has been a problem from the very beginning of art until the present.

Even people who work in the art world, artists included, acknowledge that they don’t like all art. What they understand, however, is there is a great difference between liking a piece of art and understanding that it is good art, regardless of how well it is liked. Take Dylan for example. While not everyone likes his music, there is near universal agreement that he is “considered to be one of the greatest songwriters in history.” “Liking” something indicates that we have a personal resonance with the object; it speaks to us. Acknowledging the quality of something, on the other hand, indicates that we recognize that the art in question meets certain standards and has intrinsic value. Thus, while we may or may not like Dylan’s work, we must appreciate that the quality of it is such that he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016 for his song lyrics.

Such a distinction applies to all arts. Take, for example, professional wrestling. At first glance this activity may not seem to be an art, however, it is clearly defined as “a form of athletic theater that combines mock combat with drama, under the premise that the performers are competitive wrestlers,” and we can generally agree that theatre is an art form. Many, many people like professional wrestling— because it is highly entertaining. However, that does not mean that it is a highly-valued art form. In fact, it is difficult to assess the quality of professional wrestling at all, since much of it is loose improvisation. Some entertainers are certainly better than others and may be lauded for their performances. Still, the art form itself lacks the qualitative stature that is common to other theatre forms. Certainly, one does not expect a Nobel Prize to be given to professional wrestling. But that is not the point. The point is that there is a great difference between being liked and being considered “good.” Sometimes being liked is the desired goal.

So what are we as artists to do with this information? We need to decide whether we are trying to do work that is good or work that is liked. Ideally, we would do both, but often we cannot have that. We must decide what we are trying to do with our art. Are we trying to impact our immediate audience, or are we trying to create work that will speak to audiences in other times and places as well as our own? This is not to say that one choice is better than another; rather, it is to say that sometimes we must clarify what we are trying to do, so that we can better hone our craft and speak to whichever audience we choose.

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Art Can Do That

Sunday, 8. May 2022 23:36

At one point in Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea, the main character, Zachary Ezra Rawlins, who is on a train headed to New York City opens a book and begins to read, “trying to forget who he is and where he is and what he’s doing for a little while.”  He succeeds. Books can do that. Books can take us into worlds that are fantastic or realistic or horrible or joyous or curious or delightful or romantic or…. When we read, particularly when we read fiction, we become completely lost to ourselves; our surroundings seem to cease to be. We ourselves seem to completely disappear, overtaken by action and characters and ideas in the world of the book. And that, very often, is completely wonderful.

The same sort of thing happens with plays and movies. We find our surroundings fade as we focus on the stage of screen, and fade further as we become interested in the characters and their behaviors that we find there. Then as the film or play progresses, we begin to disappear as our whole attention is focused on the characters’ development and the unfolding plot. And once again we have been removed from out every-day existence in our every-day world and immersed in a fantasy or a war or a mystery or an intrigue radically unlike our own lives.

Music transports us in slightly different ways. When we read or watch movies or plays, our bodies are passive, however, in the presence of music, our bodies very often are moving to the rhythm of the music, whether that movement is tapping our feet, moving our hands to the beat, or giving our whole body over the musical experience. Regardless, we still have many of the same responses. Our self-awareness is diminished; our thoughts turn from ourselves and our every-day worries to a complete oneness with the music. There may be visual aspects as well as aural to complete our engagement with the performance, so that all of our senses are completely focused on the event.

But how about arts that are more static, such as paintings, photography, and sculpture? We find that much the same thing can happen. We can get lost in a piece of static art just as surely and completely as we can in a more dynamic piece. Whether it’s the use of color or line that engrosses us or the composition or the detail, each piece of visual or plastic art has its own appeal, and many pieces have such an appeal that we need to spend some time with them. It’s why galleries and museums have strategically placed benches—so we can be comfortable while we are contemplating the work on display. It’s quite easy for many of us to become so absorbed in a photograph or sculpture or painting or drawing that we momentarily lose the use of our unoccupied senses and even become temporarily detached from our immediate environment.

It’s one of the undeniable appeals of art: the facility for involving us completely, for taking us, at least temporarily, out of ourselves. Most of us appreciate a respite from our everyday lives, no matter how pleasant or rewarding our actual lives may be, and art provides not only an escape but completely engaging experience that often returns us to the real world more enriched than when we left it.

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Overload

Monday, 13. April 2020 0:19

It seems that there is only one topic these days. That, of course, is the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic-social distancing-quarantine triad. And it’s understandable. It’s fair to say that this triad of connected issues has impacted our lives probably more and more profoundly than any other “event” we have experienced since we first drew breath. It has changed the way we live and is even now changing the way that we think and react. As I suggested in the last post, it will certainly affect our futures in ways yet to be determined. Everything that we see and hear seems to be related to one or all three of these topics. And, combined with what we are personally enduring, it’s just too much.

Not that some good things have not come from this situation, much of it virtual. Many of the responses to this situation have been truly beautiful. For example there have been some moving virtual musical productions done from quarantine, such as the Rotterdam Philharmonic’s abbreviated version of Beethoven’s 9th  Symphony or the Italian youth choir il coro che non c’è performing Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “Helplessly Hoping,” which is impossible to experience without crying.

In art there is the remarkable Izoizolyacia Facebook group, where Russians and Russian-speakers are engaged in a project to replicate artworks while in isolation. The rules are only that entrants must only use items on hand and that the work cannot be digitally manipulated. The range, quality, and quantity of the recreated art works is astounding.  (And you don’t have to read Russian to understand and appreciate the images.)

It may be too early for fiction, but a number of excellent essays are being published every day. For example, David Patrick Stearns has written a timely article on “Why Beethoven is so relatable right now.” Stanford professor of classics and history Walter Scheidel has written an intriguing article on “Why the Wealthy Fear Pandemics.” And there is also a thought-provoking piece by novelist R.O. Kwon that suggests that part of the mental problems we are facing is because, without knowing it, we are grieving. And these are but a few.

Every day artists and thinkers in all disciplines are responding to the pandemic. Much of that work is moving and thoughtful and intelligent. And many of these artists and thinkers are looking at different sides of the situation, but it is still only about one thing. Even “Saturday Night Live” produced a virtual “At Home Edition” on April 11, which was all about the pandemic.

Perhaps it is too much to ask that artists and thinkers look in a different direction, consider other topics. Perhaps the pandemic is simply too big to be able to do that. But I am beginning to feel saturated, over-saturated. Whatever we see, read, listen to is about the pandemic. It is almost impossible to get away from without isolating ourselves even more than we already are.

And I can’t say that I’m recommending that. The head-in-the-sand approach is never desirable. What is desirable is that we—for our own mental health—take a break: turn off the TV, shut down the news feeds, listen to some favorite music, watch a movie—for a while. Yes, we need to grieve; yes, we may need to cry, but we also need to lessen the overload on our psyches. Now might be the time for us to think about a project completely unrelated to what we are enduring.

It may not be time yet to activate those sorts of projects, but it is certainly time that we spent a little while away from the current state of the world and think about some other possibilities for our arts.

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Professionalism

Monday, 10. December 2018 0:16

This weekend I got to experience two strikes. Strike, for those of you who don’t speak theatre, means to take down the set. It might be to move the set to another location, as in the case of a traveling show, or it might mean simply to tear down the set and clear the stage. The latter I witnessed—twice. The first was the Saturday night strike of a play that closed. The concern was to get the stage clear for a concert on Sunday afternoon. Then I got to watch the strike of the concert (although I’m not sure musicians use the term strike). Both of these events happened in a collegiate setting, and although some of the musicians were union musicians, no unions were involved in either strike.

What was obvious in both strikes was the professional attitude of some participants and the less-than-professional attitude of others. Almost everyone involved had participated in a strike before, so the very few who were complete novices were noted and not considered in this observation. It turned out that those whom I labeled as having a professional attitude, were, in fact professionals, or had, at least worked professionally prior to this weekend. And that fact was evident in their approach to the work at hand.

What marked the professionals was pace and persistence. They worked at a consistent pace, neither too slow nor too fast. They were obviously concerned with safety, but they were more concerned with getting the job done. Unlike others who were less practiced, they did not stop to chat or stand around waiting to be directed or play at the job. They moved very smoothly (and cheerfully) from task to task to task. (Let me reiterate: almost all of the participants were experienced, so the attitude of the professional was available to all. All, however, did not adopt this approach.)

And that attitude, the on-going ability to stay focused and on-task, is, I think, one of the hallmarks of the real professional: the ability to keep working whether there is the possibility for immediate reward or not. It’s an attitude that involves a commitment to doing the work. Strike is part of the gig, so you do it; it may not be the most enjoyable part of the job, but you do it.

It’s the same kind of commitment to doing the work that many, many artists in a variety of arts talk about. It’s the showing up—repeatedly to do the work. It’s the development of a routine that requires that you do so many pages per day or standing in front of the easel on a regular basis or spending so many hours a day working at your art.

And that commitment is, to my mind, one of the marks of a true professional in the arts: one who works at his/her art consistently and repeatedly, one who puts in the time, no matter whether a particular task is enjoyable or not. There are, of course, other characteristics of the true professional, but this is one of the most important. All it takes to be called a professional is to get paid for your art.  Professionalism, on the other hand, is not just a matter of getting paid, not just a matter of talent; it is a matter of attitude and approach.

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A New Take of Refreshing Creativity

Sunday, 15. June 2014 23:34

Almost every expert on creativity will tell you that you have to take time off, probably on a regular basis, to keep your creative batteries recharged. Leisure is so important, at least according to Eric Ravenscraft writing on LIfehacker, that we should put it on our to-do lists rather than waiting until we “earn” it.

Whether it is the leisure itself that is important or the time away from work I cannot say, but every report I have seen stresses taking a break from work to refresh creativity and thus improve your art.

There are, of course, lots of choices of what to do with that break time. Some of us have tried just doing something different: getting up from the computer, easel, workbench and finding something else to fill our time for a while—maybe something as simple as taking a walk. Sometimes that works, but many times we find our minds wandering back to whatever creative problem we just left. Some of us have tried yoga or meditation, and we have discovered the same problem: our minds keep drifting and we have to constantly work on focusing them (although some would argue that focusing attention and concentration is a good skill to have).

A friend of mine who is a photographer and a writer claims that he has found the ultimate creativity-freeing technique. He did not initially set out to do this; rather, he decided that he wanted to learn to play the guitar, and to learn to read music as well. He not only took lessons, but worked with several self-teaching books. He said that while picking out a tune was not too difficult, reading music and associating the notes with the correct string and fret position required intense concentration, as did the scales that came later. Since this man is a bit obsessive, he was practicing at least an hour a day every day.

He says that after a week’s practice, new ideas for photography and writing began to appear. The longer he practiced the more ideas he had. Initially, he thought that it was one of those complimentary activity things: he was working on one art and it spilled over onto another one. Then he realized that with regard to the guitar, he was not making art; rather he was trying to develop a skill, and that what was making the real difference was that he was spending at least an hour a day concentrating on something that was not his not his main area of creativity, and that developing the necessary skill required complete involvement and the exclusion of all else.

Now he maintains that this study is responsible for his new flow of ideas. He is actively concentrating on developing a new skill that is difficult for him so his mind cannot not wander the way it might with other activities. He says the results are much the same as meditating for an hour a day. The complete occupation of his consciousness sixty minutes a day allows his subconscious to create new concepts.

So now his writing is coming more easily and his visual ideas keep flowing, and he is developing beginning guitar skills. He says that he may never “really play” in front of anyone, even friends, but intends to continue studying because he is enjoying the learning experience and really appreciates the ancillary benefits.

So, if you want to freshen you creativity, you may want to learn to play a musical instrument; there are plenty of teachers out there. Or you may want to consider some other skill-based activity, if not a musical instrument perhaps wood-carving, or furniture-making, or gourmet cooking or anything that requires complete concentration to learn the fundamental skills, and that same amount of concentration to master the activity.

My friend’s results have been so impressive that I may try this out myself. Maybe you should too.

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The Importance of Venue

Sunday, 5. January 2014 23:56

In a recent blog, Seth Godin makes the point that if we think we are supposed to like something, we probably will. He uses the examples of laughing more at a comedy club, liking the food better at fancy restaurants, and feeling like we have a bargain if we buy it at an outlet store. In other words, the venue influences the perceived value of the experience.

Reinforcing this idea is the Washington Post experiment instigated by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Gene Weingarten and implemented by Grammy Award-winning violinist and conductor Joshua Bell. Bell, lightly disguised, played as a street performer for 45 minutes at L’Enfant Plaza in Washington DC on January 12, 2007. Only seven people stopped to listen and he collected a total of $32.17. Earlier the same week, he had played the same concert to a sold-out $100-per-seat house.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet once compared New York and Chicago theatre audiences in what seems to be a comment on the same phenomenon, “In Chicago, we just presume that the best theatre is going to be in somebody’s garage.”

This about more than the environment in which an art work exists, it is about the perception of value (the qualitative portion of audience expectation) based strictly on venue. Because of the prices we pay, and the location of the theatres, we expect New York theatre to be the best in the world, and consequently we like it more. As we move away from Manhattan, our expectations shrink and we expect to like what we see less; we are hardly ever disappointed. We look at the environment and adjust our expectations. Is it a union house? Are the actors professional? Are they students? Whether consciously or unconsciously, we modify our expectations according to the venue. We expect less and like it less.

This way of thinking does not apply only to theatre. We base our expectation of the quality of any art on the venue and the location of the venue. So when we walk into the hole-in-the-wall club in Tennessee, we do not expect to hear world class music.  When we visit an outdoor art fair in Texas, we do not anticipate seeing mature, masterful work. We do not really expect world-class anything outside of the “proper” context.

Like many of the passersby in the Washington Post experiment, many of us are so locked into the idea of how we are supposed to respond (according to location and situation) that we cannot hear the actual quality of the music or see the real quality of the art.

An earlier installment of this blog, “Context Matters” said, “The ambiance surrounding works of art, seeps into the work, and fuses with it. It impacts the work and cannot do otherwise. It’s part of the art transaction that cannot be avoided. The trick then is to be able to mentally decontextualize the work, so that you can be sure that you are actually appreciating the piece, not the context in which you find it.” Although certainly a desirable ideal, the more I learn, the less sure I am that decontextualization is a real possibility—at least for most people.

And although we know very well that quality is not related to venue, as artists we need to be aware of this phenomenon and realize that where we show our work does indeed matter to the majority of our audience. We may not like it, but we had better learn to deal with it.

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The Death of Creativity

Monday, 14. October 2013 0:34

This week my newsreader (Feedly) presented me with two articles heralding the death of creativity. It turns out that both were by the same author, David Byrne, and were really about money and the way money or lack of it could impact young artists.

One article has the sensationalist headline “The internet will suck all creative content out of the world.” This piece is not about “all creative content;” rather it is about how little musicians receive from streaming sources such as Spotify. The argument is simply that if artists are not compensated, they will turn from making music and the world will be the poorer for it.

The second article is “If the 1% stifles New York’s creative talent, I’m out of here.” This article too focuses on finances and talks about how only the super-rich can afford to live anywhere in New York City anymore and how that same group refuses to “fund culture-makers.” Because of these two things, that which has made New York the creative capital of the world will disappear and the city will no longer draw the world’s best creatives. This will cause Byrne to leave.

Although Byrne should be applauded for his concern for future generations of artists, equating the conditions set out by these articles with the death of creativity is just silly.

Byrne links creativity and money, but in different ways in each article. Certainly for anyone to continue to be creative does require funds sufficient to survive and acquire materials. How those funds are secured are as varied as artists themselves. However, people do not start making art to get rich. They make art because they have something to say, because, as a colleague recently put it, “it’s worth doing,” because they can’t not.

The music business is, and has been, notorious for paying artists as little as possible while pocketing huge profits from the sale of recordings. There is no real reason to think that the future will be any different from the past in that regard, but this is not a new thing. The new things are the method of distribution and better global communication that allows artists to be more aware of what is happening. But will this cause them to abandon music? Not if they’re really artists.

Byrne also ties New York’s continued dominance as a center of all arts to money. Does it really matter whether New York continues this dominance or not? Somewhere will. During the reign of the Medicis, it was Italy. In the early 20th century it was Paris. And it has been other places at other times. There will always be a place that draws the best of the creative best because it facilitates what Byrne calls “the possibility of interaction and inspiration. . . .[and] serendipitous encounters.” And regardless of where that place is, artists will find it, and many will go there, and the fame of that place will explode, and then wane, and then the mantle will move to somewhere else.  We could, like Byrne, mourn the potential passing of New York as the center of all things creative, or, like Scott Walters, who is certain that New York is already damaging at least theatre arts in America precisely because it is the creative center through which all artists must pass, be pleased about that prospect.

The factors that Byrnes cites may exert negative forces on creativity, may even stifle it for a time. But creativity will resist being stifled, will resist being suppressed, will even resist lack of nourishment forced upon it in certain cultures at certain times, and will survive. Individuals who are creative will find a way—as they always have—to make their art whether there is proper compensation or not, whether they are able to make a pilgrimage to the artistic Mecca of their generation or not. Creativity will survive because it comes from a source deeper than money.

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Artistic Benchmarks: What Are They Really Good For?

Sunday, 7. July 2013 23:01

Last week, I got into a discussion with the manager of a frame shop about nude photography. It soon became apparent that this man considered nude photography the holy grail of image-making. He may be right. Nude photography is definitely a photographic benchmark. The artistic nude is a difficult assignment, some would say the most difficult type of portrait to pull off. Others, particularly those who work in other photographic specializations, might differ. However, few would argue that while the nude might not be the benchmark, it is certainly one of the big ones.

In the world of theatre, for male actors there are a number of benchmark roles, the title characters in Shakespeare’s tragedies and histories for example. There may be others, but most actors are pretty sure that if they can master the complexity of a Shakespearean tragic hero, they have achieved a recognized level of competence. There may be other roles, but few are as challenging in as many different ways as these very well-known members of royalty.

If both photography and theatre have benchmark activities, I wondered about other arts as well. This week I was out with a couple and asked what they would consider to be the test of ability in their respective disciplines that would be challenging enough to be attempted by only a few and mastered by even fewer. (She is a painter and he is a light tenor; both are professionals.) Without hesitation, she answered, “Nudes,” then went on to say that many artists consider nudes to be “so difficult they won’t even attempt them.” He named a couple of pieces, and explained that for each vocal range and each subdivision within the range (and they are quite numerous) the benchmarks would be different.

A cousin of mine who is equally phenomenal on piano or organ, named several “milestone” pieces for each instrument, some of which were difficult and respected for different reasons.

That’s the thing about benchmarks. There is rarely only one within a discipline. There may be several, one or more for each branch within a discipline. But most artists within that branch would probably agree on the two or three or however many there might be. It’s always material that demands great respect.

Still, artists in all disciplines hunger to perform the difficult pieces, make images of difficult subject matter, attempt the techniques that are the most challenging around. Is it because artists are competitive, even though they may be competing against themselves? Are they driven by the need to join the handful of predecessors who have mastered the nearly-impossible? Why would they waste their time to perform that which is so demanding, rather than that which might bring them income? Why bother?

Luis Galindo, currently performing the title role in Macbeth speaks very eloquently to this issue in a recent article for KCET’s “Artbound.” He talks about the issues that come with preparing for such a role, about his doubts and fears. Ultimately, for him, the work comes to be about artistic growth: “. . . the press will opine, and our fans will cheer or not. Through all of this, one thing is certain: I will have grown in every way as an actor because of this opportunity. An opportunity to mine the caves of darkness for the good stuff.”

In preparing for a benchmark performance, or photograph, or painting, or song, we have to bring our best game, we have to confront our self-doubt, we have to dig deep; more importantly, we have to grow. Otherwise, we will never achieve. And even if we fail, we will have benefited from the exploration and development that preparation for such a project entails.

Once again, it’s all about process.

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We Can Do Better: The Need for a Fresh Approach

Monday, 26. December 2011 0:29

Well, the Ovation Channel was at it again. Evidently their “Battle of the Nutcrackers” is an annual event; those who watched have had the opportunity to see five different versions of the seasonal ballet again this year and vote on their favorite.

Although I have written about this television event before, it is still a very interesting thing to watch five different interpretations of the same basic story, told to (mostly) the same music.  What struck me this year, however, was the effort that the director/choreographers put into making their work fresh and new.

We all know of recurrent productions, be they plays, musical performances, or ballets that simply repeat every year what has been done by that particular producing organization before. It’s much like they know there is a market for the seasonal production, but somehow they can’t put their hearts into it—after all, they’ve done it and done it and done it before. We also know of directors and choreographers who, instead of doing what is required to bring a new vision to the stage, will attempt to reproduce other productions or movies of the work they are staging.

Not so with those who produced these world-class versions of the famous ballet. Productions ranged from the traditional to the surreal to a complete restructuring of the story and the characters.  Each is remarkable in its own way, and each fresh and new in some way. And each seems to be aimed at a different audience. It does not seem to matter that the directors have done the show before; this time it’s different and new and important that it be that.

Certainly, I do not want to tackle the question of which one was the best. That, after all, is the point of the “competition,” with the audience favorite having been aired in prime time on Christmas Eve. But some departures are worthy of note. One is British director/choreographer Matthew Bourne’s version. To say that Bourne has reimagined the Nutcracker is a gross understatement. His version retains the plot and a few of the characters, but the rest is completely new and different. Of course, Bourne has the habit of reimagining almost all of the traditional pieces that he directs. And there are other innovators: Mikhail Chemiakinâ’s surrealistic approach is  a “darker and more adult retelling” of the familiar story, produced at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. And then there is the version by Patrice Bart, set during the Russian Revolution, which, again, is a significant reimagining of an old story.

The point, of course, is that each of these artists works to make his work his own.  Moreover, these director/choreographers do not rely on what has gone before, or the interpretations of others. These works, although retaining identifiable parts of the traditional story, are fresh departures, new ways of telling that story, and aimed at a particular audience. These artists are following Ezra Pound’s injunction, “Make it new.” We would do well to do likewise. And although I have written on this topic before, it is a topic that deserves to be discussed repeatedly for those interested in art and creativity.

Regardless of the medium in which we work, we could learn a lot from these experts in staging ballet. We might step out of our comfort zone, let our imaginations run, and follow where they lead. We might consider our audience, or rather, a different audience or segment of audience.  We might find that stepping into the scary world of the unknown is just what our art needs. If all we do is repeat our past successes (or someone else’s), we cease to be artists and become artifact- or performance-producing mechanics. We can do better.

 

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Celebrating Ephemera

Sunday, 27. November 2011 23:49

One of the unique features of live theatre or a musical concert is that it is live. You watch real actors in the same room with you saying real lines and portraying real emotions. The same is true of concerts. Technology may be present; there will be lights, amplified and sometimes processed sound. There may be multi-media going on in the background, or even pyrotechnics. But what is important is that the artists and the audience are in the same space breathing the same air at the same time. The situation becomes an event. It is not repeatable; the next time the performance happens, it will be different, which is part of the appeal.

Of course, with other technology today, recordings of the concert or the play or the speech or the dance or whatever will appear on You-Tube within hours, or may be placed there before the event to act as advertising. There are complete recordings to be sold on DVD and Blu-Ray. Excerpts may be posted on individual web sites. So when a live performance event comes along that does not allow recording, either by the staff or by the audience members, it’s news.

That’s right, no recordings, not even secret ones. There are absolutely no recordings of this event, and, according to its founder there never will be: “You have to go, or you missed it.” He goes on to say “I find that people watch a thing differently when it really is going to happen once. I think you focus in a different way, I think you remember in a different way.”

This new form of performance ephemera is Pop-Up Magazine, which appears at irregular intervals and different places in San Francisco. In that respect it follows the model of pop-up restaurants.

Unless you’ve been living in a culvert for the past few years, you have probably heard of pop-up restaurants, which appear for hours, days, months, then disappear. It is a form of gastronomic adventure that is publicized via social media and internet. Of course, one of the appeals of pop-up anything is that you never know where it will be or when or even if it will ever be again.

Pop-Up Magazine is, in some ways, reminiscent of the Living Newspaper produced by the Federal Theatre Project, except that in this case the focus in not so much on presenting current events as it is on presenting a varied magazine format: a mixture of shorts and features in which artists tell stories or present ideas. And these presentations are short, running 17seconds to 6 minutes. You can expect to find at least twenty articles in any given issue.

The presentations are not random.  According to Editor-In-Chief Douglas McGray, it is more like “an old fashioned mix-tape where there’s a certain art in figuring out what flows well into something else.”  Even the ads are live presentations.

An additional goal of Pop-Up Magazine is creativity. Contributors are sought for what they can bring to the magazine, but then they might be asked to do something different: “Once we figure out what makes sense to do onstage, sometimes we’ll collaborate really closely and figure out how we can encourage someone to experiment with different forms,” he says. “We’ll have a radio producer who will decide that they’re going to try out using some Super 8 film or using some images. Or we’ll have an illustrator who will get paired with someone who works in sound.

Pop-Up Magazine is not the only live event of its kind out there, but it is one of the most imaginative, and its insistence on no recordings will continue to make it unique and sought after. The last issue, the fifth, “sold out all 2,600 seats at Davies Symphony Hall in two hours.” So if you are interested, you will want to keep an eye on their web site. If you can’t make it to San Francisco, you might want to take in a live theatre or music event near you. It won’t be the same thing, but it will be live and therefore ephemeral and unique.

 

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