How to...Create a Cultural District
(and Have it Vanish Into the Morning Mists of Dawn)
Continuing along 2nd street just before 12:30 Jessica and I found Matthew Stadler sitting behind a small desk on an elevated street corner. His reading light illuminates a stack of paper and a minidisk recorder with which he is intently fiddling.
We sit down in one of the chairs and he welcomes us to help ourselves to a beer.
He is going to start his performance exactly at 12:30. What time is it now? He is from Seattle but he finds the art scene here much richer, and travels back and forth frequently. He is a fiction writer, but finds it enriching to operate within a community of artists. He is associated with a radical, individual centered cultural movement in Europe called Amsterdam 2.0
. The idea behind Amsterdam 2.0 is that the citizens are writing a constitution for themselves, one they prefer to live by, rather than the constitution of the government. Their constitution values the rights of the individual at all costs. Stadler was commissioned to write a piece of short fiction in honor of the beginning of Amsterdam 2.0. He saw a parallel between Amsterdam 2.0's assertion of the rights of the individual and the plight of turn of the century immigrants on the west coast. His story is called City of Wool, and is set in 1914 in Astoria, Oregon. It follows the lives of immigrants from the Middle East who are gradually assimilated into their new surroundings. His story seems driven completely by vivid, sensual imagery, and it is easy to see why Stadler spends so much of his time associating with artists. His descriptions are lucid and poetic. He identifies his work as a prose piece: just barely.
During the conversation with Stadler, we are briefly interrupted and offered ice cream bars. Jessica and I both take Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches from the new person and go back to talking to Matt. We both enjoyed our ice cream sandwiches although it was a little bit too cold out to be eating ice cream. It was only much later that debate arose between us: Was that a piece?
Was this a piece?
I think that it was. Referring to the booklet, I found a work by Khris Soden entitled I'm an ice Cream Man, Myself
. Unfortunately, the booklet gives no description as to the exact nature of the piece, but instead says:
A site-specific installation looks at the origin of southeast Portland's tallest building. Was southeast Portland's tallest building originally an ice cream factory? I have no idea. Perhaps it was simply someone being generous with their ice cream. Anyone with more information than I have please comment. The debate remains unresolved between Jessica and myself.
Referring back to the booklet, we started looking for Joseph del Pesco's Accidental Poster Collection, which was located in one of the open produce trucks which line 3rd Ave. at night. But which one? The booklet only gave an approximate location. There were a lot of empty produce trucks on 3rd Ave., and after a long period of fruitless (no pun intended) searching we finally saw a crowd gathered around one a block from where we were looking.
Mcloud Zicmuse in full sing-a-long action
Upon approaching the truck we found that two exhibits were underway at the same time. Del Pesco's posters were displayed inside the truck with blue tape, and sitting cross-legged in the far corner of the truck was a spry bald man with interesting glasses and an old acoustic guitar. This is McCloud Zicmuse, a troubadour who sings songs from the northland, and his project (or alter ego?) is Le Ton Mite, music in a genre described as Broken Folk. Zicmuse comments on the impetus of his songwriting:
We live in a time when to dream is an act of sedition. These songs are stories meant to share the love of life and to promote the proactive change of the world through that power.
The one-man performance that followed was my favorite piece in the 3am vanishing cultural district. Zicmuse was animated, direct, and playful. His lively songs and one-word lyrics had an unexpected impact. His enthusiastic and impassioned presentation was genuine and compelling. And you had to laugh when he started jumping up and down (most of the songs). The network of associations he was able to generate by linking together single words was truly astounding. His lyrics left huge open spaces in which the viewer could imagine their own connections. I managed to stop laughing enough to transcribe them:
Are Made Of.
Zicmuse's 4 or 5 song set culminated with an unaccompanied sing-a-long about riding a bus. Zicmuse implored the audience to participate by singing the only two lyrics with him: Woah
(ascending) and Woah
(descending). The process was guided by Zicmuse's construction paper bus. When it was going up the hill you sang the ascending Woah, and when it went down you sang the descending Woah. At the end of the song Zicmuse grabbed his guitar and fled the produce truck as if chased by angry hornets.
Stay tuned for part 3!
Although I applaud these sorts of happenings I also think they strive for a minor-ness that is pretty easy to achieve. (seems like a late 60's early 70's re-hash too)
There is so much change in Portland these days that one has to ask, "who is making art for the long haul, and who is making it simply to to be included in a social function... a secret handshake if you will." It's valid but it isn't always very interesting.
Lastly, Stadler is doing some great things but he's a writer (beware we are all evil), they make words and words are easy to store. Artists have a higher "burden of worth" when they make objects and those object makers are in many ways more radical than those fitting into a scene which purports to erase itself.
Lastly, humans are social animals and it isn't all that surprising when they form groups. It is wierd when they invest massive effort time and resources into something of dubious worth or value as a project.
My point, the individual is the source of most radical innovation. Even a group like the Bauhaus made its reputation on the accomplishments of its individuals. Yes, some groups do great things but it's the individuals that make it happen.
I totally agree with the above coment. This whole idea that PDX is doing something cool (hug me) because we all love each and are one big happy family is total BS. All the best stuff comes out of individuals. And as to performance art, the earlier the better. Anna Blum by Schwitters. Or how about Yves Klein and Yoko?