I don't know what you're doing, but please don't stop.
PNCA's gallery exchange program with Rio de Janerio, Troca Brasil, came to an ecstatic culmination at First Thursday's opening.
You could hear the steel drum corps all the way from 5th as they circled the block around the school. I was late for the opening, and as I ran towards the huge sound, I noticed a whole contingent of people sprinting along beside me.
The ecstatic rhythms of the drum corps were expressed by the tall, gorgeous Brazilian dancers, resplendent in magnificent blue feather costumes and headdresses.
The dancers led the steel drum corps into the building and the performance continued for hours, or was it minutes?, transfixing everyone. As the wine flowed freely, the joyful, sensual rhythm became unbearably compelling, and audience members, kids, PNCA faculty and staff joined the costumed dancers.
It was a moment of pure, thrilling, unmitigated joy, and seemed strangely alien. I caught myself thinking "How could this be happening?" It was free, sensual, and ecstatic. I found myself associating the imagery immediately with television commercials, but the trouble was, no one was trying to sell anything. Has pure joy as an expressive form been wholly co-opted as a marketing device in this culture? It was hard to believe that this was happening and no one in the room was exchanging money.
I started thinking about human nature. Whenever I've heard that term used, it describes failure, shortcomings, greed, inefficiency, violence, betrayal.
Question: Why is there War?
Answer: It's just human nature.
But nature, human or otherwise, is ancient.
Watching the Brazilian dancers, alternate scenarios began gathering strength in my mind. Perhaps avarice and violence are learned, unnatural attributes, resulting from the disruption of what was being expressed here. What if this is human nature: Joy, energy, the vigor of life, sensuality. These things force us to feel fully present in our bodies, and fully present in our experiences. Life becomes a slipstream of the present, defiant of the permanence commodity culture pretends to offer.
No wonder our new generation of artists covers themselves with tattoos. In a culture that has commoditized sensual experience, ownership of the body itself is a battleground. If the body has become a product, tattoos are battle flags which de-license it.
Dancing in PNCA seemed a remedy no less effective. The seduction of direct experience was irresistible. It cannot be stopped!
And where does art fit into all this? Is art the ultimate commodity, the materialistic playground of the upper echelon? Or is the "romance" of creative work actually the truth. Art expresses the real truth about humanity, the real human nature, and nature is ancient.
Turning away from the dancers I noticed kids playing in the pink womb of Ernesto Neto's giant fabric sculpture and felt warm and human and unmarketable.