Friday, December 17, 2004

Down with Keanu!

Oh Lordy. It is effing cold in this city, I hope you don't mind me saying. No kidding, y'all. I seriously can't feel my toes. No more leaving the flat until summer rolls around. I figure I can get my little Indian friends downstairs to bring me food, Zsolti will come and give me Hungarian lessons, the Swiss boy can--I don't know-- provide me with some sort of banking services?? and I have my bloggy for a sort of pseudo-social interaction. I'm sure the goings-on of my life in the flat will be good for endlessly fascinating posts.

But before I explore the domestic realm, perhaps I should tell you what did bring me out into the slushy December streets tonight (in some beautiful brown patent leather pointy-toe numbers I don't mind telling you) (thus the frozen toes).

Well, it was modern dance, of course.

It wasn't me who was doing the modern dance. Though I rather like the thought of myself flexing and swaying in a Martha Graham-style Grecian robe through Nyugati Palyaudvar (the West train station). But no. Instead, it was a group of five Hungarian actors/dancers under the name Szabó Réka at the MU Színház on the Buda side. The MU is tres intime, in the manner of the Trafo. Can only seat 250 people or so.

Here is the English text from the program:

We know it to be vociferous, forever on the run, rowdy, often vulgar.
And yet it can look so lonesome, all walled up, with the blinds down. It
has a callous face but it is still somehow vulnerable. Its facades glisten.
Its arms and face always in some other place: all desire inside,
while living on the outside.
We do a headstand, take a look at it, laughing.

Sound like your average artist's statement rubbish? No, it's not. "It" in the latter passage is surely the body. And the dance troupe this evening used humor, movement, and props to convey the body as described here. In one segment, opera music is played at a low volume while one of the male dancers holds a square window up to his face. He smushes his face against the glass, showing us, the audience, his alternately flattened nose, forehead, lips, as he rolls his face around. The window is a casement window which he unlatches and opens. The opera music's volume soars. His face protrudes freely.

A female figures stands with her back to us. Her arms are wrapped around her, and we notice a hand, presumably her hand, figdgeting and wriggling about the perimeter of her body. But the hand is capable of twisting and turning in a way that defies normal anatomical constraints. The hand
reaches down her side past her knees while her body remains straight. The hand wiggles back up and comes up between her legs where it does its own dance. The hand lingers there between her legs, eventually nestling itself against the figure's ass.

When I was at my parents' house in Florida, I tried to find something besides books from the library to feed my soul. I found precious little. (You'll pardon me if I don't find Phantom of the Opera satisfying in this respect.) Any sort of entertainment section or on-line city guide was overwhelmingly just about movies and TV. I told myself to be patient, that it was a good time to read and to spend time with my family, and that soon my soul would feast in the winter season of Art and Beauty here in Budapest.

Fine for me. But what about the people who can't go to Budapest? or to another metropolis that embraces the arts? I want more for my brother and sister, and I want more for other Americans. I know this is a can of worms, the whole question of the United States' attitude toward the arts, and I don't want to open that can now. I want to say that you as an American can ask for more. You can write a letter to your local performance venues, you can write a letter to the paper, you can make it a point to support what fledgling efforts there might be in your community. Say you want more than a stale old musical, more than The Matrix, more than C.S.I.! Tell them you want something new, something fresh, something to make you so cold that no fire can warm you. Down with Keanu! On with Art! On with Creativity! If we are no longer citizens, and only consumers, then consume Beauty my fellow Americans. Breathe it, drink it, eat it, lick it, love it, support it, give birth to it!

If we feed ourselves unimaginative muck, then we will produce unimaginative muck. But the good news is that there is better. Much better. There are voices, original voices, in our communities everywhere, and they only need you to listen. Listen.


December 18th Addendum:
I reread this, and I don't want to give the impression that I subscribe to a hierarchical view of the arts. I know very well that there is a lot of creativity in TV land, and I think it's great. Some of it is a lot better than some paintings and a LOT of performance art I've seen, that's for sure. But TV and movies are San Fernando Valley and Hollywood-based, and there are other voices out there who, as I said, deserve a listen. We should have options and variety. That's what I want to say. Thanks.


At 4:47 AM, Blogger Indeterminacy said...

In general, European TV offers more coverage of the arts, films off the beaten track, classical music, ballet, etc. This is because of the general subscription fees which do a better job of financing the network's coffers. I've found out about films from all over Europe by watching ARTE, the cooperation between France and Germany to provide just what is lacking on commercial programs.

I've enjoyed what one can find in Europe. I can't imagine what I'd be doing in the states. Probably reading more. During the 80's I did not watch any of the new TV series. And I lived two years in Germany before buying a television.

At 4:02 PM, Blogger Irma Vep said...

I don't have ARTE. I do have TV5. My French is actually workable enough to enjoy it. Something I've noticed is that when they interview an artist or musician, they spend a REALLY LONG time interviewing them. It's much more in depth than the sound-byte style I'm used to in the States.

At 7:27 PM, Blogger svm said...

i am thinking of you and my mother standing shivering on the lido when i dragged you out there during our visit for a moment of zen at the hotel des bains, closed, of course, due to the effing cold...

At 10:59 PM, Blogger Irma Vep said...

I remember that day! And the effing cold! But I also remember how beautiful the Hotel was-- I can still see it, a monument to old glamour shadowed by the melancholy of winter and weather. I'm glad you made us go-- and to Tacky Lace Land for that matter.

I hope I've gleaned some of your intrepid quality.


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