Tuesday, September 16, 2003

The Avant-Gourde in the Pumpkin Patch 

Saturday, September 13—David Greenberger/3 Leg Torso

Following Greenberger’s show, I overheard some murmuring and question of whether or not it belonged in the TBA festival—as it wasn’t cutting-edge enough. Let me say this, you of the furrowed brow, waiting for your Lowellesque Important Utterance like Linus in the pumpkin patch: You want a cutting-edge time-based experience? Then go the dentist for a drilling. As the transgressive moment of performance (I think of ‘80s–‘90s idioms) is long gone to pasture, what are we left with other than the curveball dynamic of beauty, entertainment, self-reflection, and reinvestigations of form.

These are the same people who are distrustful of downright humaness (look at some of the critical reception of Harrell Fletcher’s work. . .people couldn’t believe there wasn’t some winking ironic commentary afoot). “Where’s the metaphor?” one person was overheard saying. Here’s the metaphor—like Frank O’Hara said, “we’re all winning, we are alive.” Trafficking in a genre that seems to be equal parts Jean Shepard, Oliver Sacks, and Ken Nordine, Greenberger deals out small gestures of humanity that challenge a so-called avant-garde intimidated by genuine empathy.

What I found about DG’s ease of conveyance was that it brought me back to the page and spine of the book (reading--another venerable time-based form), yet the currency of “face” value mined a deep vein of metaphor that touched on the intimacy and fragility of unstructured memory, palpable reflections on regret, sickness, and decline, and the yearning we all have for clarity.

Try this: toss a coin, watch it careen around its edges—try and see George Washington’s ear at the center. . .it’s very difficult. Simply put the edges exist as a reminder of the center. Greenberger’s gravity was a welcome reminder of that--and (to paraphrase Mr. Shepard) was most very “shoe,” as opposed to “unshoe.”

—Tim DuRoche

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