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Friday, September 17, 2004

Amos Lattier: Not to be overlooked 

"Call of the Wild," a collection of three short audio tours of urban wildlife is an unexpected delight. Perhaps one of the least elaborate pieces of the TBA line-up, "Call of the Wild" nonetheless provides the audience member the opportunity to re-examine personal definitions of genre, art, performance, and reality. Each tour takes less than 10 minutes, are easy to accomplish (a literal walk in the park), and consist simply of a corner to start on, a direction to walk, and a pre-recorded narrative.

Though finding a new perspective of what’s ‘right in your own backyard’ may seem more than a little trite, Lattier’s approach is entirely genuine and thus refreshing. He is not tempted to adopt a tour-guide caricature, but uses his own persona and admits to his own limited knowledge in sharing his ideas. By using the all-to-common cell phone as a medium, he is able to create a stage that is entirely a cognitive construct. He guides the audience’s attention towards a re-examination of their surroundings, and towards the intersection of the seemingly opposing forces of urbanization and nature. Because the specific stimulus is completely variable, he sets a stage in which the artistic experience is solely a product of the audience’s mental process of association. It's easy for artists to claim that the audience is a 'crucial component of performance, and has as much affective power as anyone on stage,' but in this instance this claim is played out in a much more tangible way.

Though low-tech by this festival’s standards, Call of the Wild manages to find spectacle in happy coincidences—the physiological thrill of seeing a squirrel dart by when Lattier says "look at the squirrels," or of noticing a woman preening her boyfriend in a squirrel-like manner at the same instruction. That’s just cool.

Also cool, is noticing the inevitable passersby with cell phones glued to their ears. This is a perfect opportunity to stray from the narrative a bit, and venture into a personal examination of distinguishing their conversation as ordinary, from Lattier’s tour as performance. Good chance to revisit those tried and true questions of "What is art? where is art? Where is not art? Where am I? Who am I? Does anyone care? Do I care?" But because the conventionally defined relationships between art, artist, and audience were completely restructured, I felt somehow physically at the ground zero of these related questions, and discovered new ways to answer them. All within 6-8 minutes—not too shabby.

At Wednesday’s noontime chat, "Corporate Culture," Khaela Maricich and Andrew Dickson talked a lot about playing with expectation (specifically of the corporate environment), and finding art in that most-interesting place just outside of ordinary. Call of the Wild is an excellent contribution to this conversation—Lattier does not challenge or reject or even question our reality so much as jostle it in an ever so slight but entirely effective way. He provides a different framework for experiencing a familiar reality, and lets the audience work out how to restructure the particulars.

A prize to anyone who can offer a convincing and legitimate reason for not giving Call of the Wild a try—there simply isn’t one.

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