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Retraction - January Shit-Show on Ice

Retraction - January Shit-Show on Ice

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Published by Jeremy M. Barker
A retraction of the anonymously submitted and potentially fraudulently sent note.
A retraction of the anonymously submitted and potentially fraudulently sent note.

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Jeremy M. Barker on Jan 17, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/17/2013

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Hi.My name is Kevin Doyle and I am the author of this essay posted here; which has been publishedwithout my knowledge or permission. For the bulk of the last two weeks or so, I have been inZagreb, Croatia without my computer charger -- then bouncing around Belgium/The Netherlandsfor meetings and research. Sorry for what must seem like a late response.The essay was started in the spring of this year, as a way to figure out my reactions to a greatdeal of work I had seen. When I purchased my tickets for the January 2012 period, I had nointention of writing about anything. This was not pre-conceived. The investment of time andmoney was the same I’ve made during previous Januarys. However, I could not believe what Iwas seeing. It was a disappointment on a lot of levels; both professionally and artistically. Onethat was echoed by friends and colleagues. Something clicked. My reactions did not fade withtime. On the contrary, they only got stronger. So, I started to write about it.Elements of the essay were borne out of discussions I had with the editor of an Americanquarterly magazine in 2011; a publication that is outside of theatre and the arts. This discussion pre-dated the work referenced in the essay. At the editor’s suggestion, a very early incompletedraft was submitted. The editor sent back some notes, in an attempt to enlarge the scope of whatwas basically a rant. I went back to the essay during the summer, and a final draft was submittedvia email in September.The essay was written in dialogue with three different arts professionals in our field -- one in theUnited States, one from Great Britain, and one from Europe. I asked their advice, to confirm or clarify that what I had experienced was indeed what had transpired. Several of the works we sawtogether. I sent out versions and drafts to other colleagues -- three in Europe and three in theUnited States; each of whom had experience with the work from this period. These drafts weresent in confidence. The emails were labeled “confidential.” I was looking for feedback andreceived feedback; some of it quite solid, even though I have not had the opportunity toincorporate it.What has appeared online is one of those drafts. It has not been fact-checked for accuracy or received any genuine editorial assistance at all. I have no idea if some of the facts in the essay areeven correct; it simply had not evolved to that point. Some of the things alluded to, like mycompany’s participation in APAP 2013, are not even happening. In my view, it was also notcomplete. There were other events from the January 2012 period that were worth mentioning --1) the outright coup by The Mad Ones at the New Ohio Theatre; 2) the downright fraud pulledoff by Goat Island; or 3) the forthright workshop of Aaron Landsman’s
City Council Meeting 
atHERE. All three carried echoes and aspects of things that tied in to some of the themes discussedin the essay draft. I haven’t had the physical time to explore how and why. I wish I did.This draft was rejected for publication by editors of the American quarterly magazine. Two of thereasons: 1) It was more appropriate for an “insider” theatre journal; and 2) the issues of a “New
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York scene” were not really of interest to an editorial majority with a national focus. The essayand my opinions are in no way a reflection of the editors’ opinions, nor are they sponsors of myviews. The same goes for the professionals I consulted. Sorry folks, but they will remainanonymous.I read the essay to myself a few more times; going over the issues in my head. In person, I readsections to two collaborators because the content was relevant to projects we are currentlyworking on. And that’s it. As far as I was concerned, this essay was dead.- - - - - -But then, here we are. Someone else has chosen to publish this draft, without my knowledge or  permission. I accept 100% responsibility for the content of this essay. Even though there arethings I would change or edit, it’s still mine. I wrote it.However, the idea that I would post this anonymously is a joke.I have a pretty established track record of speaking my mind in essays and letters on a variety of issues in our field; with an equally established record of seeing those thoughts ignored. Does thefact that Caleb Hammons and/or 
Culturebot 
serve as de facto posters give my words moresignificance in a new context? Beats me.I have never met Caleb Hammons, except seeing him introduce nights at the CATCH series. I’mnot a big fan of 
Culturebot 
, to be honest; with all due respect, from what I’ve read (or tried toread) of late, it alternates between the unintelligible and advance PR used by artists’ reps to prep/generate review(s)[ers] at mainstream publications.
 
I actually did attend the PRELUDE“Manifesto” event that was alluded to by the sender and found some of it quite good andinspiring; especially the rhythm of Miguel Gutierreuz’ Skype delivery and Leah Winkler’s veryhonest and accurate assessments. If I had a problem with the event -- besides David Levinemuting the sound, meaning that those of us watching in the next room via live feed could nothear -- it was that none of the participating artists seemed to want to stick around for the nextartist’s manifesto who followed their turn.The arc of views expressed in the essay are not that heretical -- or original. Internationally, it isan accepted viewpoint by professionals [whom I know at least] that segments of Americancontemporary work are not up-to-par with what is going on in the rest of the world. I just spent aweek with many of them, and their viewpoints are a whole lot more extreme and frank than positions I took in the essay. Sometimes this applies to festivals mentioned; sometimes it appliesto a larger New York “scene”; sometimes it doesn’t apply at all; while at other times the patternworks in reverse. There are identifiable reasons for this, but that’s an essay for another day.The idea that all our energies and resources each January are clustered around a singular goal togain the attention of professionals, curators or presenters -- as opposed to, say, taking those
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energies/resources and applying them towards generating new audiences during the other elevenmonths of the year -- is a valid point. Its evidence of the many contradictions and fallacies which permeate our field. It is also not limited to New York in January. Other countries have differentversions of the never-ending “shit-show-circus-on-ice” and face very similar issues.The idea of clothing a “predictable” dramaturgy within “edgy” and/or “experimental” methods or language, is a trend that has not relented in recent years. The argument does not apply toeveryone; nor does it even apply to other works created in the past by several of the artists’mentioned in the essay. The phenomenon is by no means limited to New York. I’ve seen my fair share of Canadian and European work that exhibits similar traits. One could write a similar essay, perhaps, about other festivals around the world. But the January 2012 period is the one Iexperienced -- so here we are. Perhaps if the advance PR language associated with some of theworks referenced was not so over-the-top with descriptions that did not match up to reality -- Iwouldn’t be here; and neither would you.- - - - -I feel there is a strange, inexplicable starting point that we American “theatre artists” possess --one that is so rooted in “realism” and “the predictable” and “the digestible” -- that I wonder if weseem to notice it. But it is there. It affects our work and our approach -- regardless of the missionstatements or PR statements we attach to our work, which attempt to claim otherwise.One could see these differences highlighted between the French group -- Les Chiens de Navarre-- and the American group -- NTUSA -- during the
 France-America Match: From Stereotypes to Reality
at the Invisible Dog Art Center. It doesn’t mean that people/artists are evil or that either of the works were bad -- but one can notice the differences. The former, comfortable with thesurreal and the unresolved; the latter almost needing the linear and the literal as an anchor bywhich to moor the performance.A similar comparison could be made in how the found material of recorded speeches by theAmerican preacher Jimmy Swaggart is tackled by two different artists -- the American artist/ performer Andrew Dinwiddie -- and the Belgian artist/performer Lisbeth Gruwez. The former isrooted in the literal via its exploration of the source material. In Dinwiddie’s performance piece
Get Mad At Sin!
a conceit of simulacrum is established, via recreating a speech verbatim. In thelatter, Gruwez -- with her sound designer Maarten Van Cauwenberghe -- uses the recordedSwaggart speeches in
 Its going to get worse and worse and worse my friend 
as excerpts, as bitsand pieces of repetition to build a larger composition. They employ the recordings as tools and building blocks towards the construction of an entirely new work of art -- one that is moreabstracted; one that lives in a realm between dance and performance art. The latter evolves andsubverts itself, somehow growing and evolving as a transformative work of art. The former isstunningly executed, but yet seems one-dimensional by comparison; as if a great idea wasformed and then simply was ran with until its natural linear conclusion.
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