Entirely New Visions
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Like many, the Urban Man often goes looking for entirely new visions. I'm not talking about spectacle. If I need spectacle, I can buy a DVD of Spiderman II in my supermarket check-out line.
No, for an entirely new vision, I have to find things fashioned from burlap and library paste and hung to dry on gallery walls, or spilled like nails on gallery floors. I have to buy tickets for performance art pieces utilizing yellow paint and three-legged dogs. I have to search out nihilistic teens tapping on the lenses of YouTube videos or visit a tiny theater featuring seven or eight refrigerators scattered across an otherwise barren stage.
Fortunately, we have plenty of galleries and theaters and many postings on YouTube, so it's never been easier to find entirely new visions.
Still, I sometimes worry that there's a theoretical limit, some greatest possible number of new possibilities.
This morning, for example, I find myself at a Music Center press conference, staring into the mischievous eyes of Achim Freyer, a certified German avant-garde theater director. He has a shock of white hair and the necessary small inward smile of a man capable of creating things entirely new.
On the dias sits Eli Broad, who just donated $6 million toward a new production of Wagner's Ring cycle at L.A. Opera in 2009. Nearby, great singers and musicians loiter--but we all know that everything depends on the imagination of this German. He once staged Bach's Mass in B Minor here by creating a huge box onstage, and filling it with big lumbering figures wearing moon boots. The figures were swaddled like mummies, they moved their arms very slowly, and they sometimes carried long sticks.
Sure it was Bach, but I said to myself, "My G-d, this is entirely new."
This morning, Freyer unveils abstract paintings and uses words like "intrusion," "identity," and "fate." The notables lean in close, but he holds back on his essential vision.
"It's hard to come up with a new interpretation of the Ring," he says, "and there may be spies here from other companies."
He's right to worry. Around the world, many struggle to conjure fresh visions of the Ring--which used to be about Norse gods, but now may concern yuppie industrialists or vaudevillian Nazi storm troopers. Just now, down in Orange County, there's a Ring featuring extremely large, unformed primordial figures.
It's a sort of global competition.
Afterwards, I take Freyer aside, and ask if his version will resemble anything he's done in the past--like maybe his expressionist Faust, which included wonderfully grotesque, cartoon-like masks.
"I never repeat myself," he says.
Then he adds: "Life also does not repeat itself."
And for a moment, the Urban Man is stunned by these words. I mean, surely life should repeat itself…sometimes. And as I stare into his dark, glittering, avant-garde pupils, I suddenly remember the famous short story by Arthur C. Clarke called "The Nine Billion Names of God."
In this tale, a group of Buddhist monks decide that the true purpose of the universe is to discover all possible names of the Deity. They hire some programmers, and as their computer prints out the nine billionth new name, our destiny is fulfilled and everyone looks up to see that, "Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out."
I don't mention this vision to Freyer. I mean, even at the rate we're going: even with millions of artists and you-tube enthusiasts at work, and even with tireless German theater directors in our pay, we're still a long way from discovering all possible entirely new visions.
Copyright © Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
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