Friday, April 26, 2013

Adventures and New Things – Bird Shit

On the first day of 2013 I dared myself to live, to take a chance and step outside my comfort zones. I started by enrolling in a creative writing class as an outlet for my boredom. Truth be told, a writing class more hovered on the border of my comfort level and tumbled further into the zone with each session. During my master pursuit, I discovered that I savor learning. I have an insatiable appetite for knowing more. I flourished during my MBA studies. After graduating, I embarked on an endless journey of knowledge acquisition. I have been devouring volume upon volume of books ever since, sampling as many genres as possible. Therefore, a writing course seemed like the natural progression. It gave me the opportunity to return to my beloved class room format, bounce ideas around with my fellow students, and explore the option of phrasing the acquired knowledge in my own words. I admit it was a very enjoyable experience. However, I still wanted to challenge myself to venture further away from my comfort zone. In this attempt, I attended a performance art performance and a literary reading.

As an ardent Franco Fan (i.e. James Franco), I follow him on Twitter (duh!). I must be honest and attest that Franco isn’t a good tweeter. He always tweets pictures, rarely adding captions. His tweets are irregularly spaced, so you never know when you’ll get a post. As a result, his mystery encased pictures have become sort of surprise. They come in a slew of many consecutive tweets, bearing the unknown. Early March, one of his ominous tweets came a chirping. He was advocating a show called “Bird Shit” that was scheduled to show at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City on April 7th. The promotional webpage stated that the project was under Franco’s guidance as the performance was delivered by NYU students. A major sponsor pulled out four weeks prior to the performance. James (yes, we are on first name bases) was helping raise money for the project.”Ahhhhh! How sweat”, was my immediate thought. Bird Shit was inspired by Chekhov’s Seagull and Ginsberg’s Kaddish. It employed a multitude of media, song, dance, images, and live performance. I was intrigued. Knowing nothing about the Seagull and Kaddish, I set out to research both. I was intrigued further. Since the show was scheduled for a Sunday, I resolved to go and see it.

I arrived at MoMA PS1 at 11:53 am and waited in line for the doors to open. I noticed that there were several families in line. I took this to be a sign that I will enjoy the art on display, given that it would appeal to a toddler.  The museum promptly opened at noon as we filed into the admissions structure to purchase tickets. Bird Shit was scheduled to start at 14:00 in the VW Dome. I decided to explore the exhibits during those two superfluous hours. Having visited MoMA in Manhattan, I naïvely assumed I could digest the modern arts. There definitely were too contemporary pieces that I couldn’t understand, such as a large white canvas with small orange dots aligned in vertical and horizontal lines. However, there also were the Monets, Picassos, and Pollocks which I immensely enjoyed. I thought MoMA PS1 was merely a smaller version of MoMA. I was deeply mistaken. It is smaller in terms of square footage, but the art on display is quite different. Each exhibit is snuggly tucked away in its own enclosed space. The exhibits on display that day were engaging with the use of light, sound, and graphics. Yet, they weren’t quite for me. I feel guilty because I’m unable to give the artist their due. I didn’t retain enough details to describe why I wasn’t attracted to the displays. I found myself interested in the building more than the art. I stood at a window sill on a landing along the stairwell, gazing at the post office building across the street. I marveled at the additional details that appeared with each floor I ascended. I was done with exploring MoMA PS1 within 50 minutes, which was sad. I sat outside reading “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote and brushed gravel induced dust off my face as I waited for Bird Shit to begin.

The VW Dome was in sight from my vantage point on a bench by the entrance to M. Wells Dinette. In case you are wondering why I elected to sit outside, the restaurant was packed with Sunday Brunchers and a long queue of want-to-be diners waiting to be seated. At 13:30 people started to line up for the show. I claimed my place in line, eagerly waiting to flash my hot pink wristband as verification that I purchased a ticket. I felt awkward standing among the eclectic crowd of young hipster, NYU art students, and mature art aficionados. Measured against the hipsters, I amounted to a hobbit, more Bilbo Baggins than Frodo. In contrast to the cool crew, I was short, dumpy and old. Measured against the older audience, I was a fraud. I lacked their maturity and sophistication. Nevertheless, I stood firmly in line, refusing to be intimidated by the experience. I buried my head in my book, willing the doors to open so I can escape the chilling weather. At 13:55 I heard the rusted squeak of a metal door opening ajar. People gasped and proclaimed, “That’s him!” I was too engrossed in my book to care. Moreover, I was standing behind a seven foot giant with my forehead hovering dangerously near his elbow. I could not see who “him” was, even if I wanted to. Over the masses, I heard a familiar voice, a voice I had heard a million times in the YouTube videos I religiously watch. It was James Franco in the flesh. Apparently, he stepped out of the theater to announce, “Guys, we’re really sorry but we’re having some technical issues and the show’s going to be a few minutes late. We’re really sorry about the delay.” He swiftly disappeared back into the dome, leaving us all, or maybe just me, craving for more. My face flushed. Had I known that Franco would be in attendance, I would not have come to the performance. I didn’t want to appear as a James Franco stalker, least of all to myself. But I was there. I had already purchased a ticket. There was nothing I could do at that point. Nevertheless, I felt sheepish, like a groupie following a rock star from one concert to the next.

Evidently, not only was Franco present but he was also part of the performance. He introduced Bird Shit with his signature modest and humble demeanor, thanking the audience for coming, reassuring us that the show wasn’t long, and hoping we’ll enjoy it. The VW dome is a very intimate setting. A small white stage stood erect in the middle, surrounded by five rows of folding chairs arranged in a hexagon and cordoned by the live band and technical stations. Next to this technical station, Franco stood in attention for the entire performance, overlooking his students perform. The light contrast between the dim theater and sunlit outer space was blinding. I could barely see as I entered the dome. I followed the silhouette of the lady in front of me until I found a seat to my liking. I immediately scoped out the space. There was an elaborate mechanical contraption affixed from a scaffold over the stage. Based on the promotional image of a man with white slimy substance covering his face, the show’s title, and the plastic lining the floor I correctly guessed the devise would dispense something during the performance. There were also three large projectors positions as the apexes of an invisible equilateral triangle hovering above the stage.

As promised, Bird Shit incorporated dialogue, dance, song, and prerecorded performances projected on the ceiling. Having done my homework before hand, I was able to recognize the Chekhov and Kaddish references with ease. After my experience with MoMA PS1 art, I was afraid that the performance would escape the grasp of my feeble mind as I intellectually struggled to comprehend the abstract. However, I was able to follow Bird Shit from the very first mega images of Franco projected on the ceiling with him disparaging fame and all the way through until the poor female lead was dragged out into the cold courtyard and drenched with water. I enjoyed every aspect of the performance, including the indecipherable songs. The show stayed with me as I darted from the theater on my way out, purposely avoiding Franco.  It still remains firmly in memory and mind three weeks later.

I had so many questions to ask, but I didn’t have a companion with whom I could ponder. I decided to file away these inquiries until the next time I encounter Franco. However, my take on Bird Shit is that we must endure the consequences of our choices, even when these byproducts are the shit we have to deal with every day. Fame is an unwanted result of living in the spot light. Some artists do not pursue fame, they simply desire the art. Yet, they have to accept the notoriety. I’m not sure if my interpretation of Bird Shit is what Franco had intended. Honestly, I don’t care. I was able to identify with this notion as I strive to deal with my own bird shit.