Friday, January 25, 2013

PRAGMATIC: Loooooooooooooooooooooong

Seems like the avant garde is in an arms race of running time. 

When I saw The Lily's Revenge, I thought Taylor Mac did a great job managing it's five hour running time by breaking it into five one-hour acts, each with different genres, direction, and performers. In other words,  it was basically a festival of five short episodes.

I missed Gatz when it came to town, much to my deep chagrin, but Elevator Repair Service got good reviews despite a posted 6 hour 45 minute running time -- in practice, actually eight hours.

Last night, I rounded up the reviews of Life and Times: Episodes 1-4 and saw that, despite the 10 hour running time, most critics seemed to smile on it as well. However, as the Episodes 1-4 part of the title says, the goal is actually 10 episodes for 24 straight hours of theater.

Still and all, everyone is going to have to work hard to compete with the turn of the century -- Erik Satie wrote Vexations, a short musical theme repeated 840 times, which took 18 hours to perform -- so long so that only one person was present through the entire work.

Or John Cage's piece Organ2/ASLSP (which stands for As Slow As Possible) which is going to be performed over the next 600 years.

And yet, to me, both Vexations and ASLSP differ from the first three, because the first three contain internal breaks (intermissions and meal breaks). Thus, those works of performance break themselves up into smaller, more digestible chunks, rather than challenge the human brain and human body's ability to engage with them. Whereas Vexations and Organ2/ASLSP are so long, it is (in practice) just about impossible for a human being to experience them from ened to end.