Performance legend Linda Montano situated an event at the Vortex Theater in Austin, TX, in November that invited everyone to come to themselves and others as though the context for introduction were newly ancient, which I am pretty sure it is.
How it started: each person who’d prepared to undertake the evening’s proceedings (the performers and tech crew) came out on stage, one by one, to let everyone know what they usually do during the day and what kind of different role they would be playing that evening. For some these were practical roles—lighting, sound booth—while others would be taking up more exquisitely occasional positions—a water ritual healer, a slow dancer looking for a partner, several designated close-listeners, an MC—and each mentioning had an effect of re-initiating all of our reasons for being how and where we found ourselves there.
What struck me and stayed with me was that this equanimous, equitable gesture which had initially seemed so simple was actually not so at all. Rather, it was a welcome departure from the demand so often made to audiences attending “interactive” works that everyone render themselves performing subjects, exposed as though already complicit in this or that construct. Montano’s invitation to be private while present reminded me of the “recursive yoking” Donna Haraway invokes on her way to discussing conjunctivitis as it occurs in both herself and in the “dog of [her] heart,” Cayenne. “People conjugate in public spaces,” she writes. “[T]hey yoke themselves together transversally and across time and space to make significant things happen.” Like Haraway, Montano creates the occasion to “conjugate ‘to conjugate.’” Over the course of three hours, we all circulated at our own pace around the theater, together imagining multiple variations of the inner-regulatory substances our bodies routinely produce, exchange, and lose. If the word “co-opt” had never been used with any pernicious affect, it might describe these sort of elaborately interwoven inclinations. Amid love songs, companion species, and a bonfire, an audience conditioned conditions of exuberance in spite of death that luckily exposed everything else as mostly unnecessary, if not intolerable.