Posted by Sean Delles, CNF reader for issue 4.2
“The revolution will not be televised… The revolution will be live”
-Gil Scott Heron
I don’t know about you all out there, but the art of performance has always struck me as being connected in some strange way to the literature we read. I think this correlation exists in my mind not because of something cut and dry that both the forms share (e.g. convention, narrative structure, whatever), but because of the eventual impact these forms have on one’s perception. I often find myself at the end of a great performance getting that same exact inward glow of profundity that one receives finishing a great book. Like suddenly the thin layer of snow plastered onto the side of your car window you couldn’t scrape off from earlier has flung off in-passage, and driving now you can see the glory of what’s in front of you in its entirety.
Perhaps it’s a stretch to compare the afterglow of a performance to driving visibility, but I can’t be the only one who has felt this feeling and marveled at it at some point or another. Here… try this if you think I’m exaggerating: Think to the last time you went to a performance- whether it was a play or a concert or music event- and recall that exact moment you stepped out of the venue. That’s when I’ve noticed the sensation is at its strongest. Feel the cool air of the evening brush against you (your lungs sigh in relief at the prospect of breathing in air that hasn’t already been breathed out by dozens of others); notice the muffled chatter of strangers around you (talking about what transpired inside no doubt); and scan the just-beginning-to-fill street in front of you. You’ll realize then that nothing really even looks like how it once did. That’s the feeling. However long you were in that building witnessing that particular performance, you became separated from yourself. Nothing (if the performance did what it was supposed to do) existed beyond the present moment of spectatorship, and in coming back down to reality your brain got tripped up in transition. Surroundings are new and profound and filled-to-the-brim with meaning, and what you soaked up indoors superimposes itself outdoors onto the very fabric of your personal being. I see this exact moment in time as the true power of performance, because without doing anything but buying a ticket, you alter your consciousness in significant ways.