The Event of a Thread – Day 1
Timelessness. Universality. Interconnectedness. Joyfulness. Simplicity.
today was my very first shift at the Armory. amidst the chaos of my final week of the Fall semester in grad school, the holiday hubbub, subway delays, and too little time for the important things, i trekked my way up to the Upper East Side to read to the pigeons.
i could not be more grateful. upon arrival, i am filled with a sense of calm and expansiveness. there aren’t too many people in the Drill Hall. i see the familiar little heads of J.Ed and Deborah Black emerging from their intricate sheep’s wool cloaks. it is quiet and mellow. some people are laying on the floor beneath the curtain. others are slowly swinging in what seems like quiet contemplation. i want to join them, but i head back to the green room instead. it’s nice back there too. because we are instructed to show up 20 – 30 minutes before our shifts, i have time to stretch to make up for the yoga that i didn’t have time for in the morning. prior to this, i had a Kanji quiz and a taped in-class Japanese presentation. learning a new and complex language is difficult; communication in any language takes a great deal of energy in order to articulate oneself well.
having that time before the shift allowed me to have a wonderful conversation with Audra about the piece (she is assisting Ann on this project) and i was happy for the opportunity to meet my fellow reader. then i went out to “explain the unexplainable to the birds.”
it is difficult to process the sensations of sitting in the exhibit for hours while reading non-sense to pigeons. while the text is excerpted from some of history’s most articulate writers, the way that it is arranged on the page doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a straightforward or conventionally coherent reading. one can thread the words together in any sort of order, wandering through the text, and piecing the words together with the experience of the installation. after doing this for hours, i felt as if i had just emerged from a time warp. there was an overflow of sensations—from perceiving my environment and the audience around me to finding the impulse to say the words before me and gathering the breath to do so. i felt as if i had been there for an eternity that was over in a second.
the experience of doing the Gertrude Stein-esque real-time composition is challenging. it takes a balance of listening to the reader next to me while also keeping up my own momentum. the physical act of staying relatively still on the stool and leaning into the microphone puts one in a position that is difficult to maintain. in a way, it is the preparation that is really important so that i can show up and be present in the moment. in the series of moments which range from pain to total absorption, from a self-consciousness to a focus on the feelings of my feathered friends, from curiosity of how the audience will interact with us to a decision to speak to them through the words of Darwin (filtered through pigeons and radios), everything is a constant negotiation. when everything is connected, all must be considered. what a seemingly impossible challenge!
i need to remember to bring more water. i drank all mine, but didn’t fill up to avoid being wasteful. i could have gone to get more, but some part of me won’t leave that table lest i break some kind of illusion, leave my designated station, or fail in my effort to stay focused on the task at hand. i also need to attend to the energy of the space more. my awareness felt so narrowly focused. and although i was able to remain open to some extent, it could be more.
as i was leaving, a rush came in at around 5pm. the energy shift was quite palpable and totally different from when i had entered in the late afternoon. it is clear that this installation exists for the people that enter it. it is changed by their energy. and mine as a part of it.
i get to go back again and again. i feel so grateful that i get to keep connecting deeper and deeper into this thing. everyday, every moment, could be thought about in this way.
“To see a bald man running, literally running, towards an open swing, two old ladies sharing a swing for an hour, it’s just joyful. This is why we come to New York, to be a part of things. Just being here allows for these kinds of connections.”
~ Ariana Riera ~