Sunday, July 24, 2011

This side whimsy

I thoroughly enjoyed Misha Glouberman's collaboration with Sheila Heti, The Chairs are Where the People Go, after an initial round of disappointment that came to an end when I realized that it was completely unreasonable of me to expect this book to be exactly like and as good as Georges Perec's "Species of Spaces". I think it was the book's title that made me feel I'd be getting something so much along those lines: and no, it is not as good as that paragraph I just linked to indeed or that whole work, but it is very much worthwhile nonetheless (Perec sets an impossibly high standard).

Most attractive to me were the thoughts on groups and their working dynamics; Misha has had an interesting and unusual career thus far teaching improvisation and doing odd and highly imaginative sorts of classes, and his descriptions of this stuff really spoke to me. Interesting things to be gleaned here by anyone in education or the arts, I'd say, with particular focus on the productive tension between verbal and non-verbal forms of art, the nature of collaboration in a group and a cluster of related topics, including ephemeral art forms, games and the relationship between participation and performance (games and group dynamics being central topics of interest to me in BOMH). (Sheila Heti has done an interesting and imaginative job shaping the material into a book.)

Here's one of my favorite bits, a list of "some hard Charades clues" that emerged from years of teaching a workshop on charades (this is the sort of counterintuitive class in which Misha has specialized):
the Symbionese Liberation Army
Sum 41
"The more things change, the more they stay the same"
Being and Nothingness
Sometimes a Great Notion

the Dutch tulip craze of the seventeenth century
Soren Kierkegaard
Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice
the Koran
"The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the two adjacent sides"
E Pluribus Unum
Vinnie Barbarino
Troilus and Cressida

the lambada
Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers
Mr. Snuffleupagus
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife"
"Que Sera, Sera"
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
Godel, Escher, Bach
Soylent Green
shock and awe
The Metamorphosis
"'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe"
trickle-down economics
Also, some very wise thoughts on conferences and why it is a pity that their current structure "doesn't just ignore the existence of the Internet, it ignores the existence of the printing press":
It's a medieval idea about how information should be disseminated--to imagine that if you want to know what someone thinks, you have to go sit in a room with them while they read out loud to you their thoughts. But at a lot of conferences that's the primary thing that happens.

Finding out what someone has to say in their paper isn't a reason to travel across the country and stay in a hotel room. A reason to travel across the country is to have conversations with people and actually form human relationships. Most of the stuff that happens at a conference not only does not help create that, it hinders it.


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