Ambassador Note on The People's Republic of Valerie: Kristen Kosmas May 5, 2017
by Koushik Ghosh
“…The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow?…”
– P.B. Shelley
Kristen Kosmas, spoke to me with a candor that I found deeply endearing. She spoke to me of sadness and shock at what she has seen recently. She spoke of human conflicts, announcements of bombings and escalating violence, impending destruction of habitat, the epidemic of banal assertion of power by state actors. Yet, through it all what was striking, was her intuition of hope and possibility.
Kristen always begins with herself and her thoughts that leap or are flat and slowly translates it to text. As the company of her thoughts begin to feel solitary and confining she reaches out larger and larger, expanding, and including, a director, she admires (Paul Budraitis), a scenographer (Peter Ksander) she loves collaborating with, and finally, the actors (seven; seemed like an auspicious number) she is discovering through the communion of text.
As Kristen considered her process at my insistence, it became clear that her expanding universe, expands both space and time incrementally, but without the struggle with weight and density of gravity, and includes more and more and more in the concentric circles of humanity that reaches out, escaping gravity, as she moves away from and through this particular time that is fraught. Towards what?
Kristen told me many a thing about her that forever reaches for ‘the morrow,’ —a destination that is designed to elude. All is nothing and everything in the bending contours of spacetime. I asked for the address. It was not to be found. But she did say that she, her actors, her collaborators were all participating in a ‘training ritual,’ in this Republic. I was left wondering if this Republic was a training camp or if it was the destination. Maybe both?
Why did she choose space travel, I asked. The answer came back in tenuous suggestions of wanting to have perspective, and possibly distance to sadness. Maybe I conjured my own space, my own tunnels, blasted into windows, as I tried to enter her world through her portals? Sadness, and strength, and the absurdity of it all, as in her favorite Russian authors, such as Kharms, I asked?
Kristen spoke with excitement about Chekhov and Kharms, and Russian literature. I wanted to see if she would say more about the strong female characters in Chekhov, or Ibsen, but she wanted to remain in outer space, looking at this blue planet, moving away, and building a new place in a new time, with her crew. And we drifted to where she wants to take us. To pull her back into my orbit seemed like a coercion, something I needed, to translate the elusive, while remaining moored and anchored where I was.
Why not just travel with her and her crew to her Republic, I thought? Let’s see if my world changes with a new perspective. Let’s see if I too escape the gravity of sadness and conflict. Why not journey with her?
Kharms wrote, “One man went to sleep with faith, and woke up faithless.” What if we went to sleep faithless and woke up with faith? As I lingered with Kristen, I felt that to be her invitation.
Koushik Ghosh is an art historian, educator, and arts writer and member of the 16/17 Season Ambassadors Writers Corps. Learn more about The Ambassador Project.