Répondez s’il vous plaît: Tomorrow’s Parties Feb 2, 2018
by Elissa Favero
Tomorrow's Parties by Forced Entertainment (Jan 21) (Photo: Hugo Glendinning)
In “Looking into Darkness,” the first chapter in her recently reissued book Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, Rebecca Solnit writes, “Causes and effects assume history marches forward, but history is not an army. It is a crab scuttling sideways, a drip of soft water wearing away stone, an earthquake breaking centuries of tension. Sometimes one person inspires a movement, or her words do decades later; sometimes a few passionate people change the world; sometimes they start a mass movement and millions do; sometimes those millions are stirred by the same outrage or the same ideal and change comes upon us like a change of weather.”
On Sunday night at On the Boards, we didn’t assemble as a conquering army or come together in protest, as many had the day before. We had been invited to a party and we gathered. We sipped our drinks and watched and listened and moaned and laughed, as you do with friends.
The decorations were nothing ornate: just some pretty colored lights strung up around a wooden palette, where two performers, Richard Lowdon and Claire Richard, dressed up for the occasion, stood and spun for us stories about the future and the many forms it might take. They spoke for more than an hour, and their conversation veered and jumped, as conversations do. Sometimes one performer’s thesis was met, in turn, with its antithesis. Sometimes he would elaborate or intensify her proposal. Sometimes she would follow him with a non sequitur. They were riffing in what the tech world might call a “blue-sky conversation,” where the sky’s the limit.
But the skies, in fact, were dark, and many of the scenarios they proposed felt bleakly familiar, from popular fiction, from history: mass depopulation, like the absurd excess and absence of an episode of The Last Man on Earth; or proxy wars in poorer countries. (I recognize you there, with sadness and regret, Vietnam and Domino Theory and Pentagon Papers.) Others twinkled with hopeful possibility in the face of danger and darkness: a beautiful underwater, turreted glass dome metropolis like one of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities; or something like the plot of Independence Day or Attack the Block, when we realize the real threats are not among each other but from invading aliens.
As the wild variety of these and the many other scenarios the performers offered suggests, the future, indeed, is unknown, unknowable. All we can do is continue to show up, to imagine, to scuttled and drip and occasionally break through. It’s actually quite a lot: the work, the commitment of a lifetime.
Join me, won’t you please?
Elissa Favero teaches critical and contextual studies at Cornish College of the Arts and writes essays about art, architecture, and landscape.
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