Well, I'll Be Jan 24, 2014

by Dylan Ward

This post regards FRÉDÉRICK GRAVEL / GROUPED’ARTGRAVELARTGROUP. I spell this in all capital letters because I honestly think it deserves capital letters. 


In the program: The performers are meant to “persist enormously/to have fun/intelligently.”


The show opens, they’re at the front while I’m hugging my friends, and they gaze at the audience with the intensity of, well, not the intensity of a thousand suns, but perhaps of summer days. 


What do I mean by this? I’m not sure.  So here is a run-on sentence. 


They are not intimidating, nor intimidated, nor wrapped in inconsequential head noise about sharing the space with the audience, nor are they “simply present” but they are there, not simply or in a complicated fashion, but actively, muscled, really sexy too, perhaps they are a little turned on, but not in a way that says to me “I am turned on in front of you, the audience, because I am turned on by you watching me be turned on.” 


But nor are they ashamed. 


It is a liminal space that is soft and kind, edgy and cool and hip without the herbal, bitter taste which edgy and cool and hip things can often attain, even while I’m not sure what I’m referring to. 


It is without a sense of pretention, but without the classic “I am not being pretentious” pretention. Which may be a pretentious thing to write, but there you go. 


Yes, this looks hard to achieve. 


A normal feeling that never-the-less is extraordinary. 


To take a leap: Gravel’s piece is about the dancers dancing AND about the musicians singing AND about Gravel’s slight frame and admitted insecurity AND about their statement of purpose, which is stated by standing, pressing into the floor through violent tennis shoes fit for any self-respecting flâneur. 


Each set was introduced; each piece was called a “number” without incident or irony. 


We were invited to take notes, to do what we do, indeed, I was taking notes for this blog, to write something intelligent, which, I’m sure, I’m at least partially succeeding at.  He called me out, well, perhaps not me, but “people taking notes.” He said “Do what you do!”


I could do this until we were invited to change the tone, which, physically, was a bunch of plastic champagne glasses and fancy dress and clicking shoes, and at that point, there’s not much I could do but close my book and smile. 


This is what I was doing while I was doing what I do while they were doing what they do. 


Vulnerability and embarrassment were here equated. Performers got naked and touched each other’s private parts. Not grabbed, not gestured towards, but touched. 


But why? Maybe no one cares.  I don’t think I care. 


Following this performance, I just want to talk about penises because some of us have penises and some vaginas and that’s interesting enough and it has been since I was three years old. Is that odd? 


Yes. It is.


It is uncommon to see these things. That’s why contemporary performance is exciting and why I am lucky to have seen it. It is uncommon. 


We were invited to share a little time, to discuss the time shared with our performers, who assured us they were being paid for their time, indeed, we were paying for it.


Here’s my idea: anybody can buy a loop machine, a pedal, a guitar, and spend hours by themselves in their room practicing. This is a core idea of DIY music. This is so for DIY dance too. 


Is Gravel DIY? Sure. I think so. 


What does it mean to get naked for fun? I mean, does it represent anything else than that? Is being naked fun? 


I think its fun. 


Gravel stated, during the show, that his title (Usually Beauty Fails) exists as it does because, essentially, it is a fun title. One can imagine a movie character very seriously uttering “Usually beauty fails” or perhaps “Usually….beauty fails” or maybe “Usually, beauty…fails.” 


Was the piece beautiful? I think so because I fell in love with the people and I thought they were beautiful. But I also don’t think it matters. 


Because they delivered what they promised: to “persist enormously/to have fun/intelligently.” 



I had a hell of a time like one I’ve never had. That’s a hell of a thing to say. I think that’s a fucking important thing to note and share.