Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thesis is due today. Today. Oh my.

I've been reading a lot about the theatre of the absurd, and Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot."  Interesting that it caused such an uproar with the sort of 'intellectual' crowd (for lack of better terms there..), who couldn't agree on the meaning of it, and kept analyzing and analyzing and speculating and critiquing; religious meanings, philosophical meanings, psychological ones, homoerotic ones...
And yet when it was performed in front of the inmates at San Quentin, they just 'got' it. I guess there was a lot of anxiety over performing this in front of them; oh such a high brown thing, how could the inmates ever fully grasp or even appreciate the complex intellect that the play involves? But they loved it, and they each took from it their own meaning: "Godot is society." "Godot is 'the man.'" etcetera.

Beckett said it best himself; "Why people have to complicate a thing so simple, I can't make out."

This was striking a lot of chords for me.
The great majority of questions I get from people about my work, both formally in school and casually by people outside of that community, are questions that ask for the underlying meaning. People expect it to be a critique on something, they expect it to have a hidden metaphor or message, something deep, distinct, and solid, fixed. When I disappoint them by telling them it's empty and fluid they don't believe me, they can't believe me. If I had a dollar for every time I heard "There's something you're holding back on, there's something you're not telling us" over the past five months I'd have enough money to feed Brogan for a year.

It makes it very difficult to talk about the work though. It's a one-liner; the viewer empowers the work. We force meaning and symbolism onto things, which are ultimately empty and powerless, and we instinctively form narratives to make understandable the unintelligible, when we are faced with it. By power I don't mean the literal sense, I mean the power of the pieces to carry and convey meaning. There's a fairly decent quote from the 2nd book in the "A Game of Thrones" series that's sort of suitable:

"In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man. Between them stands a common sellsword. Each great man bids the sellsword to kill the other two. Who lives, who dies? Power resides where men believe it resides. It's a trick, a shadow on the wall, and a very small man can cast a very large shadow."

I suppose anyone who comes to my work and anticipates me, or even the work, to provide them with solid answers is, really, waiting for Godot.

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