Review: 39 Microlectures

11Sep07

39 Microlectures

I went to the library to get a Kazan book, but they didn’t have it, so I grabbed 39 Microlectures: In Proximity of Performance by Matthew Goulish. He was a founding member of the Goat Island Performance Group, an avant-garde theater company founded in 1987 and has toured internationally.

The book is hard to describe. He covers a number of subjects, but most relate to either criticism or performance somehow. Some essays are autobiographical and talk about his diagnosis of cancer, which I assume he has recovered from; I searched online for a biography but could not find one.

The most powerful pieces were his writings on Hair which are autobiographical, and his second chapter discussion on criticism, entitled Criticism. Some bits from the latter which I found interesting:

“Faced with the impossibility of the task of knowing everything, we sometimes feel the desire to reject intellectuality altogether in favor of passionate expression.”

He goes on to reject this. I find that no matter how abstract and obscure his work appeared, behind their construction was a rigorous and systematic intellectual process, and I admired that because for many artists the much easier thing to embrace is mindless spontaneity. Goulish is very cerebral and I admire his erudition. He quotes throughout the book from a number of varied sources, and a bibliography of sorts lists everything from the Bible to Deleuze to John Cage to Dr. Seuss, but is consistently able to draw on a variety of these sources to illustrate points.

The three brief sub-sections (pages 43-47) which make up this chapter should be required reading for any humanities class. He writes of glass,

“…one cannot conclusively define glass without the inclusion of time. At any given moment, glass is a solid, but over a period of a thousand years, it is a liquid. The problem of glass forces us to accept the inaccuracy of the traditional distinctions of solid and liquid. While the qualities of solidity and liquidity retain their difference, glass in fact is both, depending on the duration of observation, thus proving that these two states inextricably coexist.

We must ask not only how to engage the critical mind, but also why. Any act of critical thought finds its value through fulfilling one or both of two interrelated purposes:

1) to cause a change;

2) to understand how to understand.

As creative and critical thinkers, we may find it rewarding to attempt works of criticism, which, over time, reveal themselves as works of art, thus following the example of glass.”

He has a circular way of writing that I find appealing as a reader. He will bring something into the conversation and at first its inclusion will be baffling, but later at the essay’s conclusion it seems perfect and you questions why you did not see it in the first place.

Goat Island Performance Group.

While exploring the Goat Island site, I was surprised to learn that the group will call it quits soon, it seems:

“In October 2007, we plan to premier our ninth and final piece, The Lastmaker.

This performance situates between an audience seated at opposite sides of a square stage. The time structure reflects the historical trajectory of the Hagia Sophia: church/mosque/museum, considered here as movements encountered on different planes. Part 1 – an architectural dance, in 13 detailed triadic rounds: through the 39 movements, performers diverge and reconverge, in accordance with hybrid mathematics, to a regular beat with irregular measures. Part 3 (which comes second) – an archive of the restless ghosts of varied pasts: a high-energy concert of three-minute acts that include a female impersonation of Lenny Bruce’s last routine, a performer singing a spiritual and accompanying himself on the saw, and reenactments of Saint Francis’s farewell instructions and the last minute of Bach’s Art of the Fugue. Part 2 (which comes third) – a stillness, absent of imagery: micro-performances answer recited instructions, received from invited contributors, a universe in simple words and actions. Epilogue – ascension: a poem, a song, a cloud.

The Lastmaker recapitulates the concerns of 20 years of Goat Island, in what we hope will be a fitting conclusion to our contribution – a journey, within a restrained structure, from the intellectual to the emotional, with lasting resonance.

The creation of this piece has been supported by residencies at the Chicago Cultural Center (January 2006), the Nuffield Theatre, Lancaster, UK, the Chelsea Theatre, London, (Aug/Sept 2006), the Alfred ve dvore Theatre in Prague, Czech Republic (January 2007), Theatre &TD, Zagreb, Croatia (June 2007), and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (August 2007).

Please note: The Lastmaker is still being developed, and this description is also an evolving work-in-progress.”

Hopefully I can catch a performance of his before they retire. Or else, I can watch it on DVD or something hopefully.

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One Response to “Review: 39 Microlectures”


  1. 1 Wiki-adventure: Some American Poets « Neo-Literati

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