The practice of making art, in whole or in part, out of other people's ideas and experiences is hardly new. Soliciting audience submissions from the stage has been a staple of improvisational theater and sketch comedy for as long as those forms have been around. Visual artists tend to be somewhat more ruthless about their use of other people's creative output, which they tend to simply "appropriate" as they see fit.
Blixa Bargeld's Execution of Precious Memories, November 19-23, 2008 at Project Artaud Theater, appears to fall somewhere in-between. For his multimedia piece, which has been performed a relative handful of times in nine cities around the world since 1994, although never quite the same way twice, Bargeld invites locals to fill out a 50-question form, the goal of which is to elicit and capture the precious memories of these voluntary respondents. For the current piece, Bargeld came to rehearsals armed with 300 pages of confessions and revelations that are at once private and universal.
The musicians and performers who help Bargeld with his execution vary from city to city. In New Delhi in 1999, for example, Bargeld and two others read from the solicited precious memories of that city's residents, which Bargeld had edited and organized to create spoken-word rhythms and loops that were not quite poetry, not quite singing, but definitely music. Behind this trio sat a quintet of musicians playing traditional Indian instruments, giving the human stories an instant, indigenous soundtrack. Other executions, such as the one in Krakow in 2001, were more like traditional performance art, if there is such a thing, in which the speakers were joined by musicians and dancers, who moved through dreamlike environments presumably inspired by the local memories that had been collected mere weeks before the show.
For the run at Project Artaud Theater, Bargeld will take the stage with Nanos Operetta, a local new-music outfit that uses percussion, vibes, accordion, and traditional chamber-music instruments to create eclectic aural accompaniments for live performances. In the case of Execution of Precious Memories, Bargeld and Nanos Operetta will play to and amid the piece's spoken word portions. Filling the space visually will be San Francisco dance company KUNST-STOFF, whose choreography, as of this writing, was still being conceived.
If you are planning to attend Execution of Precious Memories, we'd like to hear from you. What did you think of the performance? If you contributed your memory to the project, did it get used? If so, how did you feel about the way in which your recollections were represented? Let us know.
Execution of Precious Memories runs November 19-23, 2008 at Project Artaud Theater. For tickets visit brownpapertickets.com.