It’s 77 degrees Fahrenheit and I’m sitting outside, listening to the chirping of birds and getting acculturated to Austin. Having just flown in from New York–where we enjoyed one last stab of wintry cold as spring opens up–it’s a bit of an adjustment. I’ve already received a bit of an introduction to Fusebox audiences courtesy of Tim Braun, my erstwhile editor and project organizer, but I wanted to take a minute to introduce myself and share what I hope to have happen during my time here at Fusebox 2016.
For the duration of this festival, myself, my collaborator Christine Gwillim, and the others we cajole or invite into offering their insights, experiences, and opinions, will be trying to engage in an ongoing conversation. Sometimes that conversation takes place online, either here or on social media, which we will link to from here. Sometimes it takes place IRL, in which case we’ll do our best to share it here for those who couldn’t be part of it. And then–hopefully–readers and audience members will take that and continue the conversation with us, online or IRL. If you don’t know me, feel free to reach out and we can meet in person. I’ll be as Twitter-savvy as possible for the next week, and you can follow me @jeremymbarkerNY. Christine is on Twitter @clgwillim. And in general, track #fusebox2016 to keep up.
By way of a personal introduction, I’m a contemporary performance critic based in New York. I’m passionate about dance, experimental or non-conventional theater, visual art performance, and so on–a whole host of alternative (or, in Fusebox’s preferred vocabulary, “hybrid”) performance practices that I lump under the rubric of “contemporary performance.” While I’m based in New York, which has an amazing performance scene, I don’t like to think of myself as a “New York critic.” Indeed, I’ve only lived there six years (as of yesterday, come to think of it!), having grown up in Portland and spent some seven years in Seattle. Having moved to New York at the age of 30, I never quite had the romantic experience of joining the New York art-scene; I was too old. And furthermore, having come of age outside the cultural metropole, I moved there knowing that there’s a whole wonderful world of art being made outside of New York that was every bit as deserving (and occasionally decidedly more deserving) of attention than what happens in the Downtown art world.
I first got to come to Fusebox back in 2012, when I was editor of Culturebot.org. Andy Horwitz, Culturebot’s founder and visionary, and I presented a few events as part of the supplementary programming, and got to see a lot of great art and eat a lot of great food. I look forward to the chance to do so again.
By way of closing, I wanted to share a quick anecdote that I think illustrates what I hope to help accomplish with this project on this blog. The year I moved to NYC, I took a trip home, to Portland, in September, to see my family and to cover the TBA Festival, Portland’s own Fusebox-style festival. One of the shows I caught was a dance/movement piece by Maria Hassabi, a New York-based choreographer whose work is (IMHO) remarkable. It’s also not very “dance-y” if by dance you expect musicality, lots of leaps and footwork, and so on. Her work is slowly, contemplative, beautiful, and challenging. Outside the theater, after the performance, I saw more than one couple walk away chatting, bewildered or bored. I wanted to get the chance to talk with them about their experience of something new that maybe wasn’t part of their art vocabulary. Because that’s what a festival like Fusebox is for: Being exposed to something new, and creating dialogue and expanding our vocabularies for talking about art.
One of the great blessings of my life is how much I’ve gotten to engage with this sort of work, and I love sharing it with others. I would love to have that conversation (which I couldn’t have after Maria’s show) with people here in Austin. So Tweet at me, or meet me for coffee or a drink. Tonight I’m seeing Manwatching tonight at 7 and Every Song I’ve Ever Written at 9. Around 8 I’ll be at the festival hub, where Tim Braun promises to kick my ass at bowling (a likely event). So you know where to find me.
I look forward to getting to chat soon.