Image: Ronaldo Wilson in Radical Improvisation II: Detritus, an Opera in Three Acts (photo by Samuel Ace)
As presented at #AndNow2015 as part of the Radical Improvisation II: Detritus, an Opera in 3 Acts Panel.
with Samuel Ace, TC Tolbert, j/j hastain, Ronaldo Wilson
Improvisation, one could say, is vital to the act of making. Radical improvisation implies a act of extreme participation and/or intervention. In three acts, participants in this presentation/ workshop will examine acts of radical improvisation in collaboration with the detritus that forms around us in our lives. These are the things we might look or walk away from, the things we might not notice – the torn bedspread, the stuff on the table at the yard sale, the wig in the hallway, found objects, the bits of glitter left on the windowsill, unnamed unlabeled keys. The abandoned bodies somewhere out of our immediate sight, the shrapnel in the wall of someone’s house, the unexploded bomb, the noise, the newscaster so loud we turn off the television. We will ask why or why not these examples demand our attention. We will ask how do we stay present with them? How do we engage with them, make them necessary and perhaps impossible to walk away from?
Introduction (by Samuel Ace)
There is tremendous psychic terror when the brush meets the painting. As an artist you need to have a high tolerance for anxiety and a high tolerance for embarrassment. A high tolerance for anxiety because you feel pulled by forces greater than you. It is as if something is going through you, and it is not about you. A high tolerance for embarrassment because some of the stuff is going to look pretty bad. It has an identity outside of yourself and must be accepted. You have to take the good and the bad, the ugly as well as the beautiful, and the pain as well as the joy to get yourself someplace.1
— Bill Jensen
Stuttering the messy nakedness of the first words the first step the first movement on the page I am willing to die for it the mess the path the way of digging here it is the prompt here it is the moment of getting up in the morning here it is the collaboration here it is the sun on the trees here it is my lover’s body and here I am with my fingers on the keys in the hear of that my eyes closed here I go I’m writing into my listening my corner a sieve I go back to dig deeper and my love is still lying in the bed I want a way to him a path that is my cock that is my heart that does not end with the page but where my heart begins I want to share the mess the dance a form that holds it all so lightly that you my love can enter me and find the trails of my little mighty tries my open mouth my gorging language my gross flailings my urgency my pause all of these true loves a lifetime of one poem
I give you my mess the opposite of a book the opposite of a finish the opposite of all that is perfect I give you my residue the shape of what has been thrown away
The trick is to be a very sensitive listener: once something is born into paint, the artist needs to have the ability to listen to it without judgment, and to accept its reality outside of oneself. The painting exists in its own state, and it is for me to accept its vision and not judge it according to ethics or beauty. In its awkwardness or ugliness, sometimes vulgarness, it has reached a state of truthfulness. This truthfulness is an awareness of its reality outside of myself. I will always believe more in its truthfulness, its emotional clarity, than in its beauty or rightness.1
— Bill Jensen
I want to live in the trash the cuttings from the garden the dirt under my fingernails and yours the embarrassment the outrage cage’s loud silence the chance of rain the dripping in the east everything is dirt the highway a rolling gallery no painter as great as the grime left from the driver’s hands on the backs of trucks
What would be up
by Samuel Ace
What would be up by Samuel Ace:
I give you a duck by Samuel Ace:
1Bill Jensen interviewed by John Yau. BOMB Magazine 99/Spring 2007
Samuel Ace is the author of three collections of poetry: Normal Sex, Home in three days. Don’t wash., and, most recently, Stealth, with Maureen Seaton. His work has been widely anthologized and has appeared most recently in Fence, Aufgabe, Black Clock, The Atlas Review, Mandorla, Volt, Rhino, Versal, Trickhouse, Eleven Eleven, Tupelo Quarterly, The Volta and Troubling the Line: Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics.