Notes on My Next Project -- ZOMBOID!
By Richard Foreman
Amongst the many possible strategies
of "spectator oriented" art--two seem to me to stand out. In one style--the
spectator is carried on a rollercoaster through various pre-determined
emotional focal points. In the second, more meditative style, events
are slowed up and relatively detached from each other so the spectator
can project his or her own depths, resonating with the presented "material."
"ZOMBOID! Film/Performance Project
partakes of theses two strategies simultaneously, with live action visceral
involvement in counterpoint to on-screen projections of a more meditative
nature--the actual aesthetic "event" arising in the elusive psychic
space "BETWEEN" these two contrasting styles.
"ZOMBOID" is the
first manifestation of the International Bridge Project. A completely
new venture for me--in The International Bridge Project, along with
collaborator Sophie Haviland, I not only film material around the world
to serve as continual "bas-relief" backdrop to my performances--but
I also explore an unusual aesthetic procedure.
It is not unique that "ZOMBOID" utilizes continual
projected background for a performance event.
WHAT IS UNIQUE
Is that that background is a self-contained full-length digital film,
with the live performance orchestrated in front of that film, using
the self-contained film as a theatrical score against which the performance
is adjusted and articulated.
The performance of "ZOMBOID" presents people
responding to, echoing and being "infected" by projected on-screen manifestations,
in much the same way that in 'real' life we are all psychically invaded
by the many levels of material that flash in and out of the consciousness
that seeds that great psychic ocean inside of which we drift.
The film itself is meditative, non-narrative,
beautiful and somewhat off-kilter--yet containing no "extraordinary
NO EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS?
Again and again these days I see films and plays being promoted to audiences
on the basis of the many "interesting " real-life subjects presented
in those works.
It seems we live in a world where everyone is
interested above all else in "interesting subjects." But shockingly--I
maintain, that the desire for subjects of "interesting subject matter"
is, in fact, an avoidance of the REAL subject of real art, which is--What?
The real subject is presence itself, the scintillating
"presence," of any and all selected items--but presented in such a way
that one's primary experience (the aesthetic experience) is to realize
that the SUBJECT ITSELF doesn't matter--but is always in fact the TRIVIAL
aspect of the art event.
That trivial aspect (the "subject") is what we
focus on when we chose NOT to be deeply engaged with what art is deeply
about--the full, multi-dimensional "presence" of whatever subject is
being obliterated by the power of "present-ness." However, by the usual
gluing of our attention onto the ostensible "subject matter"--we try
to protect ourselves from the deep ego-shattering experience of art.
Oh, you say--but Shakespeare had stories and
subjects! Yes--but we've had it, and had it, and had it ad infinitum--and
now we are into something else--new, adventurous, rewarding and full
of delight in unexpected ways. But, you say--Shakespeare (for instance)
had stories PLUS a poetry that fragmented simple coherence with a wide
range of associative mental links. But I maintain that now the time
is ripe for other strategies in the midst of this floundering and spiritually
Much to my surprise, I began this work believing I was entering a new
realm of art-making--and that with "ZOMBOID" I was entering a realm
of pure aesthetics--but as I started putting down my thoughts--describing
to myself and to others what I believe I am doing in this work--I realized
a certain ANGER rising in me, and I realized I was thinking more in
political terms than I had expected. (The politics of art-making, certainly).
I REALIZED THAT I BELIEVE, THAT NOW
IS THE TIME FOR A CELEBRATION OF ELITIST ART!
Let's dare proclaim that in the face of a society
increasingly crying for a media-driven, market-oriented, popular art,
reaching out to everyone at once--while "deep thoughts" are officially
allowed in such art, they must only come in a form that is easily communicable
BUT I MAINTAIN
that to feed the individual human spirit, the true art of these times
must be a kind of demanding gymnasium where sensibilities get rigorous
exercise--so that those sensibilities then become more refined, able
to pick up on and appreciate the patterned intricacies of a world which
is usually, in art, simplified into recognizable social and psychological
clichés or knock-out effect. Such normal strategies lie about the world
because they talk about what we already know (which is always wrong)
in languages with which we are already familiar (and therefore put our
more delicate mental mechanisms to sleep) -- all this, instead of waking
us up with the uncharted energies that throb behind the facade of the
shared world of communicable convention.
SO IN TODAY'S ARENA, I MAINTAIN THAT
ONLY ELITIST ART
presents the true facts of 'always-in-process' human beings who, while
pretending to themselves and others that they are coherent "wholes"--are
really but a tissue of micro-tendencies and impulses, most of which
are effectively ignored by the defense mechanism of consciousness that
allows the individual to feel secure in his or her "picture of the world."
BUT ELITIST ART
Offers the spectator a chance, through the development of subtle discriminations,
to enter the true PARADOX of lucid, aesthetic sensibility.
"trumps" the popular art of media culture, offering the alternative
to the bottom-line world that leaves so many of us parched, spiritually
depleted, half human precisely because we are asked--
TO DENY OUR ELITIST TENDENCIES!
NOW-ANYBODY IS WELCOME TO ENJOY ELITIST
It tends to speak of powerful hidden things and energies, in language
(the full range of theatrical language) that is isomorphic with those
hidden things and energies, rather than in the language of daily life--because
a language made isomorphic with such intuited processes seems most connected
to ultimate, deep-lying things.
AND TO POINT TOWARD THOSE ULTIMATE
in the case of this performance--"ZOMBOID," the motif utilized is
How does this work? The aesthetic goal in "ZOMBOID"
is to build an entire world from small image/idea clusters that bounce
off other image/idea clusters--much like the way the real world is generated
from millions of small, local interactions between event quanta from
The performance of "ZOMBOID" is then an attempted
model of the depth of the world at work.
The world, it would seem, starts out not with
a story or a theme, but with the random (statistically guided, perhaps)
pouring forth of multitudinous radiations--twitching and throbbing in
So now, here in front of an audience--we invoke
and mirror this world process, generating the energy of eternal delight.
Required of us all, however, in order to be
sensitive and alert to what is invisibly taking place in the depths
of the world's creativity, is to free ourselves from both perceptual
habit and inherited mental habit. (Keatsean "negative capability.")
One must, in effect, blindfold oneself, blocking
normal faculties so that other inner resources are forced into play.
The theme of the blindfold becomes, then, the
theme of "in-sight."
But an insight that that produces not "ideas,"
because ideas, no matter how convincing, are never more than the tiniest
slice of the full pie of reality and, therefore, always less than the
Instead, we would, through aesthetic means, rhythm
and composition, event and paradox--"tune" the deep self to the "truth"
that all things echo and reflect all other things. We would work towards
the perspective that each isolated moment, even those that seem relatively
empty, is in fact pulsating with the full energy of the deep source,
And so, the motif of "ZOMBOID" is the facilitating
But in "ZOMBOID," the embodiment of that motif
generates a unique "No Man's Land" between two aesthetic worlds presented
THE STAGE IS SPLIT
between the meditative world of archetypal tableaux, (imaginary "mental"
content projected on screen) --
And in counterpoint-- the concrete world of physical
bodies, twisting and lurching in reaction to irrational impulses that
"trump" the myths and hierarchies of consciousness that we normally
believe organize human life.
THE UNBRIDGEABLE SPLIT
between these two worlds is the "location" in which "ZOMBOID" manifests
itself. The art event is, then, a new and un-namable "thing" that arises
in the space between screen image and live bodies--a space that is intuited
rather than seen and identified.
To risk offering an art based on this "split"
is to walk the tightrope over the abyss between imagined human mastery
and the un-chartable "other" that is never controllable or knowable.
-- BALANCING PRECARIOUSLY
in that energized limbo where the art called "difficult" does its secret
and unpredictable work.