Collective Unconscious

This year, I’ve been in the process of excavating imagery from Vaudeville and silent clown materials.  During this process, it has been inspiring to witness the many cultural associations, past to the present from these eras.

I am currently reviving a duet of Buster Keaton dancing with himself from The Playhouse. Costume designer, Andy Jordan and I have been working to re-create the Keaton double in original dress.  Recently, Andy came upon the John Galliano Spring 2011 show – a mash up of Keaton and Chaplin imagery.

To see Dick Tracy-esque, leisure suits packed on a Keaton base and punk rock Chaplin, chimney sweepers – with white face, black eyeliner – in one glance, moves me through decades of history. I sit in a cultural memory game as historical imagery is reconstructed and deconstructed.  Permutations and combinations.  High art with low art.  Distinctions and assumptions – all boundaries to cross.

It is an interesting time for a culture to recall art forms being created before and around the time of the Great Depression. Art cultures have now witnessed Fluxus, Dada, junk art, and trash art, the readymade – arts being created via low-tech means.  Vaudeville was the low-tech theater culture that sank around the beginnings of early silent cinema.  And silent cinema was the low-tech form before talkies and so on and so forth.

I remain amazed by the power of a single performer – entertainer – to pick up anywhere – with no studio space, no residencies, no theater venues.  I am also amazed by puzzle of these times – burgeoning technologies, limited resources – everywhere a lack of sustainability.  And by the amenities high art requires.  Is it feasible to create a new depression era art philosophy?

What interests me – is the power we can take from these low-tech forms.  Sometimes the art we make from ourselves and our immediate environment can be the most human and direct.  I enjoy the almost Jungian explanation of the origin of Vaudeville as being derived from the expression voix de ville, or “voice of the city.” What will be our “voice of the city”? Our collectively emergent art form?  Will it be the eccentric dancing, hat juggling, noodle-legging characters of the 20’s and 30’s?

I am looking forward to seeing how we will continue to adapt and create, from the past, present, and into the future.

Cori Olinghouse -choreographer/Alexander Technique teacher, 2009 Movement Research AIR


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