Chicago, IL — It's been too long since I've contributed to a blog, let alone my own blog. I've been focused on longer-form writing: the dissertation, the peer-review essay. It's lamentable. In devoting an excess of attention to the protracted duration of these modes, I've neglected to pay sufficient attention to conceptual immensities and energies available in present moments. Luckily, on Friday evening, a new work by Angeliki Tsoli, an Athens-based interdisciplinary artist, shook me from this orientation.
The performance piece — "How Can We Keep This Moment Alive?" — took place at ARC Gallery in West Town. The work is part of the What Remains series curated by ieke Trinks taking place this month, celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the DfbrL8r Performance Gallery. "How Can We Keep This Moment Alive?" powerfully explored senses of presence/the present. In doing so, Tsoli moved the audience into a deep and joyful recognition of the now.
In my experience of the piece, I was fascinated by the way in which sound, space, and community converged. As I noted in my Instagram post regarding my initial response to the work, it was the continuity of the metronome droning beautifully in the space in measured 4/4 time that totally made this for me. It's a well-known fact that heartbeats (individually and collectively) synchronize to sound. The response is unconscious and physiological. Yet its meaning has a politics. Tsoli's deployment of this musical apparatus as an element of performance is brilliant. Immediately — from the start of "How Can We Keep This Moment Alive?" — community came together through the neuro-creative unification of bodies in sonic space.
From this point of departure — unsurprisingly given her reputation as one of the most kind and convivial presences in the Chicago arts community — Tsoli passed out small works of individual photographic prints in an edition of 200 to everyone in attendance. Greeting everyone, we were all left with a material trace of the performance and invitation to continue to think about how to sustain the feeling of this event, as well as the space and community, in which it took place.
Thereafter, Tsoli proceeded to continue to unpack a suitcase from which the metronome came. She unfurled and eventually wrapped herself in a flag that also retained the performance's primary message and question. Tsoli handed a camera (a vintage polaroid, I believe) to friends in the gallery to participate, photograph, and begin to archive aspects of the piece across the very trajectory of its unfolding.
Of course, the meaning of both flags and moments are in a certain and especially intense state of flux right now. The current US administration continues to operate according to principles of economic nationalism, putting "America First" and insisting on the necessity of control over borders, bodies, and national sovereignty as overriding principles of governance. The post-Brexit moment in Europe threatens to undo ties forged by a generation of creative cosmopolitanism. In part because of these (and other) manifestations of a paradoxically global tide of singularly self-protective forms of nationalism, this is a time that many of us wish would soon end.
Tsoli invited us to think and to feel differently. Through sound, community, performance, and joy (can a palpable sense of joy be a medium?), her flag and metronome keeping time worked against the divides currently defining our time. "How Can We Keep This Moment Alive?" challenges us to envision what sustaining a moment might mean at a time in which many of us actively desire that the present moment to pass away — all puns intended. To do it together, is the vital imperative the artist offers.
And to this end, I'll let Tsoli's powerful performance have the last word: