bois vs grrls
This is actually about Dan Fishback’s show boi with an I, but its going to take a minute for me to work up to it. So keep reading.
Everything comes in cycles and the winter cycle is the hardest part. Not actual winter but that space, place and time where one cultural moment wanes and the next moment has not quite fully arrived. The animating ideas of one generation or movement lose their cogency or become co-opted, mutating into cynicism and crass commercialism which grinds down the human spirit. Eventually, the new generation, born into that cynicism, re-discovers an Edenic past and re-creates it in their own way. Even the nihilism of punk rock was, in its way, idealistic. The rejection of bloat that Hippie had become was an affirmation of the value of that which is human, personal and flawed – thus authentic. Punk Rock died and begat Hair Metal which died and was supplanted by grunge/alternative which was co-opted and made meaningless, then mutated through Boy Bands and Britney into Avril Lavigne and now we’re back at the beginning of a new cycle all over again. The past few years have been a long, tough winter.
Since 2001, when the economy tanked and the War on Terror began, many people have been clinging to the culture we knew during the good times or reverting to nostalgia for the last time we had a war in Iraq and a Bush was in office. But the Kids, as it were, Are Alright, and we’re finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I see tons and tons of creative output in all mediums and in the past 9 months I have been more and more heartened by what I’ve been seeing. Young artists are re-discovering forms that had become tired (like performance art) and finding ways to make them personal and meaningful again. Which is a really long build-up to talk about Dan Fishback’s boi with an I that I saw this evening at Collective:Unconscious.
The genre of the gay solo show is really difficult. Its easy to do a mediocre show about coming out, or about growing up Mormon, or about Injustice-with-a-capital-I or a campy musical review of your urbane chelsea life in show tunes, but it’s hard to do something different. As one of the characters in boi with an I says, “If you’re straight and talk about yourself all the time, you’re egotistical. If you’re gay and talk about yourself all the time, you’re an activist.”
Especially difficult is to ride the fine line between sincerity and irony, to keep your passion in your beliefs but not diverge into the ponderously earnest. Dan Fishback does that really well. In boi with an I he conforms to the stereotypical Solo Gay Performance Art aesthetic while at the same time reinventing it on his own terms. And in an important way, that gets back to the root of what made Performance Art powerful to begin with. Because there are plenty of talented performers and writers out there who for one reason or another don’t fit in, or don’t want to fit in, to the mainstream theater world. Artists who must fight on a personal level to be themselves in society chafe at the constrictions and the artifice of a medium that says, “Not only you must pretend to be somebody else, but you must pretend in the manner which we dictate, otherwise you’re a Bad Actor.” Those artists respond by finding out how to articulate a unique and personal voice. The aesthetic allows for flaws: CD players that don’t work, sets that fall down, lines that are forgotten, keyboards that come unplugged. But Performance Art acknowledges and celebrates those “flaws” because it recognizes that the power of live performance is not always in its technical perfectionism but the quality of the human interaction.
It must be late, because I’m rambling a bit here. Suffice it to say that From the very funny diatribe demanding Gay Marriage Affirmative Action to the cute and quirkily moving rendition of “Out of the Sea” from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, I found boi with an I to be an inspiring and enjoyable show and Dan Fishback is someone to watch in the future.