A Generous Solipsism -or- So Much Reality, So Little Time
If you didn’t like Zomboid, go see it.
If you did like Zomboid, go see it.
Basically, just go see it.
(below are some theoretical ramblings by yours truly, read at your own risk)
Ontology is the study of being. I like to refine this definition as the study of your own personal state of being, that is to say, asking the question of “what is my reality?” followed closely by “why is my reality?” I am directing you to buy into my post-structuralist outlook, at least for the moment, that affirms that we have so much control over our ability to choose that we exist not as independent beings, but rather, as independent realities (ecosystems?). Form now follows function and the primary function of existing is to create uniqueness, and thusly, our own separate reality, which is the very form our lives have taken on.
But enough about me.
Foreman’s theater is that of a generous solipsism. I believe he uses theater to answer the two questions above. His work is born out of his vision: his understanding and questions regarding HIS existence. Performers are dutiful citizens of Foremanland, there to illustrate this vision. Performers are not, in my opinion, playing any sort of character, but rather, they are completing actions directed by Foreman in this world that he has created, but to call them characters presupposes a certain autonomy or individual narrative and I just don’t think that applies. I admire his dedication to probing the nature of his own existence; I think this is a valuable pursuit that makes for a theatrical experience as rich, and at times unintelligible, as primordial ooze.
Now I’ve learned myself enough theory to know that it’s not really a solipsism if he makes any effort to share it with others, invite them to understand it, and therefore acknowledges that they are autonomous beings with ontologies separate from, but equal in magnitude to, his own. And it is this tension that creates the true theatrical event that is “THE annual Foreman show”: how do you share with an audience that which you are desperate to share but they cannot possibly understand because they exist in their own separate realities? I feel that Foreman doesn’t give you much in the way of a key or a secret decoder ring, I believe that the things we recognize, relate to, in his work are that which we identify with on our own terms, completely different from his own.
This is, perhaps, my favorite thing about Foreman’s theater: it is a smörgåsbord of the other, but as an audience member I am compelled to look at it and state “That reminds me of me, that does not remind me of me, that reminds me of someone else, what the hell is that?” In these moments I am liberated and the theater, the other reality, is my own. It is an act of generosity, and also one of supreme selfishness: sharing yourself with others in order to further understand your own mysterious existence.
Let me begin by saying the simultaneous video and life performance that began with Zomboid and has continued with Wake Up… is one of the most exciting things to happen to this theatergoer since the year 2000. I feel I would be remiss not to explain the video with respect to my generous solipsism paradigm (yes, I am calling it a paradigm, why?, because it sounds better than concept). The world of the video and the world of the live performance are different with respect to their media and also their aesthetics. If the live performance exists in the aforementioned Foremanland, I would say the video exists “elsewhere.” This could very well be a part of Foremanland so foreign it is unrecognizable, but I’d like you to consider the following: what if the video, and all of the people in it, are Foreman’s approximation of our world(s)? Or better yet, our world on TV. They are miniature mockumentary films about the audience. I, at least, find myself relating more to the people in the film, identifying with them as equals, more than I do with the live performers. This creates, for me, a remarkable sense of vulnerability when I walk into the OHT, and also a truly stimulating theatrical event that comes as close as I’ve ever gotten to being joined to the artist without losing any of my own powers of understanding.
Thank you and good night.
If you read this far, you’re probably confused. Don’t worry, I am too.