“The Shit-Show Circus on Ice”

Yesterday, Caleb Hammons–one of the curators of the Prelude Festival, among many other things–posted a link to Facebook to a letter he received in the mail. An actual letter, mind you, mailed from “Shit-Show Circus on Ice,” from an address in Bennington, VT. Apparently the senders asserted that this piece, a ranting attack on APAP and the entire January fiasco–which they claim has made the rounds on the Internet for a while, though I can’t find evidence of it–should have been part of Prelude.12’s “manifestos” series.

A quick bit of online research failed to reveal the identity of the letter’s senders–nor for that matter is it assured that the senders are also the authors, though we might presume. Caleb vacillated on whether to share it, writing: “I post this mostly because I find it deeply enraging, not by virtue of its content but due to the attitude in which it’s written. Anyone who is this dissatisfied with the state of the field, it’s your lucky day, here’s the solution: DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Your trite, self-congratulatory, smug, anonymous remarks help no one.”

I agree. The essay’s not short on snark, unduly harsh judgment, and so on. But there’s a lot to take seriously. This letter makes manifest a lot of the complaints–about PR, funding structures, the touring circuit, development, the work–that are remarkably obscured by the relentlessly upbeat public discourse in the field, which has been colonized by the vagaries of development-speak. I don’t wholly agree with the anonymous authors by any means, but I’ve been frustrated enough in my own efforts to talk about some of these issues in a public forum that I think it’s well worth the read.

The challenge for those of us who want to do more than bitch over drinks at a bar (or issuing anonymous gripes) is whether we can help the field create meaningful public forums where the issues–and indeed, the frustrations, disappointments, and real challenges of creating art–can be discussed.

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