This episode: “Making Sense?”

Event Date: Tuesday, September 20, from 7 to 9 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle (http://www.vermillionseattle.com/). For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848.

If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at https://boylanconversation.wordpress.com/

This month, we’re talking about making sense. The summer has seemed exceptionally strange, as the political right flexes its muscle, the new normal drags drearily on, and a world of difficult weather suggests that something out there really is changing. Where do we turn to make sense of it all? Politics? Religion? Economic theory? Science? Art? Or is any attempt to make sense of it all doomed? Are we better off if we stop making sense and embrace the nonsense?

The Guests

This time, you’re the guests.

The Story:

Here’s the pitch: I want to have a conversation about making sense, or maybe better, about not making sense. I had originally envisioned this discussion in terms of an urge to make sense of the apparently increasing craziness around us. I wondered if we might find new ways to get a handle on strange politics and crazy weather and a bunch of apparently new normals. And I wondered if art had a role in that process of making sense.

But a trip to Vancouver to see the Surrealism exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery was a forceful reminder that most of the best art of the past century or so has been about not making sense at all, or at the very least about redefining what sense means. The art of the surrealists, along with the aboriginal art that the surrealists embraced, was (and is) about going beyond conventional ideas of making sense, going into worlds of dreams and the irrational, into the unconscious, randomness, and the power of imagination and inspiration.

Much of what came out of surrealism (and its predecessor Dada) proved so powerful that it came to embody popular culture, from song lyrics to television news montages to the way in which most movies are made. Business saw that power as well, to the extent that much of advertising and product design has long embraced the language, if not the spirit and the thinking, of surrealism.

One of the many dangers of our times is that the mass commercial embrace of the language of the irrational, a sort of “surrealism light,” has tended to sow confusion, doubt, and a false excitement rather than a liberation of the imagination. Despite that, however, the power of this deep embrace of dreams and the irrational remains.

So the question is: Is it necessary to make some sense of what’s going on? Or can we better function amid the craziness without making sense of it? If one goes to bed hungry, or doesn’t have a bed at all, is the embrace of the irrational a bourgeois luxury? Or is an embrace of the irrational perhaps the best way to deal with this world?

And why no guests? I thought about having a group of guests, maybe an art historian, an artist, a theologian, but I couldn’t bring myself to pull them together. After all, who knows the most about sense and nonsense, about the irrational and the surreal? We do. Come and converse.

PLUGS

On September 29 at 6 pm, ticktock dance, the aerial dance group, is performing scenes from Domestic Variations, the show they staged at Fred Wildlife Refuge early in the summer. The venue is the Alley-Up performance event in the alleys of Pioneer Square, as part of the Alley Network Project. http://ticktockdance.wordpress.com/ (scroll down for a video from Domestic Variations)

Wonderful theater maker Curtis Taylor is back with “White Days.” The play features Erika Mayfield, Pol Rosenthal, Paul Budraitis, and Richard Lefebvre. The show runs from September 30 through October 22 and happens at New City Theater, just a couple of doors away from the storefront where Taylor staged the legendary Vodvil productions for so many years. http://www.newcitytheater.org/whitedays.php

Monday evening I’ll be moderating a discussion for Space.City at Fred Wildlife Refuge. It’s part of the “Beyond Boundaries” project, focusing on architect/artist partnerships, including Seattle’s Lead Pencil Studio. One of the pairs, Jay Atherton and Cy Keener, open an exhibit at Suyama Space this weekend. Details: http://space-city.net/

And of course there’s the SuttonBeresCuller reinterpretation of On the Boards this weekend. Go. http://www.ontheboards.org/special-events/be-determined

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