Two pieces I read in Maisonneuve have been rolling around in my mind the past few days. One is Kena Herod’s most recent piece and the other is Tod Hoffman‘s Seeing Red. Kena argues the necessity for dance criticism because it preserves an essence of work that exists only in the moment and Tod writes about visiting and potentially inhabiting Mars, as a goal which can inspire human development. These seemingly unrelated articles mingled with a conversation about prolonging human life to five thousand years, caused me to reflect on the brevity of our experience and what progress means in relation to this short life span.
Kena raises the point that dances disappear after they are performed. I appreciate her efforts to preserve aspects of the pieces she witnesses. That the art is transmitted through words to other imaginations is invaluable. The idea spurred me to consider the moments of our lives are as ephemeral as a live performance. I have been interviewing friends about what motivates them to perform, for an upcoming piece I am writing, and a common thread is the moment to moment awareness it installs. Shows are vehicles for making the present meaningful. Times where we have a responsibility (if only to entertain), as my friend Katie Ewald puts it. The common mantra of attempts at enlightenment is to be in the now. But the present is an elusive space slipping past at a pace that makes lucid awareness a challenge. Although we should be conscious of our experience it seems that memory is a powerful companion to being in the moment. It is how we learn. This call to awake seems to have an aspect of forgetting and could lead as much to a history less Orwellian existence as to an age of enlightenment. We need a collective memory to prevent the constant reinvention the wheel and to evolve.
*Not that anyone needs my thesis justifying the written word. I was just reminded of its power in relation to my field and think was thinking about the benefits of building on common experience.
There is a facet of media technology geared towards recording the sounds, still and moving images of the present. I watch all the tourists in old Montreal take pictures and videos of their summer vacations and documenting their lives as they happen. (I might have the fame of being the waitress from Montreal in the photo albums of partiers from Turkey and sailors from Croatia – Do they even keep photo albums?). So what is the point - to keep traces of experiences that impact us and jog our memories?! Back to Mars and humanity's needs to discovery to continue to progress. I am not against this idea or anti-technology in general. I don’t feel, however that this type of advancement address the worlds’ problems. I think humanity is like a teenager caught up in distractions to avoid cleaning their room. Even if we can travel make ships that can go to Mars and make a desolate planet habitable. I am not convinced that given the current state of crisis, committing mass amounts of dollars to mainly American military and aerospace companies is what the world needs. We have a planet that is livable that we are destroying because we can’t use resources sustainably or distribute the wealth evenly. How would humans in space or on Mars get along if there is no ethical progress to accompany the scientific developments?
This is where a discussion on memory and an evaluation of how we define the present is relevant. In the last century we have discovered the almost infinite immensity of the universe and the millennia it has taken to evolve life on our planet. We know that that human existence has lasted a fraction of a second on a grand scale. We have also learned that energy cannot be destroyed only transformed. We could let these factors sink in to the fabric of our consciousness and spend the next hundred years synthesizing global knowledge gained through out history and recent advancements. If we expanded the definition of the present to include the moments before and after us; maybe then we could be ready to turn five thousand and take a trip to Mars.