I'm just back from a breathless and unusually fruitful trip through the Infringement Festival gauntlet. More to come on some of these experiences in my Sunday column, but suffice it to say for now that this fest never runs out of surprises. Just when you think you've seen the most elegant, or unwatchable, or heart-rending thing you're likely to see at the festival, you stumble upon something even more bizarre, more godawful or more utterly moving than you'd ever have expected.
The beauty of the hunt is the beauty of the fest.
First, the heart-rending: Janna Willoughby, a hard-working Infringement organizer and poet who also goes by MC Vendetta as circumstances demand, brought tears to my eyes with her wide-ranging, deeply personal narrative, "Weird Tales and Tall Coincidences (Part II)." Willoughby believes in the sort of stuff most of us dismiss as supernatural hokum. But her stories, which chronicle several lifetimes of incredible occurrences that seem far beyond the work of serendipity, are enough to plant little seeds of doubht even in the most hard-hearted cynics. Even if those seeds of doubt don't grow into some kind of agreement with Willoughby's metaphysical leanings, it's impossible to deny her gifts as a storyteller, or of the harrowing but ultimately beautiful tale she shared with the crowd at SP@CE 2224. "Believe in the magic," she said, "Because there's really no reason not to." Who knows what the professional cynics over at the Center for Inqiury would think of that (though wouldn't it be fun to ask them?). But here's hoping Willoughby brings this performance back, or records it for a wider audience.
Second, the curious: I checked out Ella Joseph's one-night-only installation, "Within Boundary or A Ride in the Air," in her small studio/gallery space on Linwood Avenue. The installation consisted of several IV bags hung from the ceiling by fishing wire, each one containing a swimming fish. Also dangling from the ceiling were headphones, which viewers could put on to hear a sort of ethereal soundscape while they watched a projection of two human legs walking over an abstract background. I'm not sure whether Joseph pulls from dreams to create her work, but this piece was full of the odd little juxtapositions that seem to happen only in dream states. You could speculate endlessly about the meaning of fish swimming around in IV drip bags, or the meaning of the soundscape and the wandering figure. But to me the scene registered as the assured recreation of a strange, subconscious moment not meant to be dissected for meaning. It was like a dream rendered real -- and, like most dreams, it contained elements both of strange grace and vague danger.
Finally, the unwatchable: I checked out a sliver of an experimental film showcase at Casa De Arte, in which I caught part of a wildly peripatetic video set to pleasant indie/folk music that seemed to chronicle a bearded man's delusional existence as he follows the destructive (and perhaps Satanic?) voice inside his head. I was intrigued enough to stay and see how things panned out. But a scene in which our bearded hero, after sprinkling his naked body with what looked to be paprika, pins a live frog down with four push-pins and proceeds to slice its belly open with a knife, was too much for me, and I bolted for the door. Weird? Yes. Shocking for the sake of being shocking? Yes. Largely pointless, artless and juvenile? Yes, yes and yes.
I missed Leme42's animated film"Wool and Water," but fortunately it's on Vimeo, and it's pretty cool stuff. Take a look:
Of course, most of what's on offer at Infringement -- though, yes, the quality ranges from dismal to sublime -- is far better than what I saw at the film showcase. A case in point (though I'm making an educated guess here, as it's going on even as I type) is the annual Squeaky Wheel Outdoor Animation Festival. When I departed Days Park earlier this evening had already drawn a sizable crowd of onlookers ready to take in the stop-motion film work of Hallwals artist-in-residence Brant Greene.
After this, sad to say, only three days of Infringement remain. See you in Allentown!