Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 16 of 30 - A song that makes you cry (or nearly)

Exhibit 13 by the Blue Man Group

The Blue Man Group's tour for 'The Complex' is by far the best performance/installation art piece of the last 20 years. By drawing parallels between the rock concert experience and tribal rituals/proto-religion, the Blue Man Group illuminates and reflects on unexamined aspects of contemporary life. Plus, they have very a very solid instructional design aspect behind their experience. (As an instructional designer, that makes me incredibly happy.)

Their first encore (and the last song on their album 'The Complex') is an instrumental ditty called 'Exhibit 13.' When I first saw them perform it, they played an enigmatic video of paper falling on a screen while padding out the music. The crowd went nuts, whooping and hollerin' (remember, this concert was in Texas), and cheering through the song.

On the second leg of the tour, when they came back through Dallas, they did the same show with the same encore. Except this time, instead of cheering and laughing through 'Exhibit 13,' people were somber, quiet, and reverent. I think some of them even started to cry.

What caused this change? The only thing I can think of is that people visited the Exhibit 13 website and found out that the song is about September 11, 2001, and the bits of charred paper displayed in the video came from the World Trade Center.

In the past decade, I have been shocked numb by images of the towers exploding. Now when I see them, I get angry - not at what happened, but at the person or organization who is showing them to me in hopes that my emotional reaction will somehow sway my thinking to their side of whatever debate is happening. Those images are too loaded and political now, and they have lost their power over me.

But the scraps of paper...

Every day, we leak. We leak thoughts. We leak emotion. We leak information. And we are surrounded by people and things who catch our leaks. Our loved ones ask us what is the matter. Our computers record our emoticons. And our paper...

I spend my day surrounded by paper. I fill out forms. I write reports. I document the world as I see it. There is a tactile sense to paper - and somehow writing down things on it make them more real.

This song and this video make the pain real. There is no way getting around it. There is no way to sugarcoat it. And this particular presentation of certain events is very difficult to politicize; all it shows is a document of a series of lives that were suddenly and brutally disrupted.


NoRegrets said...

Wow. Well written.

M. Robert Turnage said...

Thank you! And thank you for commenting. I put some effort into this one, and was thinking no one liked it because there weren't any comments. That is just me being neurotic, though. Your three words made me really happy. Thanks again.

Justin said...

Very well written.

Pamela said...

I never check the 'email follow up comments' box, so I have to spend time going back and seeing. how dumb is that?