Thursday, June 4, 2009

A garden chat between Miranda July and Roselee Goldberg

“Why are girls like this? Why do they want to talk?” - This afternoon, Miranda July read this from a delightful snippet of her novel-in-progress, drawing her audience into the world of her emerging character - a 12-year old girl who has just finished a magic workshop and is threatening to have her first date with a newly minted 15-year old boy named, Pasqual. The story of the fictional pubescent date unfolded with all the playfulness, vulnerability, and urgency that also embodies her interactive sculptural garden installation, “Eleven Heavy Things” which is on display at the Arsenale.

After the reading, July had a conversation with performance scholar, Roselee Goldberg, who started off by remembering July’s early performances at The Kitchen. She then continued to explore the interdisciplinary nature of Miranda’s work (July has published a book of short stories, has made a formidable body of films including the feature film, “Me And You And Everyone We Know”, and has mounted a countless string of performances.) “Writing was the last thing I figured out how to do” July said, admitting that her performance work began when she was 6-years old, when she penned a play called “Oh Rats!” about a pet store that sold rats. But even though her performance work often reflects the emotional terrain of childhood, July insists that she is not an artist whose muse is her raw inner child. “I think pretty hard about stuff” and even though her performances glow with the air of innocent whimsy and spontaneity, they are all actually quite tightly scripted.

Goldberg drew July out on how she moved between the mediums of writing, performance and film. July responded “writing fiction is like being a watch maker, you get to tinker with all the tiny gears,” whereas the value of performance, she noted, is in the immediate charge of the present moment. It is filmmaking, she mused, that is the most challenging mode to manage because it is so abstract. “I struggle to figure out how to keep the present moment in my films.” In her attempts to maintain the magic of performance in her filmmaking, she has come to think about her films as a string of little moments that are happening all the time. In this regard, she maintained that “staying present is the main responsibility of the director.”

At the end of the conversation, she talked a bit about the interactive sculpture garden that enveloped the gathering. She urged her audience to follow the invited impulse to touch, step on, and otherwise physically engage with the sculptures. “In my mind, this work becomes complete when you take a photograph of yourself on them or inside of them, and posting them on your website.”

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