Leadership and the New Science

What a crazy book – first off, it’s technically a business book, at least that’s where it would be in the bookstore. But it’s full of a lot of hippy-dippy-trippy, lovey dubby, one with the universe type shit. On top of that, all of this crazy sounding stuff is fully backed up with extensive quotes and references from the leading scientific research and thinking of the day. I guess the craziest part is that all of this comes together to make a very inspiring and quite interesting read.

A lot of the science in the book, that she refers to as outlandish, earth-shattering stuff, which I guess it was back in the day when this book was first written, I was already very familiar with and have always been fascinated with. Things like fractals, relativity, self organizing systems, chaos theory, uncertainty, quantum physics, etc. However, I’ve never thought of applying these amazing scientific discoveries to my everyday life, in a new-ageish, self-helpish, redefining leadership, changing my outlook kind of way. That’s where this book shines and is, really, quite eye opening.

The Thank-you Bar – Emily Johnson/Catalyst

What a wonderful intimate experience this was. And the first of it’s kind since moving to Chicago. I wonder how audiences here feel about it, in Emily’s native Alaska they were not as excited about it as I am. For the first few minutes of the piece, the people sitting to the right of my wife kept asking each other rather loudly, “Where is the dance?” And were quite excited when deliberate movement finally made it’s appearance. I guess calling the whole thing a dance piece might be a bit of a misnomer, since dance is not the centerpiece, but simply one of the many tools Emily Johnson uses to create the atmosphere for the evening.

An atmosphere focused on storytelling in general, but also her story in particular, on issues of culture and identity and native peoples, but also the particular history of each space she performs in. An atmosphere evoking a campfire gathering, complete with a dim glow lighting all of our faces and fall leaves rustling among us. An atmosphere that feels interactive and inclusive but not annoyingly so. An atmosphere beautifully underscored by live music, but also at times focused on sonic/movement exploration. In short an exploration, an experiment, a wonderful shared journey.

Check to see if Emily Johnson is coming to your city or town on her website.

october 7 – 10
the dance center at columbia college
chicago, il

photo by Cameron Wittig

EMPIRE (Art & Politics) – Superamas @ the MCA

Photo: Salzburg Wolfgang Kirchner

It starts with a “Re-Enactment.” Ooh, I love those! Except the artifice is palpable. Not quite sure what to make of this, but suddenly a camera rolls on “to film” a number of close ups of fallen soldiers. This part is beautiful. I feel like I’m under water while one of those submarine thingies with the lights illuminates the depths. So this piece is about mediation? When are they gonna roll the live video feed from the camera?

Not quite, suddenly the scene erupts into a party and post production celebratory congratulations. In between this and the end we also get to watch a “documentary” set in Afghanistan. The beginning is slightly comical, but I’m not sure. Again the artifice is there, but we go with it, when the scene erupts into sudden violence. The credits roll. But this is only the middle of the performance – it ends not with a climax but silence, at least on the part of the performers as they stand still watching some fireworks – loud, colorful and possibly lethal, as the explosive sounds they make are not unlike those on a battlefield (mirroring the re-enactment in the beginning). We also get snippets of atrocities in Africa, and dealing with cancer and infidelity, just like the different moments that make up our lives. These are not poignant diatribes or admonishments or calls to action, but mere mentions, asides, things that get lost as new things come along or the action shifts.

I was not satisfied when I left the MCA that night, nothing seemed solid enough to merit reflection and deep analysis. Too many genres and topics mixed in. Did I see a performance or watch a documentary or just some people who wandered on stage – a few were performing “themselves.” But in retrospect I wonder if this performance was an all too accurate reflection of our times. Genres and media, personal and global tragedies and triumph are flying past us each new one capturing our attention but the overload not allowing us to delve deep and focus on any one of them.

october 2 – 3
museum of contemporary art
chicago, il