Czeslaw's Loop: Permanent, Marijuana Deathsquads, and Playatta on the Mississippi River
Photos by Erik Hess
"What's happening? What's happening, mommy? Mommy, what's happening?"
It's a stormy sunset on the Mississippi River, and over a dozen artists, curators, and friends have been trying, drenched and filthy, for five hours or more, to save a dry-reliant and ambitious thing from the edge of failure. The final stage of reclamation is the construction of a giant tarp-tent to keep the wet out of their drummers' eyes and shocks away from their headphoned heads. The tarp reads, next to an Egg McMuffin:
!EB OT PU DEKCARC S'TI
Permanent Art & Design Group's thesis for the night's event was, via ornate presentation and collaboration with the extended family of Marijuana Deathsquads and the video fuckery of Playatta, an abstract exploration of the beginnings of one man's techno-artistic rabbit hole. The character of Czeslaw Janecki (biography here) was created by Permanent as a frame to hold this narrative, a scientist whose penultimate work ended up either a record-skipping failure or a uni-dimensional success. The night's performance, Act 1:4, was titled 'Inspiration.' Both Deathsquads' and Playatta's improvisatory natures are perfect avatars for the jittery beginnings of art; you're grabbed and you go. But somewhere along the way on Friday, Czeslaw dropped right dead, a fiction displaced in real time by a much more interesting brick-and-mortar version of the night's theme.
Down the river, with completely opposite intentions to what happened in front of us, is an unintentionally hilarious pentagonal scar, cut right into the middle of the Mississippi, creating a swirling, bubbling foam pit and serving some socio-industrial necessity, like measuring the great river's parts-of-bleach-per-million, or powering the lights alongside a walking path.
An event meant to be a theoretical exposition of one genius beginning his slog ended up a real-time example of about a dozen different very talented, very real, peoples' elbow grease and camaraderie in the face of tepid chaos. "The show must go on" probably occurred to everyone assembled. One of the drummers called the ad hoc production "an insurance nightmare," and you'd be wrong if you disagreed. Intended as a melancholy conceit, Czeslaw's Loop turned out to embody, way more than anyone was prepared for, a very real, humble, and lovely thing.
Two hundred or more people buzzed and waited up the stairs at the highest point of the river bank, milling and chatting as the art scrum finally came together, wet and frustrated, before their eyes. Across the river from the performance was an industrial park, and next to the river is where they put their piles of manure, lime substrate, and/or plain dirt. As it began to get dark and things were an hour behind schedule, nobody seemed impatient, and the gloom and rattle of the bass-taxed speakers continued their hum. The drummers started, march-step perfect, and for the next hour we watched as the melody makers, cocooned in a houseboat, were projected onto the screen, we watched as some fisherman took center stage to cast a few lines, we watched while Spyder Babie blasted on a trombone as he was conveyed by boat, while a cascade of blastbeats sung, and, far from the beginning, the thing ends.
Critic's Bias: None.
The Crowd: Game.
Overheard: "They know what they're doing, right?"
Random Notebook Dump: It's almost June, and spring has sprung from a defective drainage system, nooks and cuts turned into a geyser of scent and activity and buzz.
Photos by Erik Hess
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