The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
This past weekend, poet and classics scholar Anne Carson and artist Robert Currie brought Stacks to life at the Moore Building during the O, Miami Poetry Festival. The performance, based on artist Peter Cole’s sculptures of stacked boxes and other objects, was choreographed by Jonah Bokaer and performed by dancers Logan Kruger, Catherine Miller, Silas Riener and Adam H. Weinert.
The stage, set between two rows of white columns, extended almost the entire length of the room as the audience sat around the perimeter of the performance space. Stacks of mostly brown boxes and some white boxes of various sizes were stacked haphazardly around the interior perimeter of the performance space and the boxes continued up the staircase to the second floor where Anne Carson stood looking down upon us. Carson appeared serene and in command while she recited her poems from above. As the performance began, Carson read from her poems—“Smoke-Stack,” “Stacks of Thunder,” Real-estate Stack” and so on. The dancers transformed Carson's language into body language in perfect synchronicity. They wove in and out of the boxes and moved between each other while simultaneously stacking, restacking, unstacking and rearranging the boxes on a continuous loop throughout the performance.
Carson and Cole met in 1995 while in residence at the Djerassi Foundation and formed a close bond which led to several collaborations over the years. On Cole's website, he writes, “a stack is a seductive thing. It comes about by having several similar items proximate to each other, in a space with lots of other collections of things, so that these items pile up and become stacks. ... My sculptural stacks are stand-ins for the idea of too much, of enough already, of "I don't even know what's in these [darn] boxes but I'm still going to hold on to them".
The totality of the performance reminded me of what it would be like to move from one home to another—stacking and unstacking, packing and unpacking boxes all day—while listening to the magic of Anne Carson. There's something seductive and oddly comforting in the simplicity of watching the dancers stack boxes. A friend of mine remarked that she really liked all the Latin in Carson's poetry. And there was a great line about the Greeks who stole the alphabet from the Phoenicians and then they created alphabetical order. Similarly, Stacks stole an alphabet (boxes) from the dumpster and created new, poetic order out of these discarded boxes. Stacks redefined the notion that poetry is limited to the page and that sculpture is limited to one fixed state. The performance concluded when Carson threw a box over the railing. The final stack. Tossed over. Carson walked down the stairs and took a bow with the dancers. O, Miami is a countywide poetry festival inaugurating in April 2011. Its goal is for every person in Miami-Dade County to encounter a poem during the month of April. Preview all upcoming events during the month at www.omiami.org.