Any Size Mirror is a Dictator is a Petri Dish
I’m uncertain why the reviewer of this article insists that Any Size Mirror is a Dictator is an alienating opera , or that its production “isn’t about anything” and that “it couldn’t care less about what you think”.
Au contraire, this opera doesn’t want to alienate us – this opera requires our presence. Not just the presence of our bodies, but the presence of our individual histories, our familial/communal histories, and the tangled web of our ancestors’ cultures that invented, traded, seized, pillaged or became pillaged, remembered, learned, forgotten, monetized, philosophized, appropriated, connected, subjugated, revolted, et cetera.
Only then does the opera compel us to silently ask questions; Why is it inappropriate to burp in public?
Or maybe, Where did toilet paper come from?
Or maybe, Why is expressing the self an acceptable objective for art?
I must confess, ASMIAD seemed a bit esoteric to me – In the beginning, I naïvely thought it was loosely inspired by John Cage’s musical circuses with highly imaginative/complex event scores:
“(1) Confusion as the Product of Incomplete Information: A singular performer or duet of performers (3). All but soloist or duet should exit the space and observe the performance from a compromised view”.
“(17) First Principle of Cognition: Memorization.
A single performer will not perform this work, but will stand and face whatever audience is present, look at them directly, and not perform. While not performing, she will begin in her head to build, repeat, memorize, and ingrain body language for the entire text of (17). . .”
But as I watched week after week, I noticed that choreographic elements repeated from the previous weeks. Patterns emerged and the cast seemed to be adjusting themselves to each new bit of information. “Ah, so this is an accumulative opera – A perpetually amassing glob of performance”. Yes, the opera is accumulative, but to say that accumulation is its base aspect is to trivialize its universally encompassing breadth.
It wasn’t until week 5 that I finally understood what was happening:
“Any Size Mirror is a Dictator must refer to its own history to reenact itself.”
ASMIAD is a petri dish. The scores written by the dictators are the seeds, germinating via the performers, and growing into a rich tapestry of chaos. Performers attempt to remember their histories and repeat them only to have time and other performers intentionally or unintentionally alter the memory of their history. Individuals use other individuals as a reference point that keeps the collective in unison. What we witness is the birth of an idiosyncratic culture – the creation of a unique semiotic vocabulary in a reduced timescale.
If you come face to face with a friendly stranger and the stranger extends their hand, you know the collective custom is to grab their hand and sway it up and down. Where did handshakes come from? Why does the West and much of the non-West use handshakes as a formal greeting?
ASMIAD is an examination and experimentation of the evolution of customs, memory, law, and the perpetuation of daily actions/cycles (that, when one steps back, are quite absurd). It is a micro-world that has taken two years of growth to bring us what we experience today. But ASMIAD is not merely reflective – it is also speculative: How will our actions today be remembered tomorrow? What happens if someone breaks the pattern of routine? (I eagerly await the final week: Agency)
Christian Missionaries crossed the silk-road for centuries and converted many people. Today, there is a village in southern Mongolia and they are not Christian. But when they sit to down to eat, they make the sign of the cross beforehand. They don’t know why they do it – they only know that this is customary for their family.