Love and Theft

Posted on August 26, 2011 by Haymaker

There’s a story about an artist who visited Romare Bearden’s studio. What she remembered most was his great enthusiasm about a single clipping he’d taken from a magazine. She described Bearden’s excitement as if he were a child at show-and-tell wanting her to see – just as he was seeing – the beauty and relevance in the fragment. It had a history and meaning for him that would later show up in one of his pieces.

Like Bearden, we have a deep connection to the material that we find. They – our “scraps” – propel our process by giving us a foundation for a hypothesis on behavior, illuminating why we think a character has to move in a certain way, and even provoking the question, “Where the hell do we go from here?”

Our scraps can come from anywhere and go anywhere… a radio show lends us a structure for narration; a package from a parent sparks a strange dance about consumption; a TV show sets our head spinning about the larger whole – content, language, visuals, characters. And on top of this overwhelming volume of materials, our lives are constantly bleeding into our work (as they should be).

So we’d like to do a bit of show and tell. You can find some of these materials and texts on our Living with the Tiger page. Here’s a few scraps we found, how we stumbled upon them, and where they took us:

Radiolab: Jad Abumrad cuts his shows in an overlapping, circuitous, goofy style that seems to fit our desire to say everything at once. And these episodes got our brains focused on organisms, growth, and when the larger system starts to mirror the smaller parts that make it up: Emergence and Cities.

Moby-Dick: We read most of this out loud. No lie. It’s one of Akiva’s favorites, and the more we talked about what we wanted Living with the Tiger to feel like and say, the more he kept saying, “Melville already said all this.” To top it off, it’s amazingly strange. Melville is constantly abandoning the whale-chasing part to digress on a series of related topics. He writes a play, documents the citations of whales in literature, tells you everything you need to know about the color white, and, yes, includes a short chapter about a whale penis. Check out “texts” for a short selection.

I AM THE BEST! What’s next?: At some point, we started to think that our story was less about tigers than it was about the people who decide to keep them in their houses and back yards. And that took us right into the lap of Alexis de Tocqueville, who was writing about how unusual our country was in its young days. He talks about how living in this huge democracy makes Americans progress addicts, never staying with one thing very long. We always need to have the next and the best. More on that “texts” page.

Road Trip:  The idea of compulsive progress kept coming up, and circled back to discussions about Manifest Destiny. And the idea of the road trip arrived one day and then just never left. It’s a third of our show now. We’ve mined many sources here: On the Road, The Night of the Hunter, Lolita, Rabbit Run, Heart of Darkness, and Stephen Shore’s photography (among many others).

Animal Collective: Most recently, we needed to a way to show a woman’s euphoric relationship with her tiger. From its sound to its lyrics, Animal Collective’s “Bluish” nailed it in an almost eerie way.

Baudrillard: As we talked more about what drives desire in America, consumerism became a hot topic in rehearsal. Baudrillard’s The System of Objects was helpful for its framing, and in talking about our reliance on Wal-mart.

Space: When we’d finally gotten a rough draft of our script, we started thinking about where that story could take place. Gursky, Rockwell, and Dali have been the most helpful of late.

My name is Haymaker. I’m an institution addict: This journey started when we thought about why someone would want to own a tiger. We knew what it was like to feel exalted and then trapped, what it was like to love and to hurt the ones you loved, what it was like to be addicted to progress. Oh, DC. Thanks for letting us have a taste of large institutions at their largest.