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TBA Series: Weeping at "An Infected Sunset"

David Higel

When Holland Andrews sings, I weep. It happened at PICA as part of this year’s Time-Based Arts festival and it happened at Holocene the week prior during their performance as part of Orchestra Becomes Radicalized. I expect it to happen the next time I attend one of their performances, and I look forward to that.

Apart from a certain amount of embarrassment and self-consciousness this weeping of mine is not an unpleasant experience; the more appropriate adjective would be intense. And it’s not rooted in grief or really any named emotion—it’s more like a raw physical response such as shivering in a cold wind.

Except: not unpleasant.

If we consider the notion of dissociation, a common symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder, this weeping of mine represents the precise opposite. It’s a sense of radical, overwhelming presence and embodiment, shocking in its force, which draws tears, or tears them, from my body in an almost defensive reaction to its irrational magnitude. I’m not completely certain why it happens, but it’s apparently a real thing, and I have some ideas.

First, to provide a little context: Andrews’ performance at PICA, as part of this year’s TBA festival, was in accompaniment to Demian DinéYazhi’ reading from their
magnificent long-form poem An Infected Sunset, a work far too layered and rich for me to say anything interesting about it. What I mean is that any words I could offer “about” the work would serve only to diminish, and not reveal, the extreme force of its impact. An Infected Sunset largely concerns the continuing oppression in this hemisphere of indigenous people and culture, the historical and present-day erasure of that occurrence, and ruminations on queer sex and love. DinéYazhi’ moves fluidly between all these topics, and others, in a tone that is intimate, raw, angry, grieving, defiant, and almost conversational. It feels like it could be a
road-trip soliloquy. No, it doesn’t—it’s too serious, too composed, too artful. But there is something of that flavor in it for me. And I think it’s one of the most important creative projects I’ve come across in years.

Holland Andrews, who also performs as "Like A Villain," works with extended vocal techniques and electronics. Their performance shatters me, immediately and directly, and so I’m not even going to try and tell you what it means or is—all I can do I attempt to explain the effect it has on me, and what inferences might be drawn from that.

Photo: http://pica.org/event/an-infected-sunset/