Good, but if there had been more spirit, style, imagination.
While one of the festival’s most anticipated selections, “We Live to Die: The Grieving Widows Club” by Leonie Bell featuring Local Grandma doesn’t open until Monday, the pieces I picked up were mostly in fall short of their proclaimed ambitions. These days, many show descriptions, especially on the outer limits where Exponential dwells, tend to read like grant applications promising the excavation of great subjects. The reality usually turns out to be a simple ho-hum – call it the “everything bark and don’t bite” syndrome.
We’ve been told, for example, that Joe Hendel’s “Artificial (Man) Intelligence” is about “a menagerie of cyborg men living in the Strange Valley, exposing their cut-out hybrid mythologies to the world in order to gain a sense of control over their cybernetically deterritorialized fates. What we got was a shapeless digital montage of anxieties, with many lines drawn from subreddits like r/MensRights and r/CircumcisionGrief. The toxic brew of insecurity, resentment and hostility from the posters originals was confusing, but it’s unclear what the show was trying to tell us about it.
Self-indulgence also hampered Braulio Cruz and John-Philip Faienza’s “Flow My Tears,” in which Cruz thought aloud for nearly an hour. Relief sometimes came in the form of electronic music breaks. The more rhythm-oriented successfully conjured up the thrilling atmosphere of a top Berlin club – the kind of experience you can get lost in, until a guy slips in next to you to share his important thoughts. . “Flow My Tears” continued to display ominous scrolls and concluded by casually taking Philip K. Dick’s name in vain.
Justin Halle’s ‘Case Studies: A New Kinsey Report’, directed by Dmitri Barcomi, took a more playful approach under the glamorous direction of drag queen Nancy Nogood – the festival’s closest thing to an old-school theatrical creation . Like “Traffic,” “Case Studies” incorporates a QR code, but no technology could compensate for a rambling script that lacked rigor (a problem that plagued nearly every project). Still, it’s hard to be completely disappointed by a show that features a dance to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Emotion.”
In addition to “Traffic,” another work nearly achieved its ambition: River Donaghey’s inventive “RecursiveCast,” in which Tad and Tammy (Spencer Fox and Exponential Artistic Director Theresa Buchheister) host a podcast dedicated to a science fiction series called “Recursive”. The show is structured as a series of podcast episodes, with the visuals replicating a Spotify page. Donaghey nails the sci-fi lingo, with occasional references to a dodecasphere, for example, embracing fan’s tendency to attach great importance to detail.
“RecursiveCast” shares with “Traffic” a structural descent into uncontrollable disarray, the world collapsing despite our best attempts to find some kind of order, whether trying to escape commuting disaster or peering into the triviality. If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that technology may have allowed the exponential festival to take place against all odds, but hey, we’re all doomed!