The Performant: Sympathetic resonance

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An evening of good vibrations at the Decameron

While there’s plenty of art created around post-apocalyptic themes, what frequently characterizes it is a sense of bleakness, struggle, and violence. Only rarely does the sheer resilience of the creative spirit get recognized, let alone celebrated by our visionary futurists.

But in the here and now, perched right on the edge of the city, lies an autonomous zone where the citizens of an imagined future have banded together not just in a sheer survivalist mode, but in a life-affirming one. Calling their temporary territory Oekolos, these merry pranksters ameliorate their straightened circumstances through their continued artistic endeavors, even as evidence of outside turmoil continues to rage around their peaceable kingdom.

It is in this celebratory spirit that the citizens of Oekolos welcome outsiders into their insular microcosm to experience the Decameron, a 10-day festival of 10 unique works per night (for a grand total of 100), presented by a rotating cast of performers.

Since each night is comprised of different acts and artists, my personal experience on one particular evening (last Wednesday, May 29's grand opening night) can only roughly forecast what a later visitor might encounter on their own foray.

Ensconced in and around the historic Fort Mason Firehouse, the citizens of Oekolos have prepared all manner of entertainments to share with the intrepid visitor. Outside the Firehouse, I encounter a trapeze dangling daringly above the concrete ground, a flatbed truck quixotically enhanced by a gracious loft, a pair of masts, and a uniquely immersive musical instrument known as a “soundcave,” built mainly of the stringed innards of pianos, an enigmatic length of cable stretched 600 feet across the water, an intimate, semicircular amphitheater overlooking the bay, a wall of windowpanes being slowly painted over with vibrantly colorful vignettes. Inside the Firehouse a room of singular sculptures with movable parts and a room with a stage await inspection as night slowly falls, and the oddience gathers near.

Upon demonstrating the soundcave’s ability to respond to a note played independently within it by vibrating harmonically around it, creator Tyson Ayers uses the term “sympathetic resonance” to describe this spontaneous reaction. It’s the perfect descriptor of the effects such a miscellany of performance arts might provoke in both its participants and its observers.

For myself, the resonance comes in the form of the physical — a lone trapeze artist (Shannon Gray) struggling against the confines of gravity and her own body, the imposing figure of an erstwhile music “professor” (Andreas Bennetzen) attempting to distill the entire history of the music of Oekolos on the spare curves of his “detachable” double bass, an operatic aria swirled against a backdrop of dark night and bright flames (sung by Julia Hathaway), a boldly vulnerable figure (Allie Cooper) twisting along the length of cable stretched across the water to the boom of an electronic soundscape, the sensuous coil of a pair of dancing bodies (Bad Unkl Sista and Michael Curran) circumnavigating a pool of spotlight.

Each striking image vibrating a path into my memory banks, plucking my strings on the way in, staking future claim. There’s no telling in advance what part of the shape-shifting event might resonate with you, but it’s a pretty sure bet that you’ll encounter something in Oekolos to linger inside you, even after it disappears from the map for good.

Decameron

Through Sun/9

7:30pm, $35

“Oekolos” (Fort Mason Firehouse)

Fort Mason, SF

www.thedecameron.org

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