“What’s Your Story?” has become another way of asking what’s up, what’s happening, que pasa? This is fascinating phrasing in this era of the embattled story. While the traditional story died in a plague declared by the avant-garde artists ages ago, the personal story has been sprung up from the crematoria – on Facebook, Sundays on Public Radio, rebranded as Narrative everywhere.
1) Ira Glass, creator of This American Life, couldn’t stop talking about story when he took the stage in Providence Saturday night. The master of narrative journalism excels finding the universal in a mess of ephemera. He boiled a good story down to one thing: people want to know WHAT COMES NEXT. That’s the draw. He does it by creating a tug on human emotion that reflects a weird collision of circumstances and leads to the enduring perplexity question: What does come next?
2) Artist Julien Prévieux nails the existential question that we face everyday: “What Shall We Do Next?” It’s the title of his 2014 video on view now at the RISD Museum – it may or may not be about fractured story, about the fact that at this moment, we are oddly poised, always holding our breath. In one part of our brains, we’re living with sense of impending catastrophe, in another self taking in concrete and sensory desires, pleasures and pain. Thus the continual crisis: “What Shall We Do Next?”
Prévieux frames the question through the language of hand gestures that have been abducted, stolen. In his compelling video, six dancers conduct performances using hand gestures that have been patented by tech companies. He creates alienated dances using patents as dance scores. He cites the philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s work “Notes on Gesture” about how 19th century illnesses of body compulsion have long stopped being noticed – they have unwittingly become us.
3) The third example is a chubby 20-something who crawls out of bed, flicks his long hair, puts on his hoodie sweatshirt with cupcake graphic. He sticks in his earbuds and launches himself onto the street. The city is his. His blue sky is his. The elegant shading of Benefit Street as he shuffled along is his. He is singing to himself, shouting along to his private music in a voice all passersby within several blocks could hear. Does he know the question has been posed, What comes next? He is oblivious to everything except to his own joy. He doesn’t know anything except his answer, his story. Over and over, he is shouting: Free Your Mind and Everything will Follow.