We look to you for guidance, oh provocateurs of the modern mediums, those who gather in the streets to execute the most complex of artistic endeavors. During the weekend of Friday Sept. 27 on a leisurely stroll through Farragut Park, I encountered what seemed to be a semi-annual folk and arts festival. Though this year’s attendance was down, I was told, bringing 15,000 less participants than expected, the event remained a triumph for bastions of fine art.
It seemed to me D.C. opened its streets to fantastic innovations, allowing the public gaze to set upon the beauty of refined culture. The weekend saw the collaboration of the nation’s most artistically tuned minds. Of particular interest were their various innovations in the mediums of auditory and visual expression.
In the park, I found the attunement of rhythm was the task of countless professional percussionists. Employing techniques of mass rhythmic pulse, the group gathered to create one unified beat comprised of many parts.
The participants, many of whom employed the very streets around them in their musical creations, deemed this innovation in circular percussion a “drum circle.” Instruments used throughout the concert included tribal drums, trash cans and Starbucks glassware.
The particular highlight of the group’s performance was the surprising integration of a second team of percussionists. Affectionately referred to by participants as the Black Bloc, this group daringly paired themselves with police batons in an attempt to deviate the piece’s four-four rhythmic structure – creating a flurry of skillfully executed syncopated beats.
This rhythmic wonder was followed by an auditory experience characterized by divinely inspired vocal poetry. A folk singer, of seemingly international fame, took the stage delivering vocal harmonies that stirred both the minds and bodies of the crowd. At the apex of her show, the artist stripped off her Gap pants and wore only her silk Old Navy handkerchief as a veil across her face. This display was offered as a metaphor for her music, the idea that “if you cover your face, the cops won’t know who you are.”
The crowd was roused to near riot when she closed with classic folk renditions that seemed to be called something to the effect of, “I Haven’t Showered in Days” and “Bury Me With My Birkenstocks.”
Ascending a park statue, one group of performers lit effigies of United States leaders on fire while chanting over the heads of a number of Greenpeace members clad in leaf-bearing T-shirts. The actors, masters of their craft, seemed genuine in their disdain for one another screaming responsorial pieces of dialogue such as “Only you can prevent forest fires” and “We can’t breathe.”
The performance continued, integrating American flags until – blinded by smoke and ash – the performers were forced to descend their rapidly combusting masterpiece.
The performance’s finale was a masterful piece to be well regarded for its integration of Shakespearean themes and postmodernist wit.
Using strands of duct tape individuals taped themselves together in the street then proceeded to lie in the normal path of traffic, silently without motion. The piece would have been aptly titled “No one could move us, not even 100 horribly beweaponed police officers in riot gear.”
This fit of glorious performance brought to an end, a stroll through a gathering of high art and performance that need be described simply, in one word – remarkable.