3 field dispatches from the 2016 folk opera tour "The Wastelands" performed by Children of the Wild. Here we visit Lorain (Ohio) Fon-du-Lac (Minnesota) and the Straits of Mackinac (Michigan) to hear the voices of poets, elders, and musicians calling out for a renewed relationship with the lands and waters. Includes 3 short videos.
We might as well frame this stage of Western history as a time of fragedy. Fragedy, to buck the urban dictionary trend, is a drama so comical that its overwhelmingly ludicrous improbabilities trigger in its audience a pathos so fragile that the characters’ plight is no longer funny and enters the realm of the absurd. You know we are living in fragic times when Alec Baldwin and Larry David play the president-elect and the loser with a spookier believability than the Donald and Bernie who play these characters, respectively, in real life.
This is a story of inner growth in the midst of, what Lindsay Swan, our Dante, would call dire outer circumstance. Trigger warning: the following contains mention of botulism and Russian propaganda.
“We organize around the seeds of the trees under which we want to live.”
So says Ricardo Levins Morales, organizer of organizers, an artist who has been cultivating, among other seeds, the Great Lakes Commons ever since the grassroots movement was planted in 2011. He says this, as a matter of business, over a GLC visioning call from his home in Minneapolis. We are in Petoskey, a crooked tree town on Little Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan, trying our best staying in touch with the people behind the movement we want to enter.
Children of the Wild is journeying across the Great Lakes. This dispatch comes from the first stop of that journey, in Buffalo, NY. Featuring footage from their Silo City performance and a story from an east side resident named Ms. Virginia Golden, who has been fighting to get an old GM manufacturing plant that has been leaching PCBs for decades across the street from her house on a brownfield cleanup list.
What good is art in the face of ecological tragedy? That might not be the most fruitful lead; let me come at it from another angle.
The Erie algae blooms are smaller this year than last. Some might see in this news a sign of progress: Toledo’s drinking water shouldn’t be cut off this summer (at least not for environmental reasons). But the myth of progress, the story that things in this world are getting better, dissipates, it seems, the deeper you dive into its waters, or the farther out of them you rise.
This is how our journey seems to move: in waves of excitement, followed by small waves of apprehension. Scientists have a name for subtle movements like these: seiches—not to be confused with the tides, seiches occur when the atmosphere shifts and the winds push the water from one side of the lake to the other. Our arrival at St. John’s Institute in Cleveland—our new performance site—has signalled a similar shift in atmosphere.