Two responses in poetry and prose

Cris Cucerzan and Sasha Francis on Binge Culture Collective

The cross-pollination series continues in 2018, with a number of creative and written responses to festival performances.  Cris and Sasha here respond to Binge Culture Collective, offering two takes on the shared experiential performance piece, “Scene/Heard.” Cris Cucerzan is of Romanian descent and taught high school English in Auckland for five years prior to moving to Wellington. He’s into writing, particularly creative non-fiction and texts that play with form. He writes regularly for a blog on Facebook called Intersection: Books and Life.  Sasha Francis is the writing curator for PAWA 2018.  Sasha recently completed her Master’s thesis in Sociology.  Her work weaves together relationality, radical everyday practice, political activism and speculative materialism. 

Te Aro Park on Saturday the 17th of November wearing orange overalls, the fringe of clouds far from a split end and so many cars around like a frame. We are sitting on these chairs on a grassy chin, listening 

not to the ripples pashing out of the fountain, lips out of lips out of lips, nor the seagulls trying to get a piece with their beaks sharp and wet 

but to snippets of Harry and Jack and Katniss; they are having conversations in our heads, and people are just walking by, ignorant, ogling whatever thoughts suck sweet behind their sockets. We are innocent, watching, touching them all with these stories coming into our heads, their pacing to the rhythm of the talk 

or the musical interludes, the instruments conjuring up a vocabulary of establishing shots, a new one with each turn of the head;  

and the laughter comes out of our throats simultaneously, like birds in a nest crying out to the man in the top hat, morselled out of a Barbershop, an asteroid with a cane shooting on the footpath. 

in the end, we clap. We take off the sunglasses and the headphones. We get off the seats and the wind is blowing. We go away having made a show for ourselves, of everyone and everything else. 

Contributed by Cris Cucerzan.

A future memory

TV sets for eyes, cracklings antennas, and seven aliens in the sun. A film of real life, an experience of individual togetherness. We wore sleek black wrap-around sunglasses that made us laugh as we put them on and it suddenly felt like maybe we were part of something. Voices overlaid and were the weaving of a series of fragmentary moments that we held in our memory together, guided us towards our own shared orienting narrative.  The pigeon dips into the running water, flies over us, stays wet and familiar. The seven of us find ourselves somewhere in the pop culture references we hopefully share. We’re bound together by hollywood profundity and snippets of advice that dominant culture: hegemony rendered playful had pressed into our deepest cultural account of who we were.

Plants were imprinted into the black tiles, memories of crafting, hands clearing the bush up North, a cosmic glaze shines and seizes and captures attention then lets it go. Things come to catch meaning as life becomes something more than everyday. This is an explicit license, an active invitation, to step into a world marked by the already difficult boundary between reality and narrative.  

An elderly couple walks down the concrete pavement, hands held becomes a loving gesture I narrate into a long romantic life of shared sacrifice; the faces of a young family capture the metaphorical intensity that I impress upon them; young kids exalt these structured worlds.  Feet up and down, up and down, up and down the little green in-between different streets as if a bridge between what is and what our imaginations pour into. In these moments, we are all here, just a bunch of beings going somewhere, doing something. A cool breeze catches and draws over us.  “Humans for the most part don’t have a clue. They don’t want or need one, either.”  Instead, we have sense, feeling, shared experience, this being together, here, now.

We keep laughing and smiling, reminiscing, laughing, smiling. Experience is a cutting-together that remains apart, like the pieces of memory that move backward in the sky, unfinished business, the murmured sound of a symphony travelling across a city you know well. I suddenly remember I’m wearing sleek men-in-black wrap-around shades, am pulled out of this everyday film, turn to the person next to me as we both remember together – that we’re wearing shades, that we’re listening to a track that has been guiding us together separately, that we’re sitting in Te Aro park – and we both smile and laugh again.

In between the passing by of life in front of us and soundtracks that guide us, the male voice persistently returns. Sometimes he travels alone, other times he travels with a side-kick, a heroine, a secondary character.  Voices we’ve heard before, before, before, before… his voice is a long root that worked itself through the foundations of everything, claimed it as his own. The water trickles, becomes a fountain that echoes through the old Pa ground: there is an undercurrent in this narrative. “Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.” These clips disrupt our present, take us back to those years when we watched and heard these different words for the first time – we’re all smiling and laughing as different relics overlay themselves like a shrine to cultural sedimentation, and we’re five, ten, fifteen years younger.

There’s a nagging inversion pulling at me, implicitly, through these pop culture fragments that have travelled from the US and the UK to reach the shores of Aotearoa. We’re an import/export economy, and the images of the Anglosphere slowly try to stretch and imprint themselves across and on top of everything that is our reality. The hand-folded paper boat tries to make it across the water to the promised land: “How about you love me too?” Fails to leave the edge of land, is still where it began.

“You want the rest of your life to start?”

Maybe. This is the arch of the story, the art of real-life creation: surrender to the contingencies, let the reproduction pass by, find space for the transformation of autopoesis, the opening of over-writing.  We’ve all been drawing together the outside world with these inside sounds, paying attention to passersbys in a way that starts to make sense to the narrative we’ve been forging in the spaces afforded to us.  

But those already murky lines between is/is not were pushed playfully further as our end arrives in a disruption that secures the outside as a film-site. From the corner of our eye, a man in a pinstripe suit carries us towards the finale, heels clicking to the rhythm of our laughter, curling across the divide between beginnings and ends, between real-life and story. Somewhere over the rainbow, that’s where you’ll find me.

Skipping along, twirling a cane, joyful, free, this autopoesis is the final exodus of the lead male character.  A dear friend passing through the spotlight towards never-land, edges out of view, and we remember the stored bustle of life beyond what had worked itself so deep in our cultural memory, the things that had leaked out beyond homogeneity.  A future memory, an ineffable tomorrow, the space beyond what we had known before – these gifts were what we caught as we all sat together, laughing, reminiscing, remembering, disrupting, re-writing.

Contributed by Sasha Francis

Thank you to Wellington City Council for your support of Binge Culture Collective.

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