Sunday, May 26, 2019

Choir Choir Choir

I think this qualifies as whimsicological.

There's a bar in Toronto where people gather twice a week to form a choir and render pop classics.

They practice arrangements then jam out their finished version.

They have attracted big names like Rick Ashley and Colin Hay [Men at work]

and have expanded to larger venues and different guest cities.

There's something profound at the heart of collective voices.

Something larger than aural mathematics which on the face of it is all music is.

I find it all very attractive and easily modular. I'd jump at the opportunity to participate in musical cells such as these.

You need a couple of competent musicians and someone proficient at designing vocal arrangements.

Here's some examples.

There's something here. A powerful community and communing essence.

Art unites. Art creates empathy.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Work is love made visible.

I spent some time in Connecticut and so, being a curious clown, looked at the historical mental frameworks of the area. So Quakers and Shakers and Mennonites and their various philosophies. I liked the Shakers the best because although they were a sponge that allowed a lot of WW1 widows a safe refuge socio-economically, they were into dancing as a collective permission of individual expression.

One thing each of these judio-christian entities shared was a quite simple applicable concept which was.

Work is love made visible.

Here's a lovely poem by Kahlil Gibran who was a Poet, painter, writer, philosopher, theologian, visual artist and Maronite with a side order of mysticism of the Sufis who was kinda a big deal back in the day. He lived from 1883 to 1931.

"On Work"
You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons,
and to step out of life's procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.
When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison?

Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.
But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth's furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,
And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,
And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life's inmost secret.
But if you in your pain call birth an affliction and the support of the flesh a curse written upon your brow, then I answer that naught but the sweat of your brow shall wash away that which is written.
You have been told also that life is darkness, and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.

And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.

Often have I heard you say, as if speaking in sleep, "He who works in marble, and finds the shape of his own soul in the stone, is nobler than he who ploughs the soil.
And he who seizes the rainbow to lay it on a cloth in the likeness of man, is more than he who makes the sandals for our feet."
But I say, not in sleep but in the overwakefulness of noontide, that the wind speaks not more sweetly to the giant oaks than to the least of all the blades of grass;
And he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving.

Work is love made visible.

And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man's hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man's ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Whimsy-School project...thoughts

A project named Whimsy-school designed to facilitate social and cultural agency in the population and inner city of Christchurch NZ as part of it's rebuilding after earthquakes and terrorism.

My name is Martin Ewen, originally a Christchurch native I have spent the last 30+ years as a successful international Clown soloist. I was privileged to travel extensively and my focus has always been the pan-cultural and sociological ability of street theatre to enhance and enrich cultures although I have also worked commercially in NZ Australia Japan China Canada Singapore the US and Europe.

I'm a layman in the strictest of terms not having any formal tertiary education however I have travelled to many cities internationally and as part of my occupation I gathered local populations and initiated play with them and gained a collective sense of their cultures as it related to playfulness. I was personally convinced that whimsy had a collective cultural value. This would be evidenced to me via occasional personal profound admissions by deeply depressed individuals who braved admissions of gratitude at rediscovering laughter and also occasional letters written by people who had watched me over days and were compelled to anonymously leave me their thoughts on what they thought about a collective illumination my work produced.
Further I was aware that there was a range of performances internationally only some of which contained this type of comic incandescence and over 30 years I tried to discover and befriend as many of these strange wonderful practitioners as I could.

NZ and Australia among english speaking countries has always harbored a certain public reticence which, presenting a challenge was always all the more rewarding when this reluctance to participate collectively and publicly was overcome. I dedicated time and energy into helping evolve the street theatre festivals in Christchurch,Wellington and Auckland in the late 90's and also was the first international resident street performer in Perth Australia for 4 years during that period.

Ideally I wanted to base myself in Christchurch and did attempt to do so but the population seemed simply not large enough to support ongoing street theatre.
Personally I have spent the last decade based in Hawaii however last year was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and with a couple of months to live returned home because I was told that's what you do in these situations. Now a year later due to the superior state of NZ health services I am cancer free and recovering from a major operation. As such I have decided to focus on NZ in my last years.

Commercial viability and cultural viability are distinctly unique and a point I wish to make is that the cultural worth of whimsy in my opinion in it's ability to rejuvenate and empower and help communities celebrate themselves outweighs in large part immediate profit and loss considerations in favor of longer term goals inclusive of rebuilding the heart of a physically broken and sociologically injured city.
The impact of having a collective shared space in which communities celebrate themselves I believe is integral to community and cultural wellbeing and I further believe that an exercise in which international merchants of laughter from Clown and Variety performance and Circus and international arts festivals apply themselves to enhancing and enriching a local communities ability to overcome it's adversity is a project worth my energy. I further believe that a communities ability to celebrate itself via laughter is a direct indication of it's collective mental health and there is a window of opportunity available at present to harness international goodwill towards NZ and Christchurch specifically.

Christchurch has suffered 2 major earthquakes, over 5 years of aftershocks and an unprovoked terroristic outburst. It has a generation of children for whom the earth shuddered daily for the first 5 years of their lives. There is no doubt the entire population to some degree or other has degrees of post traumatic shock.
The inner city is no longer a cultural hub. It's been reconstructed but not yet culturally repopulated.

To this end I have compiled and am poised to reach out to an initial 60+ international performers from the US, Belgium, Japan, Britain, France, Israel, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, Germany, Holland, Iceland and Canada [and obviously NZ]

With two primary inquiries.

1; do they have any small outdoor shows they would be willing to travel to Christchurch with and produce at cost as a gesture of cultural goodwill?

2; Do they have workshop material that they could teach at schools and/or other institutions locally and/or national institutions like Wellingtons Drama school to maximise any potential return on the personal expenses and time spent in visiting NZ and to invigorate local drama production over a wide range of their collective disciplines?

Christchurch has always had a strong relationship with the whimsical.
The Bird-man
The cheerful Cross dressing Asian from the 50's on who wore a kilt and woman's underwear
The Wizard and the subsequent 'Alfs Imperial Army'
The Circo-arts and free theatre and Arts center nurturing grounds of eccentricity.

This however is not about nostalgia.
'This' is a multifaceted community led exercise that celebrates a particularly Christchurch response to adversity.
'This' is an international/national and provincially based response and exercise in the rebuilding of a cities communal character.

Briefly, a project in which some of the worlds best merchants of whimsy, clown, circus, street theater and variety performance collaborate with schools, local theater, the city council, local and international sponsors to produce ongoing exhibits of whimsical production to reinsert character and heart into a culturally bruised city. Targeted to reach a goal in which Christchurch once again celebrates it's own eccentricity and recovery.

Provisionally I am thinking in terms of 'Whimsy-School' as a working label.

My vision is that initially I can leverage a lifetimes worth of social capital in casting and curating an ongoing series of public performances and workshops.

I see funding potentially being sought via traditional sponsorship means but also International crowdfunding in the development stages.

I also envisage that this project exists as a pan-cultural expressive experiment and as such have dedicated audio-visual channels so the works produced were broadcast either via streaming or cheaper post digital production.

Metrics I'd like to explore via this project are;

Participation, passive inclusion [audiences] active inclusion [workshops and subsequent local projects]
Quality of cultural symbiosis, urban expression, inner city 'ownership'.
Baseline survey and staggered updates.

Digital Promotion/Marketing

Sister city and other international affiliations defined and explored.
Media channels created and content for them produced and online audiences monitored, grown and curated.

The Usual
Paid promotion and Press traction

I'm aware that alone the idea is doomed and whats more I'm aware that it would take a skilled team to even gauge it's feasibility let alone it's production.
I sometimes think it could be simply a feeble attempt by myself to regain some relevance presented with the unusual challenge of having my death postponed.

But immediately I first articulated an outline after the shootings in Christchurch I was offered free accommodation for performers by a Ch-ch hotel owner and so am encouraged to continue trying to better articulate this project.

I've been advised to start small and simple. It's no credit to me that this 1000+ words is my attempt at this. I find unattractive the idea of starting an afterschool program called whimsy-school and growing it but at the same time I'm aware for better or worse I have grandiosity issues.
I need advice from art administrators and project coordinators to better fashion a more cohesive outline and to prioritize and structure initial actionables.

Any help would be appreciated.


I've been thinking a bit about the future lately. One consequence of having a life threatening tumor removed is it gives you a recreational perspective that extends beyond your lifetime.

So looking on the post mortem bright-side, given the insect apocalypse or a global warming unfrozen pathogen, nuclear war or global oxygen depletion doesn't put a jolly old kibosh on the human experiment.

What could a future look like given mechanized labour, universal health care and a baseline standardized income socially?

It would most certainly lead to a radical increase in 'spare time' and an increased search for meaning which begs the question I don't see evidence of anyone, layman or social engineers discussing.
What's important to people over and above wage-slavery?

My opinion, based on being a relatively successful international street performer and clown is that people relish communing and instinctively recognizing whimsy and quality inclusive playful structures.

I've never seen people happier or more delighted in any of the cultures I've visited than when they were collectively under the spell of some unexpected highly proficient whimsycologist.

I would like to see in the near future, along with the current new development where gas powered vehicles are becoming banned from city centers, [Madrid and Amsterdam in development], civically engineered free expression zones or parks and whimsy-schools that facilitated peoples imaginative expression there-in.

Because I've been doing it for 30 years and had a great time doing it while acknowledging the audiences I formed got more out of it than I did. I think it's universal and on some small level profound socially.

Nor is it new or particularly contemporary. The human towers of the Catalonia and the Valencian Communities are intrinsically whimsical human expressions and were declared by UNESCO to be amongst the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

There are old Stilt dances and ceremonies in Europe, South America Polynesia and Africa that cultures spend time and energy promoting and preserving for no other reason than playful ritual quantifies the otherwise chaos of the human condition.
Same with Clown, itself an entirely whimsical social construct that's embedded in cultures universally.

I think my pithy motif from years ago “Who Dares...Grins” could hold a powerful relevance in a future heavy with potential free time and I'm wondering if I should spearhead a 'whimsy-school' in my dotage.