QUEER VOICES
09/30/2014 01:46 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

'Any Size Mirror Is A Dictator' Dance-Opera Running In Brooklyn

"Any Size Mirror Is A Dictator" is a compelling new performance series currently running in Brooklyn, New York.

Described as "an accumulative process-based dance-opera," this complex work is currently engaged in a seven-weekend run, with each weekend building upon the previous to form the narrative of "Any Size Mirror Is A Dictator." Each live performance is constructed by two teams of performers, "force[ing] spectators into experiential paradoxes surrounding relationally and subjectivity, materiality and immateriality, and meaning-interpretation vs. meaning-making."

This free performance series is running in Brooklyn through Oct. 19. In order to allow the creators to speak about the concept and ideology of "Any Size Mirror Is A Dictator" themselves, The Huffington Post chatted with choreographer and co-director Lindsey Drury this week.

The Huffington Post: What is the concept for "Any Size Mirror Is A Dictator"?
Lindsey Drury: "Any Size Mirror" deals with the issue as to how we (and I say "we" to include myself in an unknown/over-generalized population of humans and animals) look into the world in order to figure out what we are doing. A mirror is a simple way of beginning to think about that issue. For example, "Any Size Mirror is a Dictator" means that though your eyelashes and your hand are both your own, and though you are holding the mascara and are going to apply it to those lashes, you need the external reference point of the mirror to see what you are doing. "Any Size Mirror is a Dictator" begins with the notion that one's perceptions themselves are designed to be incomplete: We cannot complete the act of transforming ourselves without external reference points, without the mirrors to dictate our actions.

For me, the project begins to touch on queerness right from its core -- in part because theories of identity-construction (and the performance, learning, signification, etc of gender and sexuality) have been so developed and opened up through the ongoing inquiry that has come out of queer communities and scholarship.

And so, the project begins with this premise that to have identity, one needs to identify what one's actions are doing, and to do that, one needs an external reference point. And from there, the project explodes into two major directions, both of which reflect the history of queer culture in the US:

First, the opera builds a micro-culture, and puts newly invented dances, songs, languages, costumes, and customs to work to create this. To do so, the opera relies on the simplest resource that any culture is based upon in its production and reproduction: The participants seeing each other's actions and using each other as the external reference points or "mirrors" to produce their own actions. I also tend to liken the opera to a fabricated folk-arts presentation, and Momenta Art's Gallery is basically a holding cell in which the practitioners of those folk arts can be displayed. And yet, what people can see in this aspect of the opera, specifically if they come back numerous times to see it over its 7-week run, is that the culture is itself not designed or presented as a stagnant or unchanging series of "traditions," as one so often sees in museums, but its performers are in constant development, using the reflections they see of themselves in each other and the context to learn new possibilities. So, the culture changes. And this, to me, is the most important issue in the culture of ASMIAD (Any Size Mirror is a Dictator): Because audiences, as outsiders, will find it difficult to figure out why certain actions within it are occurring, the changes and developments in the culture instead become the fodder for audience members to perceive, understand, even empathize. It is an important issue in anthropology, I think -- the fact that no culture can be reduced to a series of explanations as to why people within it do what they do, but might instead be investigated through long-term observation of changes, variations, and deviations.

Second, within the opera, various people attempt to control, direct, manifest, make the best of this invented culture as something to "show." Three of these are "dictators," the director/librettist Esther Neff, composer Brian McCorkle, and me, choreographer Lindsey Drury. Three of them are "recursive" participants in the opera who do not perform the various arts within the opera, but instead forcefully attempt to influence the organic progression of the performances in order to extract certain meanings from them. To me, both the Dictators and the Recursive cast members attempt to enforce over the performer-culture the demands of "high art." In their various ways, they are attempting to milk the opera's durational processes and make instantaneous, virtuosic, conceptual artistry of them.

What are you trying to accomplish/communicate through this performance series?
For me, the central question of the opera is this: What if our greatest and most noble attempts at creating communities have been what makes us feel so lonely? What if in creating cultures we are also giving birth to the seeds of alienation? And these issues I see arising in/for queer communities and allies all the time -- recently, for example, from Sierra Mannie's article which, amongst much else, attempted to define who real women are and who therefore has the ability to give displays of authentic femininity. Mannie's definition of authentic black female culture needed the alienation of gay men. Or, even more recently, the Facebook attack on behalf of the authenticity of names and the effects of that on the trans and drag communities. So, for me, the opera delves into the fact that every culture is constructed, and is under constant construction, and every name was made up, and even the methods by which we authenticate things are invented, not given. In the opera, we go back to construct a little community and its insiders and outsiders from scratch.

What can attendees expect?
I suppose I will come out and say that the opera is a difficult piece. Many of the happiest audience members come back night after night. My advice is to have no expectations when you first come to see it. Luckily, it is free, so it is an easy thing to take a risk on and try. I think you will need to have a really open mind about what "sense" and "composition" and "dance" and "artwork" is to get something out of it. And my suggestion is to ignore any feelings you have that you are invading the performance space and get in there, and read the writings on the walls. And read the book. That will help you -- they are there to help you.

The participants in project at Momenta Art are:
Brian McCorkle, Esther Neff, and Lindsey Drury, "Dictators"
Jessica Bathurst, Lorene Bouboushian, Matthew Stephen Smith, "recursive cast."
Paige Fredlund, Matthew Gantt, Kaia Gilje, Rene Kladzyk, Thea Little, Sarah McSherry, Butch Merigoni, Ellen O'Meara "rehearsive cast."

"Any Size Mirror Is A Dictator" is currently running on Thursdays-Sundays from 3:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. at Momenta Art (56 Bogart Street Brooklyn). The show will run through Oct. 19 and is free. Head here for more information.

CONVERSATIONS