Monday, March 15, 2010

Lucky Dragons

To be fair, there isn't much I can say that this LA Times article hasn't said in terms of introduction to the Lucky Dragons. I'll trust that you will jump ship via hyperlink and come back having read the article and just go on.

I've wanted to mention the Lucky Dragons for quite some time as another great example of contemporary Win-Win. What perhaps held me back is not knowing how to frame what it is that they do. Luckily some experiences from JP and my presentation of Win-Win Games the other night (which was great and which I'll post about soon) helped unlock some ideas. One consideration discussed between JP, Aja Bond and myself of just what made a Win-Win Game different was the notion of vulnerability. The idea that one has to own up to a need for interaction and display a willingness to fail in order to play these games.

This reminded me of a phrase which was a bit of a motto for the K records crowd around the turn of the century (Microphones, VVRRSSNN, Bobby Birdman, and Little Wings who's in the video above) and which applies to Lucky Dragons just as well - "emphasize the awkward". While in practice that often seemed to imply emphasizing a collective moment of awkwardness, it actually permeated about everything for better or worse, from conversation to performance to dissemination to subject matter. What was successful about it was that it revealed the process of performance. It spoke to the dependency that a performer had upon their audience and the degree to which they could fail spectacularly in the full gaze of strangers. At times it was manipulative, but often it brought out a collectivity and a hyper awareness of the moment in the audience.

In many ways Luke and Sara are continuing in this tradition, what George Chen once dubbed as "Montessori Folk", inducing play in the midst of a very serious process of making music and art. The audience's ability to interject, redirect or abandon the performance and music making does in fact go a long way towards "tak[ing] away any barrier between people," creating "a kind of equality."

It's interesting to ask in what ways an artist can create instruments, performances, structures, or frames or props that allow and encourage audience participation while still maintaining a high standard of quality. What makes it possible to include audiences directly in creation and still succeed in the realm of aesthetics?

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