A Synthetic Spring, a one-time-only art/dance/performance event, goes up tonight at the Crystal Theatre. It's the MFA show of artist Jack Metcalf. But, in a twist, Metcalf will be played in the performance by Missoula actor Jeff Medley. Medley and Metcalf recently collaborated on a verbatim staged rendition of an old Mister Rogers album. A Synthetic Spring, which I wrote about this week, is a criticism of "the spectacle" of commodity culture.
When I sent Medley an e-mail to ask if I could interview him about his role as Jack Metcalf, he wrote back: “If you trick Jack Metcalf he will turn into Jack Metcalf.” As it turned out, I wasn't going to get any straight answers, just synthetic ones. And thus began my odd and somehow rather poetic interview with Jeff Medley, playing Jack Metcalf.
Indy: Is synthetic-ness a good thing or a bad thing? Or do you see it as neutral?
Jeff Medley: Without Synthesis, without the Synthetic, all we have is Spring. A season, true, but nothing more. Or is it a season? Helical springs are certainly synthetic. The very presence of Man... and woman (if you allow that man is one rib short and missing a pile of mud/clay somewhere in his potholed lawn), no, let's just say humanity to keep the boat from rocking more than necessary with our humble origins, turtles and spiders.... implies synthesis. We can't undo our existence, though we seem to be trying in some ways. Digressing, I see the earth as a Dog and and we being the water, at some point the dog will feel so saturated we will be involuntarily shaken off into space. The Dog is not necessarily passing judgement on the water, it is simply laden... saturated and has to shake. Until then, we create. We, in my usage, should be wholly considered to refer to 'Artists'. I am Jack Metcalf. I am an 'artist' and I synthesize art. I can't be neutral. Is it good or bad? Is it yes or no? Yes and no? It isn't binary, though I can communicate in Morse Code in the event that the electromagnetic spectrum is seriously disrupted. I refrain from judgement. Everything fashioned by the hand, mind, labor, toil of humanity in this sense is synthetic, thus A Synthetic Spring is, euphemistically, one burgeoning sector in the infinite inner space and very being of me, Jack Metcalf. A flowing river may call to those on the shore to wade or dive in, yet they may choose to passively watch, even turn away.
Indy: As an artist, are you trying to give people an experience that's their own, or direct them toward your own thesis?
Medley: A Synthetic Spring is an 'encounter'. It is an offering and it will be ready for you when you are ready for it. I will make no effort to control or direct the reality for any/all spectators, nor will I physically alter perceptions... though, we are directed from the moment we wake up. We rise, respond to impulses to sate hunger, thirst, the need for relief of all imaginable sorts. We find ourselves directed to sleep again and most people continue this loop. They have the opportunity to dream each night and the alarm, inner or synthetic, wakes them and they start over again. The liminal state between waking and sleeping is the brief glimmer of a moment I sought to control in my infancy and, with great dedication and otherworldly focus, was able to embrace it and free myself from the loop. I no longer have to live subject to the whims of biological. For example, I am able to reach REM state sleep while conducting a perfectly lucid conversation. I occasionally dine with loved ones in Missoula while simultaneously skywriting aphorisms in the Gobi Desert.
Indy: When we walk into the Crystal, what can we expect to see?
Medley: I can tell you, having walked into the Crystal Theatre on a scouting expedition to find the ideal host site for A Synthetic Spring, that you will not see any pre-existing crystalline structures. One reason for choosing it, based solely on the name, was an expectation to be bathed in a cosmic crystal glow upon entering. I have had to do that on my own with my ever expanding team of timeshare salesmen and lube technicians. The name of the theatre is, in actuality, a misnomer... So, coming to terms with crystalline structures lacking, I have employed a small team of fully functional models, not to scale, of Indonesian children fashioned from the renewable hooves of Mexican factory cows fed on the finest grain from undisclosed sources in Central Africa to create most of the installed pieces. You know, I've always thought cities require museums. A Synthetic Spring is a mixture of nothing you have seen before, and everything you might have seen before.
Indy: How did the idea for this show first pop into your head?
Medley: A Synthetic Spring was my earliest cognitive present to myself. Prior to being eligible for citizenship in North Dakota, I had solidified most of the ideas the public will have the opportunity to experience for free. I am actually from a few different places on Earth, none worth discussing. Before I could form words with my lips the event had already reached the advanced fermentation process.
Indy: Will we know you when we see you, or will you be disguised?
Medley: We are all disguised in plain sight, but you will know Jack Metcalf when he is standing in front of you (you being the spectator). You will know him when you have your photo taken with his likeness, yet what is a likeness? Is it the idealized self or am I my own idealization of self? I am several more dimensions than two and three combined. You will know Jack Metcalf when he is laying beside you in your dreams and your hand has been gently shaken. You will know him when he looks at you and speaks with you at the same time.
A Synthetic Spring takes place at the Crystal Theatre from 8 to 10 PM Thursday. Free.