This week Counter Current kicked off with a weeklong of outdoor experimental art performances. I have been anticipating many of the events (s/o to Jason Moran) but somehow forgot I signed up for the Remote Houston event. I received a reminder two days ago with details and realized I needed to shift my calendar to fit it in. As usual, I did not recall the details but figured we would experience art outdoors. What happened during the experience was not anything I ever imagined.
The reminder flyer clued me in that we would be wearing headphones during the performance. I also knew we would be at a cemetery. Any other time, I would be completely freaked out about going to a cemetery….but for the sake of art, it did not bother me one bit. If I weren’t rushing, I would have been able to read a bit more about what we were doing but I read enough to know I had to rush over to get there in time.
We were instructed to be at the Alley Theater by 3pm with a sharp departure at 3:15pm. I am notorious for showing up to everything late (including flight departures) so was very concerned I would get left. I knew we were taking the metro train. Since, I have taken it only twice, I knew I needed to be with the group. I had not even looked at where the cemetery was on the map.
I was going to uber over but realized the Rockets and Astros would be playing. To avoid the surge, I drove downtown arriving exactly at 3:02pm. Thankfully, I was able to find a metered parking space which cost me about $6. I scarfed down the rest of my lunch. I grabbed a plastic bag as 0 of my 3 umbrellas were in the car. I ran to the lobby feeling completely unprepared (especially as they urged there would be a lot of walking and to wear sneakers. I had on clogs with no socks…we will get back to that later).
Upon arrival, we were given a metro card for the train ride and a waiver. I filled it out and noticed we couldn’t sue them for any harm (what in the world is this event) and we had to pay $100 for the headphones if we lost them. We had about a group of 10 people who walked to the train together. I was so happy I made it in time.
When we arrived to the cemetery, we had to fill out a second waiver and I was really wondering if they were going to lock us in the cemetery. We also were escorted from the train platform to the cemetery by a police officer. Do you understand my concern? We signed up for our headphones and stood around until everyone gathered. The crowd grew to at least about 35 people.
Once the performance began, we were instructed we could no longer use our cell phones or talk to anyone. I went into slight panic mode but was calmed down by our computerized tour guide, Heather. We had enough to keep us busy during the performance to forget the restrictions. Our first assignment was the beginning of many that were out of the ordinary.
The cemetery was in the East End. A part of Houston, I had never visited at length. Many of the grave decorations reflected the traditions of the Latino community. We were told to find the grave that drew us. Instead of finding one with plastic flowers, a cross, or Mary, I found a grave that had nothing but a tombstone (though later so one flower far off in the distance).
My grave drew me as the last name Curry, was familiar. I could not believe what I was reading but Ms. Lizzie was born in 1892. Her tombstone read as the Wife of Willie (I believe) Curry. We listened to Heather as she instructed to us about how to observe the grave. From there, we walked out together. Walking through a fence as she said that “separated the living from the dead”
We walked into the neighborhood as a group which was just the beginning of people observing us trying to figure out who we were. The entire performance turned into a mindfulness workshop. We were observing everything around us which was a refreshing contrast to our normal 2016 customs. She named our group a “hort” I believe (she had a strong robotic accent), as in cohort. We were to do everything together.
We made it back to the train and had to ride that together while still making many observations. We eventually ended up in the JP Morgan Chase building (1929) which was absolutely gorgeous. I had never seen the large restored stained glass windows in the retail bank. We had an assignment there which included a wonderful dance break.
After our dancing, we somehow broke our “hort” into smaller groups. This is when it really became interesting because we obviously started having different instructions depending on the group. My group left first and we went to the observation tower. Though, this was my second time in the tower, it was my first time I could actually see outside. The first was a terrible bit of fog.
We started observing the activity 60 floors below us like I had never done before. Heather talked about how the cars seemed like how our body operates on a molecular level, where the roads represented our arteries. Despite knowing there were people below, you barely saw any.
We continued on still not allowed to talk or speak. We were almost 2 hours into this journey and I began to feel like we were one. Heather reminded us on the beginning of our journey that each of us were individuals, looking different, yet we were 99% genetically the same. How often do we focus on our differences forgetting we basically are one.
When we ended, the only reason I wanted it to end was because my feet were paying for not following instructions of appropriate shoes. They were practically on fire from all the walking we did. Nevertheless, despite me missing the #DrinkingAboutMuseumsHTX event, it was worth all the pain. I felt like I was able to connect with how I used to be as a child. Free, alert and in the moment. The journey today definitely reminded us to spend time to smell the flowers, despite our adult wiring.
Remote Houston was in partnership with CounterCurrent this week but will operate throughout May 13th. For more information, see here.