Geodesic Gnome at Megapolis

Photos by Brooke Hall, story by Justin Allen

If you can't see the photos, click DISPLAY IMAGES.The description for Geodesic Gnome’s ‘Daishadokyo: Do Not Feel the Cosmic Arrow Wind’ created questions rather than clarified the intent behind the performance. More than that, we weren’t sure how this fit into the Megapolis Audio Festival hosted in Station North.  But, we were willing to put our fate into the hands of these performance artists just for the opportunity to tell you all about it.

In the great big picture above: No, it’s not Obi Wan Kenobi making a cameo on the set for the remake of Escape From New York. The man beneath the hood is none other than John Berndt.

Who else would you expect to find in a cloak, banging a gong and leading a band of willing participants (some of whom donned surgical masks for reasons unknown) down Falls Road for a jaunt through philosophical conundrums, spiritual interludes and mathematical uncertainties? Meet one of the most unique performance troupes we’ve yet to come across: Geodesic Gnome.

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What you’re looking at is a group of ten to twenty people who followed a man dressed as a gnome down North Avenue, over to Falls road and then under a bridge and beyond. The framework for this event lies in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s opposition to Georg Cantor’s co-dependant love affair with the infinite, otherwise known as Set Theory. In this adaptation, a Zen master archer represents Set Theory. Maybe.

At eleven a.m. on Sunday we assembled, as instructed, in front of Cyclops Bookstore. Soon a man, who we will refer to as ‘the gnome in charge,’ approached and began to speak of famous philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and how he stumbled upon a Zen master archer with his bowstring pulled tightly and an arrow ready to release. What puzzled Wittgenstein was that the archer never shot the arrow. He just meditated there with the string drawn. When questioned, the archer explained that releasing the arrow was not the goal. Wittgenstein was wildly opposed to this sentiment, much the same way he resisted Georg Cantor’s Set Theory.

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Point of Fact: Zen in the Art of Archery is a book written by German philosopher, Eugen Herrigel. Herrigel taught philosophy in Japan in the 1920’s and is credited with introducing Zen philosophy to Europe and subsequently the Western World.

For Geodesic Gnome, the idea of Zen archery may represent the idea of one-to-one correspondence, Wittgenstein’s blight and cornerstone to Cantor’s argument for Set Theory.

During the performance, each act unfolded with an archer posed, bowstring drawn, ready to release. In this scene, the performer begins in this pose and then presents what appears to be a ritual involving food preparation (Think: popcorn, eggs and hushed breath).

Not pictured here, but equally intriguing, we witnessed an archer performing a ritual burn, another disposing of a body in the river and yet another driving by slowly shouting at the spectators with bow and arrow perched outside of his truck window. This player insists that a certain corporate giant “controls the internet” and is commencing a campaign to spread misinformation throughout the interwebs.

(*Said corporate giant cannot be named here for both legal and illegal reasons.)

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Somewhere along the river, the narrative veered sharply into the absurd (because everything that led up to this was completely reasonable). Certainly, we could assume that the previous acts point back to one of the many paradox’s contained within Set Theory. But then again, maybe not.

Upon arriving at this scene we found an empty chair with a sign taped to it that read, “No Sitting.”

The gentleman in the suit had been mingling with the crowd of spectators since the start of the performance. When we arrived at this scene, the man in the suit left our group, crossed a railing, carefully removed the sign, sat in the chair and began reading a newspaper.  Enter: Creepy character in mask slinking along fence.  This gnome-ish creature uncovered the water pictured here and did the thing that must be done.

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When the water drenched his newspaper, the man simply pulled another from his brief case. The appropriate reaction to this, as you can see, is smattering him with flour.

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Of course, flour may not be enough of an obstruction to disengage the man from his thriftless obsession with disposable print media. Under such circumstances, a large pot of tomato soup is in order.

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And, obviously, when it’s apparent that he may be immune to these attempts at intervention and picks up a magazine, the only thing left to do is smother him in a thick blue, unidentifiable liquid goo. Very nostalgic in a ‘You Can’t Do That On Television’ kind of way.

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Geodesic Gnome is known to focus on three areas of content: Paradoxes, obscurity and the recreation of poorly understood historical events. Any attempt to decipher their performance is strictly for our own amusement and is not intended as a reference, by any stretch of the imagination.

The conclusion of the experience ended at the broken down streetcar station along the Jones Falls River. There we were treated to an excellent monologue by yet another interesting character that summed up some of the questions posed during our journey. I won’t attempt to relay the message in the monologue; it’s one of those things for which you had to be there. But if you’d like to see the conclusion for yourself, and other images from the performance, follow the white rabbit (but don’t shoot it).