"!" [Hollywood Blues] July 2013 - Page 21

Staking their credibility on being the first to report ‘breaking news’, media outlets compete to collect, collate and report snippets of information, no matter how seemingly trivial. Teams of experts and witnesses are corralled to interpret this data and identify those responsible, their political affiliation, their motive, and their process of ‘radicalization’. Speculation abounds as reporters, fearful of losing an increasingly saturated audience, construct hypothetical narratives linking the event to identifiable social problems. As news stories synchronize across media outlets, as particular photographs become iconic through their reprinting, as events are translated into documentaries, Hollywood blockbusters, and made-for-TV movies, the incident is confirmed as a major event through its repeated reproduction. But of course this process is not innocent. The extension of a pervasive security apparatus, anti-Islamic hate crimes, and even foreign wars are enabled by the ways in which these representations appear to beg for a response. In light of this politics of representation, what I found particularly interesting in Rowena Easton’s spoken choir performance “!” [Hollywood Blues] was the way in which it offered an alternative mode of staging ‘major events’. Rather than providing another narrative through which the sense of the event is established, “!” [Hollywood Blues] explores the complex and disorienting processes through which the disaster is written. In what follows, I would like firstly to distinguish the structure of this performance from those which we, as spectators, have become accustomed to receiving of ‘major events’. In particular, I would like to suggest that this structure is better attuned to the complex processes underlying the co-evolution of disasters and societies in their emergence. In the final section, I would like to briefly discuss some questions which this performance may raise in the fields of disaster response, the social sciences, and politics more broadly defined. 21