Tempo

A world upended: Convening online for community

By Tamra Testerman
Posted 4/3/20

Taos actor, artist and agrarian Joel Larson remembers "the moment before everything changed and everyone could pretend that nothing's going to happen, or that it's someone else's fault. It's like before a first kiss or first anything. Afterward, the world as you know it has changed forever."

You have exceeded your story limit for this 30-day period.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Tempo

A world upended: Convening online for community

Posted

Taos actor, artist and agrarian Joel Larson remembers "the moment before everything changed and everyone could pretend that nothing's going to happen, or that it's someone else's fault. It's like before a first kiss or first anything. Afterward, the world as you know it has changed forever."

Larson believes that how we respond to COVID-19 is "a powerful social commentary from ourselves. We can understand each other as a resource, hoarding our own artistic resources, and respond. This is a moment to commit."

Many are going online for entertainment, inspiration and to share their response as part of a collective social commentary. Around town there are artists, poets, museums and yoginis with daily online offerings; poetry, impromptu lessons in origami, a collage, a concert, a workout, a museum tour, even a cyber kitchen.

Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Zoom are among the places we convene for community, for now. (See the Taos News Digital Guide for online happenings updated regularly on the Tempo Facebook page.)

Larson and I talked about the internet, its limitations and the times it has failed us. In the fall of 2013, a fiber optic cable was severed by a road crew near Cimarrón. And in March 2012, a bullet severed a telecommunications line in Taos Canyon. Yet another time a beaver chewed through a cable. Some folks revel in the radio silence of a Wi-Fi meltdown, while others learn about our dependency on cellphones and cyberspace, the electromagnetic glue of the commerce infrastructure and social communication.

Fast forward to 2020 and the coronavirus lockdown - both the eager and reluctant have been catapulted into the digital age for COVID-19 updates or for entertainment beyond an engrossing book, the family dog or living room theater. The information landscape is changing daily, too fast for the usual communication modes.

Is a home cyber studio an inspiring substitute for a sweaty pranayama session? Is watching live music or poetry or live theater on our computers enough to give us goosebumps and the spiritual commune of a live performance?

"No, but for now it must do," Larson said.

Larson has years of experience onstage and using his voice for radio. He remembers the soothing voice of KTAOS Solar Radio DJ Paddy Mac during the 2013 Wi-Fi blackout. He calmed his listeners with information rather than terrorized them with gloom and doom. Larson thought he should go offer his voice, or maybe go online and do some stand-up comedy. Like many, he wants to do something, anything.

What Larson did last week after considering the options was to put on his work clothes and pick up a shovel. He and a crew of his neighbors (Aiden Schaffer, Jesse Harrison, Han Luu, Jae Sanders and Melanie Redmond) began the annual cleaning of their irrigation ditch known as an acequia, a community-operated waterway clogged every spring with the debris of winter.

Clearing the ditch is an ancient Northern New Mexico ritual that brings people together with pickaxes and shovels to clear a pathway for snow runoff from the mountains. Larson said they accomplished in a few days what took 20 people last year. "Self-quarantine is a potent motivator. There is a ditch to clean - now that's reality, and then there's pretend."

As Larson trudged through the brambles and underbrush, mud and dead tree limbs, he speculated about his creative future no longer limited to artist or actor. How he might host a radio talk show, or go live on Facebook with the stand-up comedy routine he's been honing for years - "laughter is the best medicine."

He contemplated the disparity in quality of internet performance, determined not only by content, but by who has "the least worst time delay." This is the frustrating lag in transmission that viewers and performers alike experience when the bandwidth is not robust. Larson realizes he's in a place where he'd like to do a program on the radio and online that doesn't need the production and set values of pre-COVID-19.

Gone for now are the notions of slick lighting, controlled sound and the pretty props of a Hollywood aesthetic. "What we need is the inspiration of a live gospel church choir performance," he said. "It's not passé. It's human and it's ancient."

Comments


Private mode detected!

In order to read our site, please exit private/incognito mode or log in to continue.