MAKE NO MISTAKE about it, Reed Arts Week is trying to mess with your mind. For evidence, look no further than this year's theme for the annual student-run arts festival: "Reverie." The fest hasn't happened yet, so I can't describe it except through an oblique preview of an imaginary milieu, which I will begin to do as your eyes grow heavy and you relax more fully and more fully, and I count backward from three... two... one.
You are in the center of a small square room, basking in the bluish buzz of artist John Wiese's exhibit—four inward-facing cathode-ray tube TVs—as not-necessarily-music fills the space. "Calling it music would be a disservice," says curator Alex Maguire, "it's more of a sound collage." "But any sound is music," co-curator Ben Friars-Funkhouser interjects. If it's like Wiese's prior installations, perhaps the TVs are showing you faces that are ever-so-gradually transforming, seemingly in response to the changes in the sounds. It is less a sequence than a stream. The images flow over you and the music-sounds suspend them. Breathe in... and out.
You are gazing at a grid of tiny colored paper squares that, as you look longer, seem to dance and hover outward from the wall. In Chris Ando's collages, you may perceive the nuances of former shapes from source images in National Geographic. Or you may see pixels of plain paper. As your gaze is pulled deeper into the gyrating grid, your attention expands to the artist himself, projecting chat footage from Omegle with cyber-skewed distortions of his own image, and mixing analog tape loops of the chat in real time. Echoing voices parrot repeated refrains. What are they saying? What is the language of the squares?
You go into a new room and the only sound is a slow dripping. On the ceiling is Alisa Bones' crude conveyance of slime—perhaps a stalactite, maybe simply a perforated slime-bag—and on the floor is its counterpart, a gradually growing slime stalagmite. You remember when you went crazy over those ladies tearing apart a clay cube at TBA 2011. You are reminded that art is messy, temporal, and place-based. By proxy, you are beslimed in bliss.
You notice a sculptural standalone structure. Is it a stage? Angular protrusions of metal are partially draped in swathes of dark, billowing, goth-cloth, as an indefinable music—part classical, part industrial noise—plays. You anticipate Friday, when the structure will host actors, manifesting Maxwell Smith-Holmes and Anna Baker's vision of Euripides' masterwork The Bacchae.
You begin moving to a safe space, the Reed Student Union. Once open and vast, you find it has now been walled into a winding labyrinth called "Ostensorium," a name you may say aloud to yourself as you are swallowed deeper... and deeper. You sense that performances are planned, but who can say what form they will take? Small gestures. Distant, disorienting strains of solo songs. "Singular, small, spontaneous happenings." Perhaps these thin, temporary walls are peopled only by your dreams.
You realize this is as deep as you can go until next week, when Reed will ring with the sounds of Grouper and Shabazz Palaces ($20, pre-sale only, limited tickets available on campus at Paradox Olde Shop), and you will surrender to an experience that you can begin to anticipate as we come back to the surface, shallower, faster, feeling renewed in one, two, three.