virus: Primitivism

Ken Pantheists (
Sun, 28 Jul 1996 11:49:48 -0700

Here's something.

-- A totally self indulgent and long anecdote about an event I attended
last night.

I had so much fun at this event and I kept thinking of telling everyone
on this list about it. I don't know why yet. Maybe 'why' will come up in
the writing of this:

Every year in Vancouver, this non-profit society called Public Dreams
organizes a one- night event called the Illuminaires Festival. It's a
lantern festival. Basically everyone who knows about it (It's not
incredibly well publicized) makes a lantern and takes it to Trout Lake
Park at sunset. Some lanterns are very elaborate-- huge paper creations
that are carried on poles representing huge fish, angels, (one guy last
year had a huge phallus lantern) and some are very simple-- coffee cans
or cheese graters with candles in them.

Everyone walks around the 1.5 mile diameter lake in the darkness,
illuminating the path with their lanterns. There are lanterns and
illuminated art installations in the trees, floating lanterns being
pulled across the lake in canoes, there were at least a hundred drummers
some violinists and even a wandering gamelan. Incense was burned
everywhere. Oh-- and there were people dancing with fire-- juggling it,
swallowing it, stilt dancers dressed as other-worldly flame creatures...
the entire park was tranformed into a real "other world". There were a
lot of families with small children. It must have been absolutely
incredible for the kids.

The evening culminated at midnight with fireworks on the lake and then
all the drummers gathered in one area and jammed. The people danced.
People made instruments, on the spot, out of pop cans and gravel.

I stayed until 1:00 and the drummers were still going strong. I'll bet
they have sore arms and hands this morning.

BTW- the event was totally free, no Coca-Cola stands or corporate logos.
No creeps or jerks to wreck things. You won't find it listed in any
travel brochures.

The reason why I'm posting this is 1) to brag a bit about this event in
our city. and 2) to discuss this strange epiphany I had while dancing.

I was thinking about how this environment really supports low tech. The
odd flashlight or car headlight was totally out of place in the soft
glow of the lanterns.

The instruments were accoustic, no electronic amplification.

As we danced, the movement of the other people and the sound of the
drums seemed like a bubble-- a small world all by itself-- where our
vision was limited by what we could see with a candle, our voices were
limited by how loud we could shout and our movement limited to what we
could do with our own arms and legs.

It was not like dancing in a night club. We (the hundreds of us) were
all dancing with each other.

It was liberating. And I thought how this is the perfect media for the

Radio and T.V can't do this. I suppose in the early years when they were
trying to figure out exactly what radio and television were, they might
have tried and failed.

The web certainly can't connect people in this way.

It also wasn't like the experience of people who currently live in
primitive cultures. For us it was novel.

The reason why I am turning this over in my head is because I am
currently trying to develop some entertainment ideas for the web. that
involves thinking about what the web does well and what it doesn't do

It also illuminated (pun intended) the role of these experiences in a
high tech culture.

Does anyone out there have any ideas, comments, additions?

Ken Pantheists                          
Virus Theatre           
TooBa Physical Theatre Centre