The P&C’s Spoletoblog today posts another piece about the man who booed Bill T. Jones at the premiere of his dance performance Blind Date last Thursday. The heretofore anonymous booer has been pilloried in the local press for his action — even The State in Columbia ran a piece on the event — and apparently he called the P&C to give his version of what happened and why.
The booer, apparently, is David Holt, a lawyer from Washington, D.C. Last Saturday evening I learned that Holt had shown up at a lecture Jones gave at the Avery Institute earlier that afternoon and had attempted to have a more civil exchange with the choreographer. In his telephone conversation with Dottie Ashley, Holt explained that he felt it improper for Jones to have “taken advantage of the audience” by subjecting them to a lengthy performance whose message was political. “I told him that I felt he had a right to express the angst he feels,” Holt is quoted as saying, “but that people had come to see a dance, not hear his lecture.”
There’s a certain irony here: one of the main themes of Blind Date was the disintegrating civility of public discourse.
My own feeling is that Holt had every right to boo, whether he was expressing his opinion on Jones’ political sentiments or just the dancing. Several witnesses to the incident say that Holt waited until the ovation was over, the dancers had left the stage, and the audience had begun making for the exits, to let loose with his boo. That sounds like the M.O. of a spineless coward, but I’d say he still had the right to do it.
But I have bad news for David Holt. Art is inherently political. The very act of creating it is a political act. And artists have been making political statements with their work from the dawn of time. If Mr. Holt’s idea of acceptable art is only that which is pretty or entertaining or comforting or flattering, then he’s gonna be a hell of a lot better off spending his time in Thomas Kinkade galleries and Hallmark stores than at Spoleto Festival USA.
The best art is dangerous. There’s a very good chance it won’t look good above your sofa or reaffirm your existing political views or pat you on the head and make you feel warm and gooey inside. As Mike Daisey said at the Emmett Robinson Theatre earlier this week, life isn’t “puppies licking our faces — all jellybeans and orgasms.” Neither, for that matter, is great art. If it's mindless entertainment you're after, Mission: Impossible III is playing just down the road.