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Daniel Alexander Jones: Straight from the Artist's Mouth
Guests at Center Stage this year got a two-fer: a sizzling performance by soul diva Jomama Jones, whose show, Black Light, will be part of Meany Center’s 2019-2020 Season; AND a chance to hear Jomama’s alter-ego, performance artist Daniel Alexander Jones, speak eloquently about the power of the arts in his own life and in our culture at large.
We are here, together, at Meany Center, which regularly invites us—gathers us—to experience art.
I answer that in my typically roundabout fashion. I’m an artist.
It’s only now, some twenty-five years in, that I’ve been able to articulate the truth of my art practice. Energy is my medium. I have used playwriting, performance art, music making, directing, devising and all manner of collaborative practices to work with energy. Why? Enabled by whatever means, the exchange of energy through art creates an active experience of presence. Of us. being. Here. Together. And that gives civic purpose for the art that I make. Why is that important?
It’s important because I’ve borne witness over my life to the slow but inexorable growth of social isolation, loneliness, private suffering, and fear in the fabric of our society. Growing inequality, political discord, and an undermining of basic social compacts exacerbate this spread. My own journey is one of an odd, working class kid from a former industrial city on the East Coast, born at the end of the Civil Rights Era. I was raised in a loving, diverse community that was broken apart by economic suffering in the early 1980s.
By the time I entered public high school, I found myself on the margins and spent the first two years without a friend my age. I happened to have a study class that was in the Drama Club headquarters. I looked longingly at the students who would parade through to the club room in the back wearing period costumes, practicing their lines, or laughing gaily with their asymmetrical movements and haircuts - it was the 1980s.
I think the teacher clocked my longing stares. And at the end of the year she walked up to me and put a pass to the drama auditions down on my desk.
“I dare you,” she said.
Suffice to say, after nearly passing out from anxiety, wrangling to find something to audition with, and full-scale shattering the glass of my once impenetrable introversion, I took her dare. And a miraculous transformation ensued. I have never looked back. That crossroads opened a threshold to my art practice, yes, but more importantly, it invited me into community.
In order to activate my relationship to community, I had to accept the invitation. I had to act. I had to risk being seen and heard. I had to be vulnerable. And the art provided the means to do it.
When I was welcomed into Meany Center and the University of Washington through the Creative Fellowship Initiative, it was with the explicit invitation to spend time in long-form investigation of creative process—time deliberately uncoupled from deliverables, outcomes, products in order to focus on connections. Connecting with students, faculty, administrators, and other members of the broader Seattle community, reinforced my deep belief in the power of unfettered flow of energy among people as the core of transformative artistic and social practice.
I became an agent of energetic exchange.
The 2019-2020 season’s works of art are, I assert, works of energy. Energy that swirls, and dips, soars and roars, provokes and consoles, inspires and demands. These works of art will open thresholds to rare and beautiful encounters. They will remind us of our full human capacity. And we will see them, and hear them, and feel them, together.
At a time when heads bow before glowing screens, when instant judgments and rigid blinders pop up instantaneously, and when the stakes feel higher than ever, Meany Center offers us a space, a place, and time, invites us, to gather, to be, here, together. Accounted for. Beyond transaction, beyond agenda, suffused in the experience of presence.