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ghosts and anne carson haunt nyu
“The radio, the salad. Some of which, white—“
“Was it a Thursday? Was it a Friday? White stuff exploding—“
“Some of which, white, looks good in the salad—“
The audience of Ghostparts, an interactive performance staged at NYU’s Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House last week, shuffles up carpeted stairs.
“Surprisingly have died—“
We find ourselves in a seminar room. Stained glass windows on one wall, mirrors on another.
“Roughly to avoid the thought—“
The voices, belonging to poet Anne Carson and artist R. Currie–both on NYU faculty–as well as Lillian Vernon administrator Adam Soldofsky, ring from speakers positioned around the house, which is illuminated only by the red glow of exit signs. (Soldofsky and Carson wrote the text for the occasion, a “real-time audio installation” that invites its listeners to wander through the house’s many rooms and corridors, experiencing a “constantly shifting wordscape.”)
“Have you read Thomas Pynchon?”
We’ve been told to bring flashlights, and in the next seminar room, the audience has gathered in an impromptu circle.
“I hate etymology!”
It’s like a campfire gathering without the campfire. One listener plops down on the carpet with a hopeless expression. Another giggles. A trio of young men discuss the architecture of the room: the molding, the windows.
I proceed to a stairway landing. I can’t easily follow one line of conversation; volume drops and words refract into fragments.
“They’ve enforced the beard policy at the University, I told her.”
Two signs reading “Do not enter” hang on a white cloth curtain. Someone pushes it aside to reveal what appears to be a tableful of people hunched over microphones. The curtain falls back into place before I get a close look.
“Do you mind a beard? I asked.”
I think of the Wizard of Oz, then walk up more stairs. The audience is restless, wandering the house like ghosts, grasping at shards of conversation that register, in their evanescence, more like memories of conversation.
“I felt my tongue begin to grow.”
The show ends. Laughter from behind the white curtain. A man emerges. He wears a shirt embroidered with cowboys.
“Hello! It’s over! We don’t know how to end these things,” he mused, walking down the stairs.