by Ben Shine
Do you remember the quiet game? When teachers or parents on the verge of a breakdown would halt the chatter to challenge kids to see who could be silent the longest? I was horrible at that game. I knew early on that the only person who really won that game was the person who kept me from horsing around with my friends. So, I would often tap out early, saying, "I lose then."
But, I feel like I might be able to win now. I studied mindful meditation for a while, or what I sometimes called, "expensive napping." Throughout my youth, my brain cycled through rebel songs in succession -- John Mellencamp's Authority Song, Twisted Sister's We're Not Gonna Take It, The Sex Pistols' Anarchy in the UK, The Clash's Guns of Brixton and, ultimately, Fugazi's Merchandise. In the end, though, I found peace by not constantly fighting anyone or thing in authority. Between my experience with self-imposed silence and my ability to not only stop fighting the man, but even to sometimes kind of be the man (I am a boss these days), I'm ready to face the competition and get really, really quiet.
Which is handy, because John Collins McCormick of Big Car is bringing back the quiet game with a new, fun rebranding. In the organization's new pop-up gallery space at 3743 Commercial Drive, he's reviving his grandmother's version of the game, "Quakers Meeting." The second installment takes place tomorrow at 7 p.m., and it sounds like the best quiet game your second grade teacher never would have hosted:
“My grandmother used to play this ‘game’ with my brother, sister and I. It was called ‘Quakers Meeting.’ I now realize it was not a game, she just wanted us to be quiet. ANYWAY, the game would go like this ... My grandmother would gather us together and say, ‘Quakers Meeting has begun, no walking, talking, or chewing gum. BEGIN.’ And then we all had to be quiet, and the first person to talk or make a sound was ‘out’ and she would say again ‘Quakers Meeting has begun, no walking, talking, or chewing gum, BEGIN.’ And on and on it went, the three of us lying on the floor trying not to laugh or talk or sneeze.
So we're going to have monthly Quakers Meetings at LISTEN HEAR.
MODIFIED RULES: Gum is allowed. In fact, FREE GUM! (sorry grandma) as is eating, we will supply a snack table.* BUT NO TALKING FOR ANY REASON! Also, NO TEXTING. If you talk ‘you are out.’”
In addition to providing snacks (including noisy apples, celery, ginger ale, and Pop Rocks "when available"), two artists, Steve Smolinksi and Brent Aldrich, will share "visual stimulus," perhaps designed to make the crowd crack into laughs or serious conversation.
I don't know. But I know that it sounds fun and silly, two things that I like with my art.
Just like I didn't like authority as a kid, I do not enjoy self-seriousness as an adult. Too often, cultural products -- from literature to indie rockers -- come with more posture than substance, and certainly more attitude than curiosity. On the flipside of that highfalutin stance, however, lie joy, humor, childlike wonder and a ton of substance, too. Let people play and they're more likely to understand, to inquire, to get in the mess of whatever you want them to explore.
And more than anything, this event has me wondering what other moments from my childhood might be transformed into something delightful. Is Red Rover the next great way to get people excited about opera? Could heads-up-seven-up provide a space to play around with poetry? What would it be like to play "the floor is lava" in a gallery? Let's find out. What's your idea?