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The Crimson Arts Reviews "Seesaws in the Yard"

A Crimson Arts writer ponders the symbolism of the seesaws.

What is a seesaw, truly, but a simple metaphor for the fragile ebb and flow of humanity that somehow defines us all? What is a teeter-totter but a subtle allegory for the intricate dance of birth and death that emboldens yet imperils our lives?

These are the issues that Seesaws in the Yard—a flawed but compelling work of outdoor performance art in Harvard Yard—seeks to address. Ultimately, however, the work poses more questions than it resolves.

In the midst of a bustling campus, the seesaws’ technical elements fail to parallel the spirited ambience of the production. Certain movements of the seesaws trigger white lights and musical notes—a commentary, perhaps, on the dynamic interplay of color and sound within the theatre—but these outbursts lack the vigor and regularity necessary to turn frivolous performance art into weightier introspective analysis.

The austerity of the seesaws, meanwhile, carries on a frustrating (albeit fruitful) conversation about aesthetics with the surrounding Georgian buildings: Is the meaning of art more accessible when the pretenses of design are removed? Is the future unadorned while the past is ornate? Why are these teeter-totters so phallic?  

Most troublingly, the seesaws’ early closing time signals the organizers’ lack of commitment to the artistic process: We at The Crimson’s arts section believe that real art never sleeps. 

The bright spot of the production is, of course, its inventive audience interaction, which strips away the boundaries between performer and spectator, actor and onlooker. Such interaction lends a moving liminality to Seesaws in the Yard—it is for the people yet of them, voyeuristic yet participatory. The work, in this way, gets at the questions of what it means to consume and be consumed, what it takes to enable and be enabled, what it feels like to teeter and yet to totter.

Seesaws in the Yard appeals to those who seek to be entertained, not enlightened, by the art with which they engage. It is transient, like the passing wind that shakes these seesaws. It is understated, like the felicity of the people who take part in it. But it is, at its root, embryonic, approaching topics that it does not settle, all while its participants bob up and down.

© 2017