Life is hard. How do you respond? You can find a slot, fill it, and exist. Or you can run, explore, love, dance, create.
Yes, complacency might seem the remedy; perhaps it is so for some folks. But what we’re given as humans is a life of uncertainty and challenge. You can fight it all you want, but it is what it is. The mystery of raising a child (they still haven’t printed the manual); committing to a marriage and sticking with it; a spiritual quest; finding work that’s your true passion; dealing with the mix of risk and reward that is adventure sports. When you embrace those things as gifts and run with it, you are the rabbit. Your run might not always be yip-e-de-do-da, but the deep joy of a life well lived is your reward. Complacency is the wolf who is ready to rip your joy to bloody ribbons.
Is your rabbit getting chased by the wolf? Saturday evening at 5 Point Festival, artist Jeremy Collins asks that question in the world premier of his performance art piece “Wolf and the Medallion.”
While physical risk and adventure don’t have to be your rabbit, you can’t deny that that extreme sports such as climbing make a terrific metaphor. In Collins’ case, him being a world-class scaler of cliffs, his trips provide abundant metaphorical fodder. Combine that with a career in commercial art as well as his having a vast network of talented folks from musicians to animators, and you get something unique and exceptional.
Thus, Collins takes a recent climbing trip that involved a rather desperate retreat and nearly hypothermic demise on a rain soaked wall in China, and turns the experience into a letter to his son. This in turn forms the structure for an animated journey into the human condition, accompanied by live music and live painting.
The event is introduced with Jeremy painting a lupine visage on an odd looking shuttered glass canvas, accomplished by a powerful and viscerally anticipatory minor-key film score that wanders in and out from almost bombastic power to a delicate prance. This created by live ensemble who bring everything from throat singing to a cello, along with drum kit and electric bass to make sure the crescendos punch you.
The painting intro quickly leads to the narration making it clear that Jeremy is writing a letter to his young son. This smoothly transitions to their near-death experience high on a granite wall on the “other side of the planet.” That all hooks you fine. But if this was a normal climbing film you’d probably be yawning by the time they do their last rappel and predictably live to tell about it. Instead, in a subtly clever fashion, Jeremy vamps up the letter writing theme again to do what you think is the closing moments. You’re thinking, we’ll, that was neat. You might even clap and expect the closing credits. Instead, the true denouement begins.
As the music builds, Jeremy climbs to the stage and begins modifying his painting with broad, energetic strokes. At the same time, the narration and animation begin emphasizing the run from complacency and the principles of living a good life that he’s communicating to his son. All that time, your sense of wonder is engaging because it’s not clear what Jeremy is transforming the image into. Then, in the final moments, all is revealed. Let me testify, it was beautiful.
To make sure “Wolf and Medallion” wasn’t just emotionally exploitative and in the end simply average, I watched the encore presentation Sunday evening as well as the true premier on Saturday. I’m delighted to say that my second go was still evocative and inspiring, so I’ll totally agree with the film winning “Best of Festival!” Congratulations to Jeremy and associates on an exceptional job!
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.