Art is a way of speaking about the world which penetrates the veil of customary assumptions. Born in sound and cradled in listening, C.C. Arshagra’s poetry and song performance paid homage to the open mic, a subject of his poetry and inspiration for his poetry art band, Funk Physics. The trio played in front of a painting and pastel exhibition of Arshagra’s art work, which also called into question the straitjacket culture imposes on thought, a visual conversation with the edges of free speech. The longing to be heard is at the center of the human encounter. And the fragility of the open mic context favors that voice. The Buttonwood Tree in Middletown, CT embraces the full range of human expression, showcasing words, song, movement, art and the connections that creativity forges between us.
The art exhibit Unmute Yourself, spoke to that atmosphere where words about art are also art about words, as one painting was titled. Beginning with the exhibit’s centerpiece The Blank Canvas of the Mind, sometimes the invisible became legible in these questioning and questing spaces of aesthetics and feeling. Arshagra prefers to wrap his messages in layers that ask the viewer to look longer and harder to “be at your edge of being.” His words spoke to “the deciphering ones, hungry for belonging.”
The collaboration between poet, guitarist Matt Belliveau and multi-instrumentalist Derrik Bosse was uncanny. Bosse gently tapped his large conga in subdued patterns that supplied a pulse for the improvised composition, sometimes adding a bass guitar line. Belliveau intuited when to build, when to subside and how to interlace silence and isolated notes with Arshagra’s resonant words. “Survival captures only its ruins,” apocalyptic words, yet performed in a resonant quiet founded on how “love can see you with its blindness.” For the finale, Mike McEwen, inventor of the Vibrational Awareness Chamber, joined the trio with his Tibetan singing bowl, adding even more spiritual bandwidth to the event.
Arshagra read poetry from his new book “the open microphone: poems,” on free speech, human rights and the word, pausing to reflect on the origins of live poetry performance where trembling neophytes and veterans gathered in small Boston and Cambridge cafés to share their words and expose their souls. His deeply empathetic chronicle of how faltering individuals find their voices and understand themselves through those open mic sessions has lasting value for anyone eager to unlock the gates of creativity. As he chanted during the Funk Physics set, “How can you believe the world ends here?” G&S