Tuesday, July 01, 2008

REVEALED: The 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

You know, one expects a certain amount of creativity to go into the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, DC's annual celebration of a trio of cultures, but this year's inclusion of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, alongside the more understandable Texas and Bhutan, left us with more questions than answers. First of all, can NASA said to have a culture? Sure, you've got special ice cream, juice named after the vagina, faking the moon landing, and crazy interstate romantic revenge trips, but does any of that constitute a culture? Let alone a "folklife?" I don't mean to sound so judgemental, I mean, for all I know, it has a rich "folklife." But, to me, the inclusion of NASA presaged the possibility of dangerous new direction for the Festival, in which the celebrated cultures sprang from inspirations that ranged from the mundane to the esoteric. And as it turns out, my worries were confirmed when the planned cultures for next years Folklife Festival were leaked. They will include:

THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS: "Data that satisfies a number of criteria."

Located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue in the heart of the Postal Square Building, the Bureau of Labor Statistics houses the still-beating heart of a culture dedicated to statistics. Also: labor. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or, as it's known to fans of acronyms, the BLS, doesn't just collect statistics, it analyses and processes those statistics. The BLS is run by Keith Hall, who went to college somewhere, and knows how to use a calculator. The BLS was created through a series of Congressional orders that began in the 1880s and concluded in 1913.

The Festival will celebrate the Bureau of Labor Statistics many, many tasks, including their production of the Consumer Price Index, the Employment Cost Index, the Consumer Expenditure Survey, and the U.S. Import and Export Price Indices. Special attention will be paid to the Bureau's literary lore, in the form of reports such as the Monthly Labor Review and the Occupational Outlook Quarterly. Also, they have a cafeteria.

THE SMITHSONIAN FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL'S 2008 BHUTAN EXHIBIT: "Bhutan...is that some kind of African country? Asia, you say? Yeah, I thought it was kind of Vietnammy."

In 2008, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival presented the rich culture of the nation of Bhutan, "Land of the Thunder Dragon." As it turned out, the presentation we made on Bhutan engendered a rich cultural identity of it's own, as native Washingtonians and tourists alike wandered around looking at the cultural offerings of a country that most of them were sure they had never heard of before in their goddamned life.

Painstakingly recreated from a million memories of some of the most annoying behavior you've ever witnessed, the Smithsonian recreates the experience of watching people feign interest in masked dance, yawned at rare forms of textile art that might one day perish from this earth, bitch about when the next archery demo was, and basically waddle around, withering in utter confusion at what they were seeing. Visitors to the THE SMITHSONIAN FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL'S 2008 BHUTAN EXHIBIT exhibit will get to eat authentic Bhutanese cuisine, most of which was actually left over from last year after most of the patrons opted for Tex-Mex.

NOW: "Right this very minute."

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival celebrates what is going on in this very instant of time, and what it means to you. Don't dwell on it! Don't fucking dwell on it! This isn't a celebration of then. It's a celebration of now, and me admonishing you for thinking about then - which is technically something I am doing...WAS doing...OH JESUS. OK...live in the now...live in the now...I'm repeating, I'm repeating, I'm repeating, it's a celebration of repeating--uhhh. A celebration of NOT repeating. Not repeating. Not repeat--er. Not repeala. Not repaulin. Just now. Here. This moment, anticipating the next moment, as close to the actual occurence as possible, leaving off no less than a fraction of an instant after the moment has passed into the ether. Just me. Just now. Just relax. Just relax. There. Everything is fine.

1 comment:

Peter Orvetti said...

I'm holding out for next year, when the featured cultures will be Delaware, Jupiter, and OSHA.