Missing the Rituals
May 11, 2020
LESLIE MOODY CASTRO
Every year, I look forward to planning my dates in Austin around Fusebox Festival. I haven’t missed an edition in five years. I love the invitation to see things in unconventional spaces and places, some of which are new to me. I love the infusion of talent of all kinds that enters our city from so many places and interacts with our own special breed of homegrown. Fusebox is like my Christmas.
2020 was shaping up to be another exciting year. The festival is not just a series of performances that you wander through for a weekend. It is an active choice to partake and participate equally. To Fusebox is to sign a silent contract agreeing that you will not just sit and watch; that you will partake in some of the awkwardness that is being workshopped, be uncomfortable as 15 people cram into a studio, suffer the heat and mosquitos while standing around a box in a box watching dancers push and pull against each other, acting and reacting equally. It’s exciting. Fusebox never disappoints, it only activates the need to have conversations around things we don’t get to see everyday, new material that brings us all out of our comfort zone to talk about real issues in the world. The festival successfully brings all our worlds—visual art, performance, and theater—together over the course of a single weekend in April.
The digital edition of 2020—the response to COVID-19—offered some of that critical thinking Fusebox provides, but watching it that weekend in April brought about a completely different feeling of loss that I wasn’t expecting or prepared for at all.
2020’s Virtual Edition made me realize that the festival isn’t just about watching, it’s about participating with each other. It’s the slightest, smallest little rituals of togetherness, friendship, and support that it brings out in us.
The first day of Fusebox Virtual I set up my computer on the dining room table, and prepared to watch. The watching, inevitably, turned to listening as the distraction of being home pulled my attention in a variety of ways. Distractedly, I turned back to the schedule, uncertain of what was coming next, or what to flip to between performances. At the end of the first day I closed the laptop and simply went to sleep. It was the same ritual as watching a movie or binging Netflix. It was weird. The second day I tried to be more active: I messaged friends that were potentially Fuseboxing, I took screenshots to share on Instagram as I normally would. I got drunk by myself and woke up the third day with a slight hangover. It was still weird.
To be clear: I am not complaining about Fusebox Virtual, 2020. This is all to say that this year I began to pay attention to the ritual of Fuseboxing, or more appropriately, the ritual that COVID was so rudely interrupting.
In the bustle that is Fuseboxing, you run from place to place to catch performances you know you will never see again. It’s a weekend of “once in a lifetime” opportunities. But Fusebox Virtual clearly pointed out the even smaller moments of the IRL festival experience that happen in between the bustle, and in between the performances. A very sudden nostalgia for that Fusebox, which I had never acknowledged before, came bubbling to the surface of my already existing COVID sadness.
But more than anything I missed the contagion of energy, the sharing of the spark of excitement with a group of people who were all in it together for a full 5-day weekend.
I missed the moments of frantically reserving double tickets to everything: one for myself, and one for friends who potentially didn’t get to it in time. I missed comparing notes on performances, taking suggestions, sharing said RSVP’s, and planning schedules, all of which would inevitably be thrown out the window on a whim of time and location. I missed the laughing, both with performers forcing guttural laughs from all of us in unison, and the ones that happen in response to recalling and retelling the performances in the beer line every night at the hub. I had my annual craving for Texas shaped (and sized) waffles, a guaranteed breakfast to help through the sufferings of the slight hangover from said hub the night before. I missed the car naps in the passenger seat while Sean Gaulager drove us from one venue to the next, and the addition of different friends in the back who dropped in and out with us. But more than anything I missed the contagion of energy, the sharing of the spark of excitement with a group of people who were all in it together for a full 5-day weekend.
Fusebox brings our communities together in ways no other art event does. It gives us multiple venues and shows, and experiments, and gathering points through which to share common ground in conversation. But more than that, it changes our lives for 5 days every year in April, and our focus becomes that of a single community, being in Fusebox together. 2020’s Virtual Edition made me realize that the festival isn’t just about watching, it’s about participating with each other. It’s the slightest, smallest little rituals of togetherness, friendship, and support that it brings out in us.
I watched the Virtual festival all weekend. I let it play in the background while I cooked (sometimes with the cooking shows, but whipping up different things), while I tidied up my house, or while I was working on writing deadlines (thanks ANG for the awesome late night DJ set!). But it wasn’t the same, and through it I realized that Fusebox is equally about the things we see, and the things we don’t. It’s the things that happen behind the scenes on and off the stage, and the moments we celebrate within it. 2020 showed me a part of Fusebox that I desperately miss and that I will never take for granted.
Congratulations to everyone on team Fusebox for making 2020 a reality. I can’t wait to share that spark of energy again with you soon.
*All photos courtesy of the author, with the exception of the panel discussion, snapped by Ron Berry.
Leslie Moody Castro is an independent curator and writer whose practice is based on itinerancy and collaboration. She has produced, organized, and collaborated on projects in Mexico and the United States for more than a decade, and her repertoire of critical writing is also reflective of her commitment to place. She is committed to creating moments of artistic exchange and dialogue and as such is a co-founder of Unlisted Projects, an artist residency program in Austin, Texas. In 2017, she was selected as Curator and Artistic Director of the sixth edition of the Texas Biennial, and was recently the first invited curator in residence at the Galveston Artist Residency. Moody Castro earned a Master’s degree at The University of Texas at Austin in Museum Education with a portfolio supplement in Museum Studies in 2010, and a Bachelor’s degree in Art History at DePaul University in Chicago in 2004, and has been awarded two grants from the National Endowment of the Arts for her curatorial projects (2016, 2017). In addition to her firm belief that the visual arts creates moments of empathy, Moody Castro also believes that Mariachis make everything better.