Speak Uneasy

By Lilledeshan Bose

Posted March 18, 2010 in Arts & Culture

It sounds simple enough: review artist Koyote the Blind’s “The Telling,” which he performs every Thursday. It’s touted as “a highly experiential and immediate Toltec performance art form.” But before I go into what I thought of the performance, here’s a quick explanation of various ideas behind the whole thing. Trust me, you’ll need it.

1. Koyote the Blind’s “The Telling” is brought to you by the Tequihua Foundation, whose goal is to expose the world to the ancient art form of the Toltecs.

Wikipedia says the Toltecs were the pre-Columbian population of central Mexico. Supposedly, the Toltecs were an ancient society of priests and warriors, and their practices were supposed to lead people to the highest possible spiritual attainment.

2. Koyote the Blind is The Tequihua Foundation’s resident artist and most of their work revolves around him.

The members of the Tequihua Foundation believe that Koyote is descended from a Toltec shamanic lineage of Mesoamerica. He inherited the sacred art of “The Telling,” by which he is able to lead audiences to other dimensions, other worlds and spiritual enlightenment. The foundation’s mission: “Through the lineage of Koyote the Blind, The Tequihua Foundation makes available the arts and teachings of the ancient Toltec for the attainment of self-transformation and the benefit of All Beings Everywhere.”

3. The Tequihua Foundation also believes in a bunch of other things that are crunchy granola and out of this world.

Before we watched “The Telling,” the audience was ushered into a small sitting room at the Life Arts Building in Riverside to prep us for the show. It was the Tequihua Foundation’s office, and there they sold beta blocker amulets, books on the healing powers of AkaDua (similar to Japanese Reiki healing), and pamphlets with transcriptions of previous Tellings by Koyote the Blind.

With all that out of the way, here’s what I thought of the show:

Koyote the Blind doesn’t look like a shaman, whatever they’re supposed to look like. He’s overweight, has a scraggly beard, and wears sunglasses, a coat and a cowboy hat in a room that’s about 85 degrees. He sits before his audience in a stage set up with representations of the four elements: water (in a bowl), fire (via candles), air (via burning incense) and earth (a plant, I think?).

The room is totally dark, and the whole audience watches him silently. He then starts talking—a stream of consciousness monologue—for 40 minutes or so. His extemporaneous storytelling topics vary. At the show I saw, he delved into his childhood in El Salvador. Other Tellings are said to go anywhere from bawdy humor to musings on life and death.

“The Telling” is also streamed live on the web for the duration of the show, with a transcription of the text for people watching online. After the show, there’s a “conversation”—audience members sit around in the sitting room and ask Koyote to explain his concepts further.

Artist Koyote the Blind’s one-man show isn’t exactly a play. Neither is his storytelling a straight narrative. I kindly term it “epic poetry;” after all, he speaks without pause for almost an hour.

He’s not an actor, unless he’s the greatest actor in the world, and never stops acting. He really does believe—as does everyone around him—that he’s imparting the wisdom of the ancient Toltecs via “The Telling.” Further Googling led me to the term “transcendental experiential art,” which is what Koyote does. He’s someone who experiences life as art beyond the five senses—one that’s performed beyond perceived limits.

The problem with “experiential art” is that you need to suspend your disbelief to be able to appreciate it. Take what’s real, take what you can see, hear and feel using your five senses, and keep that on the back burner. Instead, to be able to appreciate “experiential art,” you have to be open to things that my boyfriend calls “batshit crazy.” And I’m just not that kind of audience.

As the Tequihua Foundation says, “Words are insufficient to express or contain this magical art and invocation as Koyote moves across and between the known and unknown spaces of reality and consciousness.” In that way, “The Telling” is less of an artistic endeavor and more of an experience for spiritual questers.

After all, if I were to judge it purely on artistic merit, I would just say I didn’t enjoy the performance and I wouldn’t recommend it. My boyfriend thought it was a waste of time, my mom fell asleep and I got really claustrophobic. But I don’t think that would be fair to Koyote the Blind and his many believers. Criticizing the show seems more akin to criticizing a religion. And who am I to diss what other people believe?

“The Telling” at The Plum House Coffee Club, 3882 12th St., Riverside, (951) 784-1369; www.myspace.com/theplumhouse, www.tequihuafoundation.org, (951) 686-3471. Sat, April 3. 5:30PM. Tickets $15.


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