Three Row Poles to Enlightenment


Thomas E. Brady, BFA, BFA, MFA

Performance Artist

Kansas University, Lawrence, Kansas BFA Design

Kansas University, Lawrence, Kansas BFA Drawing & Painting

Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ MFA Art, Media Performance






The performance/opera begins with the premise that, throughout history, invention has led to an accumulating base of mathematical, art and scientific knowledge. Mathematics and science, through the reductive process, create repeatable patterns and definable data within the complexity of chaos. It is art that injects the magic into this knowledge triangle.


Art, and the meditation of art, is the method by which we develop our understanding of the “internal” and “external” forces. It is the source of the intuitive knowledge that connects the previously unconnected into unexpected artistic, mathematical and scientific patterns. In developing an understanding of the relationship between complexity, chaos and the human experience – psyche, one has the opportunity to develop greater intuitive knowledge about the purpose and the base of our reality.


It is the human component that challenges the definable and the indefinable. Reason is the culprit and interpretation of the methodology by which inspiration is brought forth from that mysterious core of the human spirit. As we approach the issue before us, it is the mind’s ability to wonder, question, doubt, see connections where there are none, build beliefs on flawed data and ultimately discover, that allows us to grasp the next true connection.


The importance of the psychological, emotional basis of human existence, in the mathematical/scientific process is often overlooked. The meditative descent into thought focuses the mind and propels us with excitement into the consciousness of now. It is here that we experience exhilaration, fear, speed, expectation, vertigo in our pursuit of knowledge. This emotionally charged adventure shuts out the rest of the world and allows us to see those invisible connections, resulting in inspired thought.




Three Row Poles to Enlightenment is a Koan, a riddle, a paradox used as an aid in meditation and a means of gaining intuitive knowledge. The power of Koan evolved from the intention to understand our struggle with the inner forces of good and evil. A Koan gives rise to an attitude of understanding life by understanding death. It is the pursuit of what is simple, efficient and immediately applicable to dealing with reality.


In Three Row Poles to Enlightenment, objects, actions, words empowered by association and infused with mystic meaning emerge as dancing visions of the unknowable, the untouchable, the unreachable, the unheard, the unseen and the unspeakable. Here we step into a world beyond judgments, beyond hatred and jealously, beyond ourselves. Here we exist in power – pure energy - humming with the forces of life. Here we find the origins of all of our spiritual understanding. Here we see minute slivers of divinity . . . a matrix of all the pieces . . . . existing in perfect harmony . . . good and evil in perfect balance . . . . evidence of eternal life. There is a conscious juxtaposition of traditional symbols from both Christian and Buddhist thinking.  




Three Row Poles to Enlightenment is a performance exploring the triangular seeds of knowledge mathematics, art and science. It explores the power of controlling the external and the internal forces by presenting to the performers a series of predetermined systems, physical, mathematical and psychological with which to deal as they traverse the stage space, a metaphor for life’s path.


The architecture of the performance, independent of a narrative armature, asks the audience to search for and ultimately rely on their own inner spiritual interpretation trusting their hunches, opening doors to their secret meanings.


Antonin Artaud in his book the Theater and its Double, points out the importance, particularly in western cultures, of dialogue and the subordination of the mise en scene to mere background. He discusses how postures, gestures, attitudes, objective intonations, mime and pantomime exist apart from text and are generally considered the minor part of theatre. His idea of the possibilities of theatre are best expressed in this excerpt:


The idea of a play made directly in terms of the stage, encountering obstacles of both production and performance compels the discovery of an active language, active and anarchic, a language in which the customary limits of feelings and words are transcended.


Artaud suggests that Balinese theatre, based upon age old traditions, preserves intact the secrets of using gestures, intonations and harmonies in relation to the senses on all possible levels. They may have preserved the magic of the language of the arts, relegating dialogue to the background. [2]


The Physical Space is arranged with 18 poles, 8” diameter set 30 inches apart in three rows of 6. The height of the poles varies up to five feet and creates, when viewed at a distance, a wave-like pattern. Each pole is assigned an identifying number, allowing each performer to negotiate the pole grid as instructed.


Lights are recessed in the false floor between the poles, set to shine up to the ceiling. General lighting in the space need not create total darkness, but should at least provide the ability to lower the overall light in the performance space.


Audio/Sound Track The sound track embraces the complexity of the human mind and recognizes its ability to conduct multiple conversations internally, holding conflicting views and methods of processing data and experience. The mind is capable of taking in information and creating through thought, ideas within the mind, while simultaneously directing external action. The performance investigates the correlation between thoughts, emotions and actions and its ability to use systems, objective principals, structures and discipline as the basis for action.


Audio Tracks

Base Track #1: The musical track creates an audio base over which the other tracks are            laid. This track sets a contemplative atmosphere from which the viewer may begin their journey into self.


Command Tracks:  The command tracks are recorded to individual Offset Pods to begin          approximately 5 minutes after the base track. This track contains the verbal instructions         to the performers’ to move from one pole position to another, using the numerical cues.


The timing between commands varies and is measured to create variable pacing of the   performers’ movement skipping across the tops of the poles.


Dialogue Tracks #2-3: The dialogue expresses fragmented thoughts about a subject that          remains largely hidden.


#3. The dialogue contained on this track is expressive of the personality who tends to see            things as they are. They question and wonder. They are driven by objective principals.


#4. The personality expressed in this track is one of denial of the way things are. Temperamental and romantic, this personality cultivates and prolongs personal feelings. Intensifies. Alone.


These three tracks ignore narrative convention and sentence structure in favor of word      placement, repetition, sound and multiplicity of meaning. As the piece progresses the three tracks begin to reflect greater harmony of spirit.


The Action (See diagrams) Two performers are seated at opposite ends of the performance space, on pole one and fifteen, dressed in black body-skin. As the performance begins, the musical track is joined by the dialogue tracks. The performers are directed by the command track. They move in circular patterns on the tops of the poles, towards the center than back, across rows and forward again. These movements are repeated and contained, with neither performer stepping past the middle poles to the opposite side. They sometimes come within a pole of each other but do not cross over.             


The translation of the instructions into live action creates a challenge to the performer to control the body’s movement, balance, position to accomplish the movement as directed and understood.


The consciousness of the performer must go within to direct the forces of movement into the toe of the foot and take a stance on one leg in the new position.


As the performance continues, the performers are instructed to perform a series of mirrored movements – moving in tandem around the space.


As the performance moves towards conclusion, the music and dialogue tracks fade to silence. 


The female performer standing on pole 15 pulls a 12 inch square sheet of translucent paper – masks with holes cut for the eyes from behind the pole. She proceeds to place the mask in front of her face, looks around momentarily and passes it on to the male performer standing on pole 11. He in turn places the paper in front of his face, peers through the holes at the audience, steps to pole 7, peers and throws the paper into the air where it is caught by the wind from the industrial fan positioned off stage. The paper flies through the air and disappears into the darkness. This process of passing the colors is repeated 5 or 6 times. Each paper is of a different color and when placed on the face catches the light from the stage floor spots. The masks which are passed from one performer to the other appear to be drops of pure light.


The movements take on more dance-like gestures, skipping from one pole top to the other, eventually taking a squatting position in the farthest and highest pole. The performers remain there motionless and in silence.


Slowly one performer begins to uncurl, laying on his back atop the poles in a slanted, inverted cross position. An operatic aria sung by a female vocalist swells then gradually fades. The female performer standing on pole 15 reaches down and hands the reclined male performer the corner of a thin white translucent cloth which he pulls across the surface of his reclining body. The wind from the fan blows the mist light sheet across the performers’ body with the ends flapping in the wind. The female performer stands looking out at the audience. The light shines on her face seen through her thin dark mask and across the surface of the reclining figure. The lights are dimmed slowly and the performance is concluded.

By empowering the moment

we release the mind

past and future


for a meditative moment

live in the now.



1. Philip Galanter, BA, MFA Interactive telecommunications program, New York University, New York, USA “What is Generative Art?” complexity theory as a Context for Art Theory. Section 4 Complexity Science as a Context for Understanding System, based on text written with Ellen K. Levy in preparation for the exhibit co-curated “COMPLEXITY/Art and Complex Systems”. Opened at the Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz fall 2002.


2. Antonin Artaud “The Theater and its Double” Grove Press, in New York, New York 10003.