The “Get Into It” interviews find interesting people and asks them three questions about their interests. Ideally, this will have nothing to do with literature. [Although for this very good interview, we’ve made an exception.] Too often while bopping around the louche, litmag web haunts, it can feel like a claustrophobic room of monomaniacal chatbots. “Get Into It” should serve as a reminder that we are all practicing an art, or refining a craft, or competing in a sport. Let’s hear what’s driving others to proliferating browser tabs and insomniac nights. And maybe we’ll find a new obsession while we’re at it.
I first heard of the Ear Eater Reading Series in another interview over at HTMLGIANT. Their next reading was later that month. I showed up alone and knew no one else there, but by the end of the evening, I felt as if I’d met a large slice of the Chicago Literary Pie. This interview with Cassandra Troyan, cofounder of the series, took place over email.
What are you into?
Experimental film and video, watching Jersey Shore at the gym, writing, lifting weights, and creating spaces for collective experiences within the quotidian domain. As a performer, I am always drawn to the ways that gestures get amplified according to their juxtaposition of absurdity; moments of touch or intimacy with strangers in a public place, or the arts of communication transformed through different modes of interaction. For example, I started holding EAR EATER as a way of creating an interface for the public and private to meet. In many ways, I feel I often fail, but that is part of the beauty of it. You can only curate or orchestrate chaos so much until it becomes feigned or the noise cancels the signal. I think now I am more interested in nuanced moments of performance where you are not even necessarily sure if the thing has begun, and if so, what it even is.
How’d you get into it?
EAR EATER was originally held in my Pilsen apartment with one of my roommates at the time. The cultural presence of the neighborhood has such a unique vitality and history, from the Slavic presence of its inhabitants in the late 19th century, to Mexican-American, and current gentrification, I always felt pulled towards the embodied contradictions of my Czech ancestors occupying the neighborhood, to later being one of many artists living in the area due to its cheapness and “authenticity.” Geographically it was great because it was so centrally located, and logistically, I do have a lot of friends who live in Pilsen. But since I moved to Hyde Park to be closer to school, and it is much more of trek to make it out here, I believe it has diversified or randomized the EAR EATER crowd to where people from the Creative Writing or the English Department at University of Chicago who are complete strangers, can come to the space of my home and hear poetry, or witness a performance, but without it being necessitated by a party atmosphere. People come for the event first, and the social is just a convenient part of it. I now run it with the talented and brilliant multi-tasker, Colin Winnette. I think both of our approaches as being visual artists/performers, along with writing, makes EAR EATER have a distinct sensibility. This year I also live with 3 other women who are in my MFA program at U of C, so we also run an apartment gallery called CATHOUSE. The gallery has been another means for disrupting the stability of the home, as the work gets to inhabit spaces throughout the apartment in the living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom(s), etc.
What would you say to someone thinking of starting a reading series?
I can’t necessarily recommend that anyone start a reading series, just like any other seemingly small endeavor that will actually take up more of your precious unpaid time than expected. It’s the same reason that people start artist-run live/ work spaces, literary presses, magazines, websites, blogs or any other site for connection or disseminating information; its because there is a compulsion for a desire to belong, and the necessity in creating contexts to make that possible.
The next Eat Eater event happens this weekend as part of AWP. You! Should! Go! Details here.