When I visited Barcelona a couple years ago, one of my friends decided she was going to use the opportunity to remember and practice all the Spanish she’d ever learned and refused to speak English to any of the locals we met. Likewise, most of the people we interacted with at stores or restaurants wanted to practice their English when talking to us. It was hard work at times to cross the communication barrier, as neither side was fluent, but when a whole conversation was achieved with understanding on both sides, it was always extremely satisfying. My friends and I would return to our airbnb rental at the end of the day, and we’d be completely exhausted, not just from the physical activity of exploring new places, but from the mental openness required of being immersed in a different culture and trying to communicate in a different language.
Cross Pollination feels a little like that. This week, Adrienne is working with sculptor Shelley Spector and theater/dance dramaturg and deviser Mark Lord. Adrienne and Mark both work in the theater world, so in some ways they speak the same language, but they approach their form so differently that they’re definitely using different forms or dialects of it. Meanwhile, Shelley, as a visual artist, is often speaking another language entirely. But all three parties are constantly asking questions and seeking answers from the others, and the moments where everybody reaches equal footing and understanding, whether it’s by participating in an exercise led by one artist, or by conducting interviews that let the others ask in-depth questions, are every bit as satisfying as when Jess had whole conversations with Spanish shopkeepers.
But while I could often let go of the Spanish conversations when I left them, Cross Pollination has a much more lasting effect. The conversations are so dense and openness and authenticity so sought after that I always leave mentally exhausted. But to add to that, not only are the Cross Pollinators communicating across different languages, but their explorations don’t just consist of walking around a city or hiking up a mountain; they’re often trying totally new things, using muscles that they may not even know they have. The work may not be difficult, necessarily, but the newly discovered muscle can end up feeling sore just because it’s so out of practice.
But soreness is exciting when it means you’ve achieved something. Communicating in another language opens the world so much more than being isolated in your own. And Cross Pollination may leave us exhausted ad oversaturated, but it’s the best feeling there is.