A Strange Object in the Fourth Dimension

Tesseract marries literature, film, music, and interactivity

Claire Vaye Watkins
Claire Vaye Watkins (Photo courtesy of Lily Glass)

Prepare for a convergence of space, time, and art into a single hypercube of cultural experience. In other words, a typical Thursday night in Austin – cubed.

Local literary magazines and independent presses like Foxing Quarterly and Write Bloody Publishing have shown a remarkable attention to Austin's richly textured artistic world, hosting events that incorporate music, performance, and visual arts into their celebration of the written word. On June 20, A Strange Object, the small press headed up by former American Short Fiction editors Jill Meyers and Callie Collins, will add to that movement a highly curated quarterly reading series called Tesseract.

In geometry, a tesseract is the fourth-dimensional equivalent of a cube, and Tesseract will feature four main blocks of programming: literature, film, local music, and an interactive feature that Collins describes as "kind of a wild card." For the inaugural event, author Claire Vaye Watkins will read from her award-winning story collection Battleborn, described as "a perfect collection" by judges for the 2012 Story Prize. "We couldn't be more excited to have her," Collins says, calling Watkins' exploration of the American West "fresh and beautiful."

The interactive portion of the evening will be presented by philosopher Tamler Sommers, author of the McSweeney's book A Very Bad Wizard. In his popular podcast, Sommers facilitates approachable and accessible conversations about big philosophical topics like morality and free will. A short film called "Beijing Silvermine" by Emiland Guillerme will feature archival photographs of China in the 20 years following the Cultural Revolution. The photographs, reproduced from negatives salvaged by Thomas Sauvin, show Chinese citizens sampling a new life of consumer capitalism and leisure in the years between 1985 and 2005. Local band Tele Novella (featuring members of Agent Ribbons, Voxtrot, and Belaire) will entertain guests as they sample a special cocktail devised for the occasion by mixologist Jason Stevens on the airy, modern rooftop of the AMOA-Arthouse at the Jones Center Downtown.

Collins and Meyers drew inspiration for the name of the series from Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, in which "tesseract" is a way of traveling through time and space similar to a wormhole. Meyers explains: "In the novel, it's a method of transport, and you're not always certain where you'll end up." Transporting the audience from the American West to China and back again, the selection of literature, film, and music is designed to provide a pipeline to past memories and visions of the future. "We're excited to move together with our audience through these different explorations," Meyers says. "But we have no way to predict what will come out of them."

A Strange Object, with its stated mission of publishing "surprising, heartbreaking fiction alongside thoughtful ephemera," will publish its first book on Oct. 1, a debut collection of short stories that Meyers calls "mesmerizing and mysterious": Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail by Michener Center for Writers fellow Kelly Luce.

Meyers hopes that in addition to introducing Austin to impressive and daring new authors, A Strange Object can provide a locus for its most exciting interdisciplinary experiences. "Austin is such a collaborative town, and it's so warm. There are people working in different fields who already interact. We're looking to bring that into a structure, and allow people to see how these different disciplines speak to one another."

Tesseract will take place at 7:30pm on June 20 on the rooftop of the Jones Center at 700 Congress. Tickets are $5 for AMOA-Arthouse members and $10 for nonmembers; see www.amoa-arthouse.org/2013/tesseract for complete details.

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A Strange Object, Tesseract, Jill Meyers, Callie Collins, Tamler Sommers, Beijing Silvermine, Emiland Guillerme, Tele Novella, Jason Stevens, AMOA-Arthouse, Texas Book Festival 2013

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