Friday, September 10
READER COMMENT: Hmmmm... what to say, what to say?
Hmmmm... what to say, what to say?
A little too detached for my taste. I loved the use of the space, the compartmentalization (is that a word? is it the word I'm looking for?), but overall the performances seemed too seperated from each other. Not as much flow in the whole event as pieces coming together haphazardly. Sure, it focused my attention on watching and being watched, the stated theme, but where was the complete breaking of boundaries I expected from an OtB piece?
What saved it quite it bit was how great the performers were. I don't know names but the tall dark-haired woman who made me blow on her nail polish was captivating in both her Plastic Fantastic box and at the Room #7 apartment.
The bedraggled dancer in the funky white tutu had some manic energy to her that made every move intriguing. There was some kinda danger in the air and they all looked like they were having so much fun, I wish I'd been encouraged to join them more.
Was that the intent? It felt like we the audience were extended a tantalizing invitation to plunge into the performance but then nobody did.
Me? I'm trying to curb my enthusiastic nature for now, or at least save it for my own performances. But if we were to join, it should be more than merely implied. It should be demanded.
I did enjoy myself, despite whatever reservations I might have listed above.
Just maybe not as much as the format could have allowed. I hope the 9:30 crowd was rowdier and friendlier.
Naked Category-bending Spasms of pinkk Feels Like Heaven but Cooler
Michael van Baker
Last night I'm on the #8 headed for the Center, and at 13th Ave Jon gets on, and we're off. "So...pinkk," he says. "Ah, what's it about again?" [In the interests of partially disrobing, er...full disclosure, Jon and I both used to work with Laura a few years ago; my attendance at the various pinkks since has been purely voluntary. They're my artistic walks on the non-narrative wild side.]
What's pinkk about? That's the question, isn't it? I mean, I know Laura, I talk with her about the shows, and she has a stated theme with pinkk of somehow making visible the social dynamics of public space. Somehow that intellectual understanding has little to do with my actual experience.
The first thing I notice as I enter OtB is actually a person with her back to me, her arm and hand pointed directionally toward the ticket-taker. These pinkk-people are stationed every so often at corners or what-have-you to guide you along and they're oddly comforting, like a mime who doesn't want to notice you're there.
We make our way into the "Lounge" and Jon sprints off to see what's what, while I stand and revolve slowly to take in the video monitors, people having drinks at tables near the OtB bar, and a nude enclosed in a plastic-sheet space with pink balloons, moving slowly in a way that reminded me of goldfish in a tank.
One of the first things I discover is that it's difficult to watch her perform (from artistic or prurient interest) without becoming an object of interest yourself for people just coming in. "That guy's looking at something," they register, disoriented. "We'll look too. Oh, he's staring at the naked woman!" So I make sure to give equal time to study of the balloons.
I pass through the Sonic Tunnel without it making much an impression, and then emerge into Plastic Fantastic, which is a room of more plastic sheeting, covering the walls, and little performer peep-stations all around. They're translucent so you can see some of what's going on, but they each have a narrow, open entrance with a single chair, so someone can sit and have a personal show.
Again, you're made aware that your personal show is everyone else's show, too. The walls are covered with written conversations and enigmatic, context-less statements. As you circulate, you're aware of the various sightlines you're disrupting, like moving in front of a picture at a museum.
I continue on, into Butoh Land, which I find harrowing, personally, in that it features a performer in Butoh's white clay grieving in silence. It's harrowing because he's in the middle of the hallway and you have to "step around" him to get past. Some people are fascinated and stay to watch.
In Room #7 is the closest thing to an expected performance space, although this too is free-form, with chairs and stools and pillows set around a square space and furniture, phones, and clothes hanging from the ceiling. In here, I remark for the first time the continual audio environment, that is hovering at the edge of consciousness for me, and contributing to the dreamlike fugue state I'm in.
People are gathered around the space, watching nothing take place except their gathering, so I head back through Butoh Land (harrowed twice) and into the Plastic Fantastic miasma of possibly illicit sexiness. I spend some time reading the walls, and never get up the nerve to sit for a personal performance. The music changes, I notice, so I make my way back to Room #7 (THROUGH BUTOH LAND AGAIN!) and the performers gather here now. They interact or not, and speak bits that I recognize from the walls of Plastic Fantastic.
I could describe the performance more, but it's experiential, I think. I've never had any luck deciphering Laura's movement semantics to get to what it all "means." What it is is erotic, disorienting, and publicly intimate, and like nothing else I've wandered into. Jon is still zooming around the space, and riding the #8 back up the Hill, later, he mentions that people were giving him the evil eye for not being quiet and still during the performance. He's also perturbed by pinkk's lack of contextual structure. He wonders if it's a secret "dance language" he's just not getting, like ballet.
I think Laura just likes to put unanticipated movement in front of people who expect relationship. "Crap!" you think, "what the HELL is this person jerking around like for? Why has he just fallen to the ground?" It's more visceral, because it doesn't reassure you by being dance. It feels dangerous.
One element that stands out for me at this moment is the interactivity, the blurring of audience and performance, which is neat to say but harder to pull off. You do end up watching each other watch the performers, you run into the same people in different rooms, and as I sit here now, I have the impression that pinkk is something "we" made and experienced, that group of us last night.
Thursday, September 9
In PINNK what is near what is far? Can I touch?
A detailed and lengthy description of my personal experience of PINNK with questions of inquiry throughout...
Even upon approaching the grounds of OTB it was evident that I was going to be pushed into unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and exciting territory. I've never seen Behnke Center for Contemporary Performance as anything but a dark square in the night, but last night it popped out in a great PINK SQUARENESS. What was happening? The railings were even pink. OTB was taken over and this was going to be a whole world experience. At the ticket booth a computer screen blinked, a keyboard tempted and a single question hovered:
TELL ME A SECRET
People lingered speaking, drinking, eating tacos, some nervous should-I-enter energy, high pitched laughs. A woman in a white suit pressed herself into the wall and I wondered am I making her uncomfortable? Am I making her nervous? Does she know I'm here? I think I might recognize her. I sat near her feet. Is she attempting to be neutral? Is that her objective? Is the wall supporting her? Would she like a break? Why is she here? Sitting there, at her feet, I could feel her breathing her subtle shifting and her larger movements and in that moment I knew she was human,not a mannequin but really human, this was the state I entered the rest of the installation in.
A woman moves incrementally behind plastic, is she naked? I move my eyes closer and find my fingers touching hers and leaning back to ask if I can touch, I'm already touching. We lean in together, fingers touching, breath audible and I can feel her vulnerability even through a layer of murky plastic sheeting, at some point our noses touch. Have I gone too far? Am I imposing on the perfomer? I don't think these things until I've left the woman. Afterwards I feel I've had an extraordinary experience of Butoh, which I tend to think of as intentionally removed and internal and even pained, yet I've shared a warm moment of intimacy. This is going to push the fourth wall of forms and I'm even more nervous and excited by what's before me. I realize as I see some friends that this experience is going to be one of sensations and allowing nearness and farness to travel through me. There are no directions to frame my experience, my own impulse will have to do the framing. A viewing slot just above my shoulder causes me to pause and inch myself up onto the balls of my feet, I see a more traditional Butoh performance with a woman and a man. Incrementally he moves toward the viewing slot and in a few seconds all I see is flesh, inches of white-flaked flesh and muscle and beneath the bones of an upper arm which rises and rises until what's in view is the side of a rib cage. I move toward my friends.
Sitting in conversation with friends, I wonder if I'm undoing my experience. I have an in-depth and detailed conversation, others are also mingling around the lobby. I'm totally immersed in the conversation and my back is to the viewing areas. Surprisingly I maintain an awareness of activity behind me. Am I nervous about going in? The doors open and we begin to move into the other installation areas.
A lipsticked mouth speaks alone, separated from body but deeply connected to words. This is a small video installation in the coat-closet of the lobby. It is beguiling intimate dark and mysterious. Everyone standing around moves in close, we are all nearly touching and the intimacy of that mouth is suddenly very personal. It's talking to me and revealing a whole, tilting, insecure world of unseen people. I want to stay but I'm afraid I'll miss something else, I reluctantly move away. I feel a stain of lipstick on my ear.
I enter another area with some smaller booths, chairs, and every inch of wall space is covered in visqueen with words words words. A confessional on the wall. A secret dialogue revealed in the code of written language. Folks stand around read above below and all around.
The wall of photos somehow links things for me, after a strange encounter with my own desire. I have just witnessed a Butoh woman lying on the floor, covered completely with a gauzy fabric, hovered over by a Butoh man. . .is this sexual? I trace a small piece of lace over the sole of his foot, and though he flinches he remains over the woman's body. I have this intense desire to expose her face, a passing fear that she is dead and we are just watching. I resist my urge and move on and I'm at the wall of photos. They have captured the middle of events, and the people don't seem to be interacting but rather sharing the same space. Something unfolds in my imagination and I think these are the haunted figures of that particular room. A smiling baby. A woman in a wedding dress working on architectural plans of her dream home. A woman in striped pants collapsed in a drugged reverie. A man in a dark sparkly costume waiting for his lover to return to the masquerade. A cowboy-hatted-porn star who's lost the set of his latest movie and remains despondent in this nether land.
From this point on it's like I can see multiple realms simultaneously, even different eras. The bathing suited woman from the forties flirts away, the tutu-animal-woman from some lost stage struggles with escape, the woman in multi-colored pants packs up from a barely recalled one-night stand desperate for another cigarette and trying to quit. A man prepares for a business meeting (I thought of the eighties and the dot-com era) as he talks on the phone trying to conjure up his own feelings of love for the lover who waits on the other end of the phone. These are all travelers and they are all desperately lost seeking an intimacy that somehow evades them.
These impressions could be different each evening, what I know for certain is that it was difficult to leave and even after I was gone I felt like a wanderer a witness and another lost soul.
_Pinkk_ proper (after a bit of butoh and a video of a mouth speaking, familiar and unremarkable) begins in a room draped in plastic, which is covered in hand-written text. The room contains four booths with translucent plastic walls; when you sit at a chair at the entrance to the booth, you receive a sort of avant-garde lap dance from the performer inside---each performer delivering a different more-or-less improvised performance for you as its solo audience (though others can watch over your shoulder).
It's erotic not because of any sexual content (though one dancer brushed an audience member's face with a read feather from a boa), but because of the intimacy; the performer/audience relationship is an exchange of energy, and to have that experience one on one with a person close enough to touch---it drops you into a fluid, boundary-bending space.
From there, you move into On the Board's theater, where a room has been outlined on the floor and furniture hangs from the ceiling. The audience surrounds this diagram, seated in a mix of chairs, couches, and benches.
The performers from the booths enter and start to do things; sometimes they dance, sometimes they talk, sometimes they talk on the phone, sometimes they make eye contact with audience members with something lascivious in their eyes. It's impossible to separate choreography from the overall experience.
Almost anything the performers did would have been engaging to watch, simply because the stage was, again, eroticized---again, not because of sex (though there is brief nudity and the performers are an attractive lot) but because of the voyeuristic set-up: (A) you are looking through the walls of an implied room, (B) the performers have a curious doubleness, in that they both see you but behave with the openness of a person alone, and (C) some members of the audience are sitting, some are standing, some are perched on stools; somehow, the varied deportment of the observers has an effect that is both casual and ineffably decadent.
The cumulative effect both disorients and stimulates. I found myself simultaneously paying rapt attention to the small details of movement and letting my mind wander in a multitude of directions, an almost dream-like free-associative state. I lost track of time; the piece could have gone on for hours and I would have been happy to stay in its intimate embrace. (Full disclosure: One of the performers in _Pinkk_ is Juliet Waller, with whom I create theater under the name Poisonous Toy Theater.)
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More info about PINKK
PINKK by Laura Curry
a performance installation
Sept 9-12 at OtB
Thur-Sat cycles will run at 8:00 & 9:30.
Sun cycle at 8pm only.
$10 COVER CHARGE AT THE DOOR - no advance sales
This special event kicks-off OtB's 2004-2005 Season.
PINKK will transform OtB’s whole 2nd floor into an installation about peeping, blending performance, visual art, spatial design, sound installation, composed score and media to create an environment of heightened sensory experience.
About the artist
Laura Curry born in Chicago, works as an interdisciplinary artist primarily informed from a dance esthetic. Laura has been...
some PINKK links...