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Christian Rizzo
i might as well want the blue of the sky and ride away on a donkey

May 18-20, 2006

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Monday, May 22
    Viewer Comment:
    By Dorothy Lemoult

    Wow. On the Boards, wow !!!
    To close your season with such a gutsy show !!!

    I was mesmerized by the specificity and the ritual that Rizzo puts himself and the audience through. Like a friend said to me after the show : " I've realized I don't need narrative in performance. I just need the artists to be present and let me see them."

    I have this theory that when people aren't present, they become "see-through". You can't keep your eyes on them. Their bodies seems like smoke. They become volatile. Rizzo is just the opposite of that and yet he doesn't ever become opaque.

    His language is hiw own and never, do you feel an ounce of doubt or hesitation on the performer's part. He is entirely committed to the world he has created that as an audience member I was able to enter that world and experience the sheer joy of being human. The sheer pain. The sheer absurdity of having a body and objects and places in which to move these in.

    So many performance artists doing things which are similar to Rizzo can be so full of themselves and their performance becomes stage masturbation. Rizzo's quiet confidence in his work is a true sharing. His focus is outward and though one is never certain of the meanings and the things which are being shared, there is never any doubt, that something precious and extremely personal is being expressed and communicated.

    Empty space and intimacy...
    What else do we need ?

    I wish the line " Le merveilleux est sans fin" (The wonderful never ends...) had been translated in some fashion (a screen?) because I think it was an essential part of the performance ( when that line came through in the final soundscape). While it wasn't necessary in order to understand and appreciate the work, it was definitely a beautiful meaningful moment (when you are finally given words after a long stretch of body language, the meaning of the words become gold. They become the most precious thing).

    Merci Mr. Rizzo. Merci On the Boards.

    ~ Another Frenchy in the city.

    posted by tania @ 12:23 pm | Permanent link

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    Viewer Comment:
    By Craig Snyder

    there is nothing in the world better then witnessing an artist perform what they believe. experiencing a production of work in which you simultaneously feel affixed and transfixed - early allegiances to a moving body which you do not trust, but will gladly follow, is what i valued most from Christian's performance.

    i mostly find it difficult to place my faith in someone elses hands as the viewer. it has to be earned. proven to be safe, even though it may very well be shaken. as the night progressed and the movement expanded, the gestures more violent, the sounds less distinctive and more demanding - i watched with pleasure and grinned from ear to ear. i became far less concerned with where he was taking me and more concerned with the beauty of the moments along the way. brilliant.pleasurable and most of all, hopeful.

    posted by tania @ 12:21 pm | Permanent link

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Friday, May 19
    Viewer comment:
    By Amy O'Neal

    Wow! What the hell? Praise Jesus! Christian Rizzo- little French man who wears a Blondie tank top and a tiny, pink unicorn purse with camo shorts (I met him afterwards). If specificity turns you on (as it does me) do not miss this show! My favorite moment is Christian crawling like a large insect into the stage right room, shirtless, a stocking on his head and a dead animal skin draped across his back. The little fleshless, boneless, legs of this dead animal dangling off his body made me chuckle. I spent the red, green, shadowy, glittery, furry, cacophonous, playfully controlled, and slightly diabolical, hour smiling with my jaw dropped and giggling in delightful disbelief that these bizarre, beautiful things were happening in front of me.

    I have seen a lot of European and American dance/performance art stuff in the past 6 years and there are some trends that he uses for sure: live, manipulated sound (I wish that not everything was about reverb and loops, but it was fitting), dancing in ski masks (very French), and putting stockings on your body and stuffing them with things (B.D.C/Tom Plischke from Germany circa 2000 and many other people in the world since the 60's). Being a generative body artist/choreographer/creator of live images myself, I know that I also (as well as every other artist in the world) tap into global art trends both consciously and unconsciously. It is interesting to see these things perpetuating through time and recycling themselves in unexpected ways because nothing is new. It is all about context and intent. Seeing this show was incredibly validating for me as an artist.

    Watching someone present their strange little brainy world, without apology and with undeniable commitment, is never uninspiring. We place way too much importance on unnecessary and devaluing categorization of art that we are way too often unable to experience things purely for what they are. Sure, I know a language has to be created to get the work out there, but it sets up expectations that can be detrimental to experience of the work itself. I don't want to know what it is, I want to figure that out on my own, but most people are afraid of that notion. (Not OTB audiences, however. Heavens no! and thank God!) I have been graciously reminded that I too can present my strange little brainy world without apology (and with undeniable commitment) and that the rest will speak for itself, good or bad, dance or "not dance".

    posted by tania @ 6:42 pm | Permanent link

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    Viewer Comment:
    By Mary Sheldon (Molly) Scott

    I sat in the front row (I almost never get to do that). It was a good choice for this event. I came home and waved my hands around and drew pictures and tried to share with my partner and collaborator what is was that had animated me. I learned a lot about dance tonight.

    I believed Christian's body. Each gesture was so clearly defined - and was not a gesture of one part of the body but of the whole body. It was that complete physical involvement of all parts of the body in every single moment of the piece that made this work so inspiring and enlightening. No matter what physcial and/or sonic action was taking place, the completeness of Christian's physcial involvement was profound. Unique. Believable.

    I don't know if any artist can discover this level of commitment to and awareness of the smallest physcial resonance without the luxury of a full-time involvement in the studio - something that American artists are often denied unless they have independent needs. This is the outcome not only of creative genius, but also of a culture that supports the arts and allows time and time and time and time in the studio - an enormous accumulation of practice and research. (I believe that many American artists make sublime work in spite of and even because of the obstacles we face - but damn, what could we make if we could practice at this level!).

    Not every choice in every moment was fully satisfying. I thought the first third/first quarter (I am not good at measurements) was sublime. I could not believe the level of simplicity and accuracy in this artist's choreography/physicality. Stunning and relaxing and inspiring. The fire/rain of small red beads. Stunning. Not only was the visual image beautiful, but the gestural/functional action(s) that supported this image were natural and authentic, which further magnified and supported the image. The bubble/balloon/seeds/sounds.....beautiful.

    The image I question the most was the moment in which the black stockinged leg was stuffed with red fabric. There was something so potent about that image - so complex and charged and open and sad and humorous and revealing.....I thought the choice Christian made in this moment of potency was the obvious one (the performance art one) rather then the mysterious or vulnerable one. It was still a good choice...an interesting choice...but not the essential choice. That is still waiting to be discovered.

    The only other critical/choice moment for me was during the punk/rant/chant/rock/texture phrase at the end. The most profound moment in that territory was when Christian turned to the side and began to rock/pulse his body front to back....I could have kept watching that for a long, long time - and had a pang of regret when the image returned to the mike. There was one moment - a totally sublime and almost unnoticable moment in which Christian turned from one wall to another wall around a corner of the set - I can't find words to tell you what a nice, nice, very tasty physical moment that was. One of many. Anyway - a very good night at On the Boards. Thanks Christian. Thanks Lane.

    posted by tania @ 6:00 pm | Permanent link

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    Viewer Comment:
    By TuesD Chambers

    I wish I could say I enjoyed it, because then that would have been MAYBE two out of five shows this season that I enjoyed. We bought a six pack this season, which will not be repeated based on performances like Christian Rizzo's. The performance last night was painful, and I'm not talking about the stress on my eardrums. It was a complete rip-off of The Ring and lacked any sort of artistic ability. We (and other patrons) left early, only too happy to be free of such a poor performance. I don't have any positives to say about the event. I have seen performances at OTB that were STUNNING, this was just "slit your wrists" horrible. Wish it wasn't so bad.

    posted by tania @ 5:18 pm | Permanent link

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    Viewer Comment:
    By Sherry Beacham

    I actually walked out on the Christian Rizzo performance last night. It wasn't dance in any form except for a few robotics'. My friend and I sat thought half and then I was so embarrassed that I had brought her we left. I have never done this in my life and have many season tickets in all area's of the arts. This show was the biggest disappointment I've seen since coming to many performances of On The Boards for many years. I'm sure I wasn't alone last night.

    posted by tania @ 5:15 pm | Permanent link

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    Tableaux Vivants
    By Allen Johnson

    Finally I came to regard as sacred the disorder of my mind.
    I invented the color of vowels!

    I red, O blue, U green…I prided myself on inventing a poetic language accessible some day to all the senses…

    At first it was an experiment.

    I wrote silences, I wrote the night. I recorded the inexpressible.

    ~ Arthur Rimbaud, “A Season in Hell”

    Christian Rizzo has been to Hell.

    For those who have not, his work will amount to so much noise and flailing.These are the same people who dismiss Jackson Pollock. Or don’t know how to drive. Or kiss.

    Rizzo is so exquisitely gifted and self-aware, and so beautifully in command of his media, that questions of motivation, strategy, epistemology or toxicology are utterly beside the point, and melt away – or become pedestrian, at best.

    I have been trying to focus (with limited success) upon just what it was that the beauty of “autant vouloir…” did to me.

    There were compositions, silences, gestures, suggestions, withholdings, erasures, ellipses, elisions and the tiniest, quietest transformations. And for what?
    For beauty.
    But, for what?
    For faith in beauty.
    But, for what?
    For the faith that beauty can still actually affect us, and disarm us.

    There is a sequence at the microphone where Rizzo loses himself in a kind of jacked-up synesthesia, and he’s tasting sounds, drinking echoes of words, voicing with his hairy insect eyes, unmoored, unbounded and so beautifully fucking free, as to be newly able to feel and taste and hear and smell and see.

    It was one of several places during the show wherein the performance was so deeply resonant that I was affected by a kind of contact high, and it became clear that Christian Rizzo operates from a place that is far beyond a concern with technical and physical mastery.

    This ain’t no party.
    This ain’t no disco.
    This ain’t no foolin’ around.
    This ain’t no Mudd Club, or CBGB.
    I ain’t got time for that now.

    ~ Talking Heads, “Life During Wartime”

    This is ritual.

    Ours is a culture based on excess, on overproduction; the result is a steady loss of sharpness in our sensory experience.
    All the conditions of modern life – its material plenitude, its sheer crowdedness – conjoin to dull our sensory faculties.
    What is important now is to recover our senses.
    We must learn to
    see more, to hear more, to feel more. ...

    In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art.

    ~ Susan Sontag, “Against interpretation”

    posted by tania @ 4:20 pm | Permanent link

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    Viewer Comment:
    By Caroline Hauge

    I’m glad I held off on commenting until I had an opportunity to digest the show. Frankly, I left feeling a little disappointed. What had I just experienced? It wasn’t until the next day when a coworker asked about the show that I fully appreciated the complexities of Christian Rizzo’s performance all packed in a random hour. What did I experience? Impromptu sound manipulation/music creation, dance, performance art…and the glitter??!!? Something that needs to be experienced to be believed.

    posted by tania @ 12:43 pm | Permanent link

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    Kirk Anderson and Evan Mosher from "Awesome" discuss Christian Rizzo
    By Evan Mosher

    Kirk: So you're going to do what?
    Evan: I'm going to try to transcribe the bulk of our conversation before and after the show. From memory.
    Kirk: Maybe you shouldn't have stopped by your car on the way to the theatre.
    Evan: I don't know what you're talking about.
    Kirk: Anyway, didn't Bret Fetzer use this conceit to review noSIGNAL a couple weeks ago? Don't you think someone might notice that you're copping a gimmick that was used to review your own OtB show?

    ... Download the rest of Evan's blog entry here as a Word doc!

    posted by tania @ 12:37 pm | Permanent link

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    Let's Drop the Pose, Shall We?
    By Tamara Paris

    Don’t destroy your chances of enjoying this show by reading the program beforehand. Just fold it up, put it in your pocket and save it for afterwards. Maybe you can glance at it in the lobby or better yet inspect it in the privacy of your own home where you’ll no doubt be reduced to a moaning puddle of jelly by the starkly humorless, painfully post-modern rantings of an artist who has apparently had his sense of humility surgically removed. What’s with the French and their willful destruction of meaning? My husband thinks it has something to do with the war and feeling real guilty about the Holocaust and everything but I just dunno. That said, the show is pretty fun to watch.

    Rizzo does his dance/performance art hybrid schtick inside a stark, wooden box reminiscent of an experimental maze for rats, a subway tunnel, a place glimpsed only in very bad dreams. I loved the unused dead space in the center and the moments when he passed from one side of the stage to the other disappearing from our view for a moment. The lights were the real star of the show -- dense, stark, hypnotic and attuned to his every herky-jerky move.

    Rizzo performs a series of actions -- growing a little homunculus friend on his leg, dancing with an animal skin, dropping pebbles into a metal box -- that have a strange kind of elegance but are structured to aggressively deny connection and drive a stake through the heart of narrative. Which is cool, I guess. But what we’re left watching is sort of like flipping through the channels of a TV while you’re in a hotel in a foreign country -- a torrent of weird, funny and ultimately forgettable images. Hey, I’ve got a joke for you -- okay, three guys walk into a bar -- Joseph Beuys, Leigh Bowery and Marcel Marceau. That’s it. That’s the joke.

    I'm such a punk. I should have added something to my snarky review about how super-cool it is that OTB brought this show to Seattle. An American debut! Of a crazy, weird performance artist dancer cat! How cool is that? OTB rocks. Thanks for inviting Matt and I to see the show and thanks too for letting us blather on the blog. What else? Oh yeah, thanks for nurturing local folks like our own little collective HKPG and our buddies "Awesome" and thanks too for helping to expose us to some of the nuttiest, edgiest stuff in the whole wide world which of course helps us become even edgier and nuttier. An inescapable vortex of ART! You guys are so great. And Christian Rizzo -- pompous program notes aside -- put on a really enjoyable and thought-provoking evening. I'm glad I saw it and I'm also really glad you had the courtesy to provide earplugs. Thanks and congrats on a fantastic season!
    xo tamara

    posted by tania @ 12:36 pm | Permanent link

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    Short Viewer Comments:
    By various

    JT: WTF! Pretty bizzarre!

    Anonymous: more glitter! more vaseline!

    Juliette Brush-Hoover: Christian Rizzo was totally exhilarating. I had goose bumps up and down my arms for most of the performance. See it.

    Dolphin: Primordial ooze + high tech = NOW! I love dance that makes me feel like dancing.

    posted by tania @ 11:02 am | Permanent link

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    Viewer Comment:
    By Johann Drewett

    I have seen a lot of good performance art pieces in my life, this was not one of them. To me it seemed the artist was reenacting his own personal drug trip. Although somewhat interesting, it did not come off very well to me. I actually started to get the giggles half way through the piece which I assume is not the intended response the artist was looking for. For me , the over use of echo feedback and manipulation of sound in performance art has become somewhat tiresome, although it was well done here . Nothing new here for me, but I do applaud the effort. Thank you for this opportunity to reply.

    posted by tania @ 10:46 am | Permanent link

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    Viewer Comment:
    By Jim Demetre

    The performance was at once extremely rigorous and compellingly restrained; an act of imagination grounded in something strangely familiar. Imagine if Matthew Barney had read Descartes and taken his words to heart.

    posted by tania @ 10:43 am | Permanent link

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    Yelling is Fun
    By Matt Fontaine

    Christian Rizzo is the center of a machine which has no center, the task of which is to triangulate the attention of the viewer upon various voids in order to strip the body and the dance of meaning. The effect, of course, is akin to fashion, as fashion also is purposed by consciousness with excising the utility of the body and leaving it open to the flow of pure desire, pure commerce, pure exchange. As each waypoint is passed, the viewer comes to realize that each is an illusion, self-created by the neurotic self caught at the shear point between the old world, with its kings, hierarchies, territorial wars, agriculture, animal pleasures, hypercentralized regulation and unregulated daily life, God, and the worship of God--and the flows and piping of contemporary life (parliaments/celebrities, plateaus, wars of "resources," services, consumer pleasures, hyper-diffuse self-regulation and minutely observed daily life, celebrities and the worship of celebrities). Rizzo creates a celebration of that shear point in which the hopes and dreams of the audience that it will understand are obliterated in willful aestheticism and a pornographic self-obsession. The metaphor of the prison is also clear--Rizzo becomes a puppet for whom every sound he makes, every movement, is recorded and becomes the background of his existence: the panopticon of grips, soundmen and EFX technicians.

    I would like to propose some alternate titles for this enjoyable work:
    "Help! Marcel Marceau is Trapped in The Matrix!"
    "I Threw a Rave and Nobody Came"
    "I Guess the French Intelligentsia Really Won't Ever Get Over May of 1968"
    "The Tragic Senescence of Bruce Lee"
    "Even Deleuzers Get Lucky Sometimes"
    "I Gotta Dance"
    "What's That On Your Leg? Why, it's the Panopticon!"
    "I'm in Mummenschanz, but What I Really Want to do is Direct"
    "Yelling is Fun"

    Great show, and a great closer to a great season.

    posted by tania @ 10:07 am | Permanent link

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    Viewer Comment:
    By Scott

    Rizzo was totally fresh. Certainly unlike anything I've seen around here, which gives me a charge. Many many memorable images/moments. The elephantiasis-deformed, fabric-bleeding leg of NOW was one such memorable image, as was the lifeless fox pelt floating eerily upward and then flopping flat, empty of soul and hope, to the floor. Loved the rain of plastic red pellets. The red in general. All executed with such phenomenal precision and presence, exquisite clarity to the movement and a totally intense single-minded focus. Captivating performer. There were a number of surreal moments of hesitation as he went about his tasks -- those unexpected moments of pause helped create the sense of a distorted existence in his confined world of right angles. I liked the contrast of the occasional flower against that world. The sound engineering was unbelievable.

    There were a few times when I lost focus. Shadow ball section was one of them. I'll admit that I tune out at most performances, especially solo evenings since I'm a 'give me geometry and spatial relationship and personal interaction' viewer -- tough to have those in a solo evening.

    Looking forward to next season, meantime I'll chew on this. Was he calling me a sinner? How'd he know?

    posted by sara @ 5:00 am | Permanent link

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