Posted by: trailerpilot | 04:12::2009

Sorry Entertainment

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Last night’s Sorry Entertainment at Elastic was the first time in a long time that I’d sat down for a concert of performance art. It didn’t occur to me until after it was underway, actually, how rare it is I see this stuff in a formal (stage-audience) environment. It could’ve been a deliberate shift away from the on-site, casually-framed performances I take to be a present default, but was more likely just the most logical way to present seven wildly-divergent pieces to a large audience in a small space.

I was given a conical paper birthday party hat upon my arrival, which was cute (although eventually detrimental to already-shitty sightlines), and the faux-festive nonsense of a room dressed up for a birthday with a sad Christmas tree by the door, along with the show’s title set a tone that was well-suited to the five performances I stayed for. My boyfriend and I, misinformed, showed up half an hour early, so we left for two Tecate tallboys from across the street and some cash (I walked in thinking I was late, and what I had in my wallet was short of the $7 suggested donation). Turns out there was no rush: Elastic continued to fill up until past 8:30, around which time the evening got off to its profoundly-leisurely start.

Robin Marie’s piece, chirrup!, consisted of (presumably) Marie in a tent in the corner, rustling around inside with some lights. I assumed it was an offstage setup for a later work for the stage so unfortunately I didn’t look too closely. I couldn’t tell you much of anything about it.

Behind it All, by Katie Bateman, may have been wanting a greater proportion of originality but was executed well enough for me not to mind (in general, as regular readers have probably noticed, I’m currently in a place where thoughtful execution, even of shopworn or hackneyed material, beats dis- or non-organized creative venting nine times out of ten). Pulling herself laboriously onto the stage wearing a very pretty, woven golden dress and a makeshift purse knit and braided from plastic bags and filled with glass jars, Bateman slowly and steadily turned up the funny through a neurotic, obsessive production of emptying the jars and arranging their contents. Which contents were embroidery floss, thread and hair in a mostly golden-brown palette. Which she fussed with, laid down on, muttered about, and picked off her tights. Taking out a white blouse and putting it on over her plastic-bag-backpack gave her a spider’s silhouette to match her baggage of web threads, although her manner was an entertaining contrast to the standard usage of female spider imagery. Bateman talks herself up to approaching a few members of the audience for small talk and a handshake, looking the whole time as though she’s about to vomit. She then retrogrades back through filling the jars, her bag, and leaves the stage, deciding in the end to leave the mess behind. After the understatement of her subtle gestures and whispers throughout the piece this showy, theatrical rejection of her baggage was, erm, jarring, but overall it was an interesting and oddly-pretty work.

Emily Smith was introduced as a citizen of the world, born in the U.S., educated in Scotland, and involved in multiple international collaborations. Her work-in-progress The Greatest Love Story Ever Told is a huge, sprawling solo performance, cycling through awkwardly slutty dances to karaoke backing tracks (including Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl), multiple personas, the half-attempts of a simple Midwestern woman to accept her mediocre marriage, porn direction, and healthy sips from an unhealthily-strong, room-temperature pint of vodka & cranberry.  Smith is a powerful performer.  I’m not sure the quiet resignation of poor middle-Americans needs yet another sarcastic stab from a globetrotting twentysomething; a recurring, transparently-staged mock frustration with Elastic’s modest technical setup only added to the sense of unearned nastiness [although taken along with a pair of program notes, one cloying and the other didactic*, even the mere concept of sincerity doesn’t seem to figure into this work (which, for the record, is just fine)].  She does hit a July-esque sweet spot about halfway through, leading the audience through a call-and-response singalong she sets up as herself (representing us) singing a wish for true love into an echoing well (us again, repeating her words and tones).  It wouldn’t work in just any space, but the intimacy and quiet of Elastic allowed this bull’s eye maximum impact.

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Saturn is Adam Rose’s dance, done to a live harmonium accompaniment by Noé Cuéllar (who co-curated Sorry with its cartoonishly soporific Norwegian MC, Snorre Sjønøst Henriksen).  Abstract, as my boyfriend put it, to the point of expressing only (a very dark) mood, Rose galloped, self-flagellated, and precisely gestured around the stage like a plague-stricken, imprisoned Gollum working through some forced penance to the dissatisfaction of a village of inner demons. Unlike his work in drag as Elena, Rose as Rose is unknowable and unrelentingly severe; like Smith, it’s a serious power and command that’s on display, but besides appreciating his talents and conviction, there wasn’t much to receive.  One of Cuéllar’s final chords throws operatic intensity over Rose standing with crossed ankles and outstretched arms (the day before Easter!), his head lolled to one side and face twisted into a twitching, silent scream straight out of Munch or Bacon.  Applied to a work of discernable meaning, Rose could murder an audience with his focus, control and bravery; until then, however, I just want him to be happy.

Marissa Perel re-presented a work, black seeds, shown earlier this year at Depressing Ass Work at BARN in Greenpoint, and I really wanted to like it.  Perel has a voice like a novitiate nun, frail and quiet, yet uses it here to essentially boss people around, directing co-performers, audience members, and crew non-stop.  seeds begins with Perel grinding needy to The Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog, throwing out a few references to Nijinksy’s L’apres-midi d’un Faune stage-fucking before working her way through the crowd in a half-bored binge of frottage.  From there she has people read out loud from cards being passed around (occasionally requesting people repeat the phrases like they mean it) while she cuts into her left forearm with an X-Acto knife.  A live version of CSNY’s Helpless comes on and a young man in the house stands on his chair, preening in gold lamé batwing sleeves, before joining Perel onstage for a hug.  The piece’s program note consists only of the phrase “A cathartic boom in the center of empathic violence.”  I do think Perel is a fascinating person—her CDF/Silverspace Salon in February recounting her experience as part of Miguel Gutierrez’ Freedom of Information 2008 birthed a rich discussion—but as an introduction to her work this was trying, indulgent, depressing for sure but, to me, little else.

There was an intermission and two more performances, an opera-in-progress by Devin King and Sean O’Connell and I’m (She’s) here today by Julia Rich, but looking at how the evening was paced thus far I expected to get out no earlier than 11:30 and we had a birthday party to attend.  Hopefully I’ll catch their work somewhere else soon.

*Program notes for Emily Smith’s The Greatest Love Story Ever Told:

(cue music) It’s always wonderful, special and new but when do two people ever really love each other, as we do? We can’t fail to find happiness together in this wonderful world of today and tomorrow…in a whole lifetime of wonderful tomorrows! A sunny cozy place all of our own. And you’ll do this and I’ll do that and we’ll never want it to be any other way again, ever, for the rest of our lives.

This performance questions the use and origin of words to prescribe emotions. No beautiful images. No romantic ideas. No political statements.

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Responses

  1. […] how my opinions may come across, I’m highly interested in now-local artist Marissa Perel and the direction her work in […]

  2. […] standing and on the other side of the space, trying to make contact in a way reminiscent of Katie Bateman’s Behind it All at last month’s Sorry Entertainment. Illuminating the inside of her mouth with a book lamp, Jaeger retreats from us and the piece as […]


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