“If or If” response by Brigid O’Brien
Unfortunately for anyone who agrees to accompany me to an exceptional museum art exhibit, I will always have a need to re-enter and reassess it two, maybe three times, before I call it a day. For the hours that follow a search for words to hold conversation can be a real struggle. Any remarkable performance leaves me without the option of physically reassessing, and usually without words—but with some kind of luck I was invited to share a little write-up of Kool Raunch Collective’s performance last Saturday at the Dunes. You may be able to imagine the challenge I’ve had, after sitting for the length of a feature film, marinating beneath each layer and dimension of weighty concepts. I really had no choice but to let it soak in for a few days.
The origins of this performance were of epistemology and questions of identity, as Deena O. Hyatt mentioned in her post prior to the performance. A grand projection of the intangible offered the audience a chance to examine these questions through slight answers, to take a walk around this thing we all encounter as human beings. Attached, naturally, to the subject are themes of mortality, sexuality, and death. Appropriately, the performance seemed to be segmented roughly according to these and related themes. It was flanked by spoken acts— activated by surreal conversation style, and settled in traditional storytelling mode. This rendering continued not without choreographed movement, a suitable vehicle for its content. Here, dialogue and dance worked in communion to delineate such an organic theme through an equally organic fashion.
The idea of a knowledge of mortality and its effects on our humanity was demonstrate by performers Catalina Lavalle and Andrew Bucket through a vulnerable state. Brutal memories of profound significance for each were shared in conversation, along with three bottles of wine. Glasses were not reused, but fresh ones were used, and glasses were not collected on the table, but by their sides, beneath their arms. As the weight of the glasses in their arms became too much they had no choice but to let go; with each glass shattered against the stage floor, a clear representation was shown of the many burdens each of us faces within our own lives. Within the last 60 seconds of each relation, a truth was revealed—one that ensured that the speakers’ lives would never be lived the same way again. Following this, the pieces of glass were collected and illuminated, and then violently put to darkness, stunningly seeming to objectify what had just been vocalized.
The foundation of these powerful monologues was fortified by the impressive, intermittent choreographic element introduced post-parlance. Allowing the audience to survey the routine much like a poetic stanza, comrades Sebastian Rousseau and Corey Landolt operated the dance in contemporary format, wearing all black as they mirrored and fought each other, conjuring a sensory relation to the verbal aspect. Perhaps a catalyst for expressing combative or dueling aspects of an identity, it was this that allowed concepts to fasten to each other to create a platform of sudden apprehension.
The postliminary segment of storytelling invited the digestion of sexuality, death, and the complete turbulence that amounts to what is human life, which often times can be presented appropriately through humorous irony. These narratives were presented in a simple manner, with occasional assistance of technological highlighting; crucial sounds and phrases were capitalized with Ivan Khilko’s original sound manipulation. Distinguishable was the fact that these stories were cases of having acquired identity through specific experience, and both were instances that should have maintained endings of relief, but rather retained a feeling of death.
As time was waning and the performance was slowing to an apparent close, the two storytellers shared with each other, and shared with the audience a simple phrase: “I thought I was going to die…” A phrase so simple, but so laden with complexity became magnified under the layers of synthetic echoing, as it would also become magnified organically in each viewer’s mind. Almost a personification of this urgency, the dancers moved accordingly in summation.
Without even having to be told, it was very apparent to me that “If or If”, directed by dancer and choreographer Sebastian Rousseau, was a result of months of work. While a level of improv was apparent throughout the production, skill and detail seemed to largely assist in the articulation of intent. Fortunately for the present portion of the D.C. population, the standard, the potential, and the attached social responsibility of performance art has been reassessed.
Text by Brigid O’Brien
Performance by Kool Raunch Collective
Saturday, June 2, 2012
Location: the Dunes, Washington, D.C.
Duration: approx. 3 hours.
Original Music by:
Production Design by: