The Performant: Singing the Body Eclectic

Pub date September 30, 2010
SectionPixel Vision

Local Arts: “Bodies in Space(s)” and Project Bandaloop float beneath and soar above

Because words so often fail in the realm of the everyday, it’s not surprising that some performers prefer to eschew them altogether, crafting their manifestoes with the indelible inks of pure action. Of course just as the written or spoken word can be misinterpreted, the language of the body can also be misunderstood.

How, for example, to interpret the Mad Maxian figure duct-taped to the pillar in front of Madrone Art Bar with his eyes wrapped shut with cord and a tiny television under his arm (Daniel Blomquist)? Or the spectacle of watching another get wrapped up in strips of calligraphied bandages and papier-mâché (Justin Hoover)? Sure, you could read a florid artist’s statement about the impetus behind such actions, but those often only underscore the inadequacy of words to convey the immediate. Allowing oneself to be simply drawn in should be a surrender more frequently employed when confronted with the emphatically unfamiliar.

At “Bodies in Space(s)” at Madrone, a circle of onlookers watched in silence as Terrance Graven, a pale, drawn figure in a strikingly white suit and tie, opened a series of gold-capped bottles covered with waxy lumps of what looked like melting flesh, drinking from each in turn and dribbling the colorful contents (various medicinal syrups and milk of magnesia) down his shirtfront. The patter of the drops hitting the butcher paper beneath Graven’s feet sounded of rain, and perhaps to chase away the storm he lit a fire in the covered incense burner on the ground.

One by one, labeled containers of urine, perched on a pair of side tables, were poured into a shotglass and downed―the last one heated first in the dancing flames. Now there’re a hundred ways I could interpret that sequence of events, and there are just as many ways for Graven to explain it, but what it made me think of was experimenting with watercolors, missing the gentle inevitability of summer rain (the kind we don’t generally get here in Ess Eff), and how both urine and fire can be used to treat wounds in survivalist-style emergencies. Can I say for certain that these contextual free associations were among Graven’s intended message? Of course not, but allowing myself the freedom to go along with the moment instead of deconstructing it to death did create a very personalized resonance out of the potentially alienating material.

Some performing bodies transcend even the language of free association. Take Project Bandaloop for example. Extreme arielists, the Bandaloops soar literally from mountaintops, skyscrapers, and iconic structures such as the Space Needle, with all the gravity-defying graces of a flock of elegant cranes. Helping to inaugurate the brand-new 24 Days of Central Market Arts festival, a tight-knit trio dangled and swooped over the Mint Plaza to the jaunty gypsy-strains of Caravan Palace. Dancing sideways, parallel to the ground, their feet against the smooth 10-story walls of 4 Mint Plaza or scraping the blue sky as they leapt, seemingly fearless, into thin air. There are no words to adequately describe the rush of vicarious adrenaline such a performance provides. But the body understands the language of it very well.