Keith Hennessy reviews Have We Come a Long Way, Baby?

On Anna Halprin’s The Courtesan and The Crone:
Anna Halprin, one of the most innovative, experimental and influential of dance artists, performed a mime piece; a five minute dance-theater work wearing a Venetian mask that was a gift from her daughter and a floor-length gold cloak that she previously wore to the White House. 94 years old. Fragile. Eager to make contact. To move. To move us. To touch. I felt lucky to share this moment that vastly transcended the actual choreography and yet of course was deeply implicated in its embodied narrative and mimicry, desire and nostalgia, power and loss. Halprin’s courtesan was articulate and unabashed. She presented the mask of a younger woman and the body that still remembers her, at least in gestural fragments. Her crone fluctuated between grief – what have I become? – and a calm resolve or affirmation. We applauded. Anna smiled and bowed and exited carefully, each step significant.

On Simone Forti’s News Animation:
Forti emerges from a similar era of feminism and an art scene whose political critique of art and society led them to share creative process as “product” (Prioritizing “practice” as Arrington and Hewit might assert). For News Animation, Forti reads a newspaper and takes notes in the form of poetic journaling. In tonight’s performance the notes were read live, an exposure of process but also a deepening of the material, revisiting it but from the past, rewinding time to reconsider the now. “Colonialism. I can never remember so I reach for my colon.” Her body grounds and recontextualizes language, perhaps patriarchy and its logic as well. Reading from a notebook, head bowed to the page, white hair vibrating with her shakes, she recounts a dream of power men and their penises and closed sexual circuits that exclude everyone else.

On Lucinda Childs’ Carnation:
White chair. Black table. Red leotard. Blue jeans. Her right foot in a blue plastic bag. A kitchen sieve treated as an iconic or holy object. Carefully she constructs sandwiches from green sponges and pre-cut carrots that fit the width of the sponge. Color and form redux: Fluxus tasks, Dada disruptions, Judson deconstructions. Carrots ceremoniously inserted into sieve create an altar of orange radiance, then a crown when place delicately on her head. Many sponges are stacked vertically and one end inserted into her mouth. The mask is further manipulated by cramming the fanned gaps of the sponges with the carrots from her crown. The game ends by spitting everything into the blue bag removed from her foot.

At the back wall she does a headstand. In precarious balancing she performs a circus act with socks and a white sheet and she disappears. Ta da! It recalls certain actions/images in Xavier LeRoy’s Self Unfinished, created 34 years later.

She captures air in the plastic bag and it stands unsupported. Another circus act with magic fully exposed and yet it’s still magical, that is, whimsical, unexpected, and previously unimagined. She looks at it. Stomps it. Smiles. Proudly. The smile turns on and off. Then she cries. Steps away. She performs tasks with arbitrary rules that must be obeyed. If this isn’t the essence of art, it’s one of them.

I propose this work for an Izzy: best reconstruction of 2014!

On Hope Mohr’s s(oft is)hard:
We hear the sound of writing, by hand. A mix of knocking and scratching. Peiling faces away from the audience but her face, in close up, is projected, large, as if staring back at us. She is wearing black tights and a blue crocheted top….There is a more complicated relationship between text and movement, or language and embodiment, than in the previous works tonight’s program. More dates. More sounds of writing. More silences. More shapes and gazes and self-touching gestures and other dancing movement. Minimal piano accompanies the continued chronological progression of dates…we’re in the 90s…then 2000s. Video is intermittent. We switch from face cam to feet. Peiling’s breath becomes the dominant text as her movement increases in vigor. Today’s date. Tomorrow’s date. She rolls and jumps repeatedly. A virtuosity that impresses, viscerally. On her back, the lights fade, slowly.

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