Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Tour Guide in Ramble-Ations

The weather's been amazing. Well, I've been in San Francisco this past week for D'Lo's show Ramble-Ations. It was amazing. He especially killed it on Friday night when the audience's energy was SUPER high. If you're in the Bay Area for the next couple of weeks, you should definitely stop by Brava Theatre and check it out. And I'm not just saying that because I think D'Lo is fucking incredible, but because the piece is fucking incredible.

Ramble-ations characters include: Amma - the Sri Lankan mother who's up to date not just on the latest lesbians, but also the latest beats; Vanathee - the superficial, self-absorbed diva who mourns her "best friend's" death (hint: they weren't really best friends); grandfather Ghandi-G who waxes on the nature of violence while drinking himself under the table; and Nic - the sensitive butch who makes sure that not only she neat, but so is the theatre. Then there are the video clips narrating the Tour Guide D'Lo's life and chillin with Amma at the house. D'Lo's particular brilliances lie in the ways he mixes the deep honesty of profound pain of loss and trauma with the humour of recognition. All in a body that holds an amazing physicality and control. I never thought I'd be laughing at watching a character stumble across the stage as he ingratiates himself to history and the "nature" of colonization.

The end of my spring break (I'm supposed to be finishing a paper as I speak, eh-hem, blog) was only topped by the two art shows bracketing my trip to San Francisco. I went to see El Anatsui's (Ghana, 1944) work at the Shainman Gallery in Chelsea. His work is so beautiful, not only in its textured layers, but in his exquisite choice of colors,the way he makes fabric out of cans and bottle caps, and how he transforms walls (lands?/scapes?) through his interior visions.

detail

I've known of his work for a few years, but had never had a chance to see it in person. So, when I saw it listed, I ran down to the gallery and allowed myself to be surrounded by the shimmering gold and silver "fabrics" of his work.

Then today, on my way back to New Haven, I stopped by the MOMA to see the Marina Abramovic retrospective. Again - GO. If you can, go and give yourself several hours. Marina Abramovic (Yugoslavia, b. 1945) has been at the forefront of performance art for the past several decades. She is famously known for her collaborations with Ulay, and the nature of her work: they are pieces that test the very limits of human endurance. She's lost consciousness with several of her performances from such factors as smoke inhalation, or from exchanging breath with Ulay for 14 minutes without cessation (Breathing In/Breathing Out). I was struck by the profound trust that the two artists had with each other, and I cried as I watched them meet for the last time on the Great Wall of China - to bid each other goodbye.

film still from Light/Dark in which the artists slap each other for 8 minutes

It was amazing to see the videos of her work, and also to be present to the "re-performances" of her work, in particular, Luminosity; Relation in Time; Nude with Skeleton; and Imponderabilia. Luminosity struck a particular chord with me. The accompanying text quotes Abramovic stating that the piece is about connection with the audience (a woman is standing over a bicycle seat in mid air, her arms poised at opposite ends of the clock); for her, "The spirit does not burn in any condition." The young woman performing that piece had huge eyes, and she seemed almost joyful, despite what I could only imagine as incredible pain. She was glowing, a glow bigger than the light fixed on her.

And then, there was the special moment of watching Abramovic in the flesh. She's performing a piece, "The Artist is Present" in which she sits in a chair during the entire exhibit. Viewers/visitors are invited to sit opposite her. There is a live web cam trained on the table for the entire duration of the sit. It's a re-performance of the piece when performed with Ulay in various locations around the world. Only, in his place are the museum visitors. I didn't have time to sit in line - a visitor can sit for as long as they feel is appropriate, but I appreciated seeing everyone else do so. I especially appreciated seeing her. She's so incredibly beautiful, and her level of concentration is awe-inspiring.