Friday, September 11, 2015

born of capitalism: koosil-ja at The Kitchen

In i am capitalism, her new project with collaborator Geoff Matters, dancer koosil-ja channels the soul-absent soul of capitalism while nicking movement from The Rite of Spring and Brazilian Candomblé ritual. Four modest-sized video monitors, showing samples of this source material, anchor the corners of a barren, white rectangle of performance space. These monitors face inward towards the dancer, tilted slightly upward. From their distance and particular angles, audience members might discern little more than the general, outward relationship of source to koosil-ja's movements. One appreciates being in the same room with a living body performing this dancing. Technology is not everything. But these samples do serve to establish the dancer's authority: you see she has worked hard to get things right.

i am capitalism could be, among other things, an exorcism for self and others. By the end, though, you might not feel all that cleansed.

The piece--let me warn you--lasts a bit over two hours without pause. You will feel the entire trapping weight of that time, especially deep into the second hour when several potential--and desired--endings only serve to open up new stretches of material. koosil-ja insists in showing you--and showing you and showing you--how one person's world narrows, how darkness gets mistaken and substituted, in the mind, for light. She's brilliantly right, and we get it...and get it...and get it.

i am capitalism inspired, in me, a love-hate relationship. The love is for koosil-ja whose clear maneuvers in space command interest. Initially dressed like someone assaulted by her own asymmetrical costume, she seems less the sacrificial victim of the Rite or the anxious speaker of her voiceover text than a capable body rising above any circumstance.  She has beautiful carriage, and her churning propulsion from or shaping and rotation around this reliable axis is bracing to witness.

This is, however, the same person who eventually makes us want i am capitalism to shut down already. Or maybe it's the "psyche of capitalism"--irrational, delirious, at the crossroads of desire--that she makes us want to see crash to its finish. In any case, she works up to drawing the hate part of love-hate to herself like heat draws a heat-seeking missile. She's taking it on--victim and victimizer all in one, just as she says in her voiceover, how we become both.

How else to explain the completely maddening final passage? Here the choreographer, along with Matters and Melissa Guerrero, show up in over-sized, thin white hoodies with large paper iPod scroll wheels afixed to their solar plexus. It's like something a really bright kid might dream up for Halloween--the ghostees of legacy-model iPods. (Capitalism. Get it?) Obsessively tracing, eventually altering geometric tracks, the hunched-over hulks crisscross the floor--back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and--almost without cease as the clock ticks closer and closer to 10:20.

On opening night, some audience members made a run for it, taking unauthorized restroom breaks or simply heading out into the rain. And who could blame them for taking excellent care of themselves? Art can pull us into the artist's head. Hauled deep into koosil-ja's recurring nightmare of capitalism, which she insists in making our own, the viewer wants out--now!

With music by koosil-ja and Geoff Matters, percussion by Brian Chase. Video by Geoff Matters. Lighting by Ryan Seelig.

koosil-ja/danceKUMIKO's i am capitalism continues through Saturday, September 12, with performances at 8pm. For information and tickets, click here.

The Kitchen
512 West 19th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues), Manhattan

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