Sunday, August 20, 2017

What's CURRENT: the CURRENT SESSIONS returns to Wild Project

Curated and produced by Alexis Convento, this season's edition of the CURRENT SESSIONS at Wild Project features performers exploring the concept of embodied resistance. I attended last evening's hour-long show, REFUSE, solos by three artists of color--NIC Kay, Samantha CC and Jonathan Gonzalez.

Of these, only Samantha CC kept us staring at the stage and confined to our seats and the building itself the entire time, which seemed appropriate. After all, her gentle, mellifluous singing, in Sanctuary--second work on the bill--invoked the condition of being settled into the physical state, Black and female, sanctuary for an ethereal soul, a home offering stability, place, placement to something that would otherwise easily flap away, a home offering visibility and audibility and, presumably, power. "I know that the body is a temporary home...a temporary home...a temporary home for my soul." Which brings up this thought in me: While you've got it, use it.

From our temporary perches, we watched this quiet exultation issued from a woman who first presented herself panting and costumed in plastic trash bags she clawed and scraped from her limbs to reveal a body stocking, underwear, one breast covered by the doves' feathers. If we passed her outside on an East Village street, she would be the homeless person famous for incoherent mumbles or formidable rants. Here, she is sweet-voiced, lucid, illuminated and illuminating. A New Age medium.

Sanctuary was described as "a multi-media performance speaking to technology's ability to both restrain and liberate." Honestly, I can't say I saw that, but I did see the body's ability to both restrain and liberate--an idea I found more intriguing.

The evening opened with the audience suddenly, inexplicably uprooted from the seats we'd just sunk into. We were directed, instead, to the sidewalk where it took a while to notice an unassuming figure turned from us and leaning with forehead pressed against the building's white-washed brick wall. Standing under the building number, 195, was this dancer in a sleeveless unitard of black with star-like speckles. White strings from several buoyant balloons--translucent milky white save for one Mylar silver pillow balloon--coiled around the dancer's neck. It was NIC Kay beginning Get Well Soon!, a dance that would gradually move them over the sidewalk, out into traffic, across the street to the edges of a dumpster and finally back to the lights of the Wild Project stage.

Described as "a loose meditation on the often used wish of recovery"--and what self-care, recovery and wellness mean in the context of the perennial trauma and threat to Black lives--Get Well Soon! played a serious game with the mind. Kay uses limber flow to sprawl around space and a crunchier, jerking motion to re-position limbs and torso, both strategies rigorously controlled by this skilled performer. Their form is profoundly elegant while bold in assertiveness; their body--crouching, lunging, squatting, splaying--embraces gravity while those well-anchored balloons brightly incline heavenward. The body is like, "I'm doing what I'm doing, regardless." The balloons are heedless of this. They are pretty, a little silly in a way but...yeah, pretty, especially in this mellow summer night on an East Village street. You can't take your eyes off any of this. And you can't help some ambiguity about what you're watching. I can't see this Black body with cords wrapping around the neck and extending up into the air and not think about lynching.

Kay is wicked smart, an exacting performer with a divx quality I will dare call classic glamour. Catch them next chance you get.

I also like Jonathan Gonzalez because I never know what to expect from this guy.
This time, for Ikarus, he showed up in blackface, wearing a shiny Mylar-silver jacket and carrying a huge, scarlet Valentine balloon he ultimately draped around an audience member's neck. A lot of bizarre things happened in Ikarus including a chilling version of "Ghost Riders in the Sky"--yippie yi ooh yippie yi yay--and some foolery in which Gonzalez hid out of viewing range and some of us shot out of our seats to try to find him only to be stymied by the theater's lights flipping on and off, and then he returned in a duck mask to dance his ass off and quite well, mind you, having his own divx quality. Can't say what any of this was about but the short version of his description reads "Escape is exactly the distance between a dirt bike and the will to leave." Oh, and something like that happened, too, ending the show with the audience once again up on its feet and gazing from the lobby out onto Third Street.

As always, I have no idea exactly what you'll encounter if you venture over to the CURRENT SESSIONS for the series' last show tonight, since it's a different draw of artists. (The first evening, RESCUE, offered works by Gregory King and Megan Young; Raha Behnam; and Elena Rose Light.) But Alexis Convento has keen eyes and provocative taste. She always takes risks, and it's worth your doing so, too.

The CURRENT SESSIONS: Volume VII: On Resistance concludes this evening with RESTRICT, featuring works by Dalel BacreDorian Nuskind-Oder and Simon Grenier-Poirier, and Tina Wang and Tingying Ma at 8pm. Click here for information and tickets.

Wild Project
195 East 3rd Street (between Avenues A and B), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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