Friday, November 1, 2019

Sam Kim's "Other Animal" opens at Danspace Project

Sam Kim
(photo courtesy of the artist)

Other Animal
by Sam Kim
Danspace Project
October 31-November 2

When entering St. Mark's Church for Sam Kim's solo performance of Other Animal, you'll be directed towards one of two sections of chairs or cute floor cushions, all in a straight line spanning the width of the floor, facing and perfectly aligned with the church's distant altar space. When I was there last night, a few people took seats over on the carpeted risers along the side of the floor, as you're usually permitted to do, but ushers quickly redirected them to this linear set-up. Eventually, Kim made her first appearance, and the reason for this control of our angle of view became clear.

Kim entered the space from one of the sanctuary's doors, dressed in leopard-print leggings, a long white shirt and a loose wool coat in a bold, checked pattern. For a quite lengthy stretch of her 50-minute solo, she merely sauntered, assertively strode or simply hastened across the floor, unconcerned about her watchers, repeatedly disappearing somewhere behind us and through another of the church's doors. In the beginning, I was curious to know what she was doing outside my range of view and tried to crane my neck to see.

Impossible. I turned my whole upper-back, discovering that she was actually leaving us. I didn't notice more than maybe one or two other people checking on what was going on behind us, and I think they might have been content to just hear doors close and re-open, to see Kim when she was in view, to watch her exit and return through the two visible doors facing us. I wonder how many caught that momentary apparition up on the right-hand balcony.

Now you see her, now you don't. What's that about? And do you care? Why should you?

Kim's own don't-care look and sullen demeanor (butchy, I thought) actually endeared her to me, and I began to care. I'm not sure why I would or if I should, but I did. She had won me over, and it put me in a very good place to appreciate how she went on to labor in, fill and ironically dominate the space.

Watching Kim's performance felt like finding oneself inside of a restless but also persistent, generative mind. The video animation work of experimental filmmaker Stacey Steers seemed to swell and spill from that same source--a thick, unruly blossoming of imagery, possibly organic but largely indecipherable, weird though inexplicably appealing. It bloomed in sections of the altar-area's wall, eventually overtaking its entire arch.

"I'm messy," her movements and way of being seemed to say. "Kind of beautifully messy. I'm here. I claim it. Sometimes staggering, sometimes slumping, sometimes soft of step. Holding myself together. Letting myself go. Slipping uphill (the altar risers) and rolling down. No matter how awkward it all looks, how difficult, how stop-and-start the effort."

A muted, warm pool of light sometimes draped Kim's body in the overwhelming space of St. Mark's Church like a gesture of compassion. That light also looked as if it might be seeping from within her, softly brightening wherever her body landed.

She passed me as she left the space for the final time, and I would have tipped my hat--had I been wearing one--to a masterful performer, secure in herself and her vision.

Lighting design: Kathy Kaufman
Sound and projection design: Chloe Alexandra Thompson

Other Animal continues nightly through Saturday, November 2, with performances at 8pm. For information and tickets, click here.

Danspace Project
131 East 10th Street (and Second Avenue), Manhattan

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.

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