In our busy daily lives, we don’t often have the opportunity to be immersed in anything outside of the regular stuff… I mean transported, outlook altered, mood changed. I sampled a couple of cultural experiences offering such a chance this week, Minneapolis-based Morgan Thorson’s Heaven at PS 122 which closed Oct 3 and Kurt Hentschläger’s Zee at 3LD Art & Tech Center.
As the audience entered, the tightly bunched group of performers walked very slowly around the periphery of the stage, quietly demanding all attention. Everything was white—the marley, the curtains that lined the walls, the columns (with pleated skirts around their bases), the dancers’ costumes, crafted of quilted fabric with Ace bandage accents. White lace even trimmed all of the industrial audience chairs. Lenore Doxsee designed the superb lighting; Emmett Ramstad the costumes; the two with Thorson designed the visual setting.
The musicians in the group (Low—Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker) split off to play a little organ, and guitar to be used later on. The dancers broke into small groups, doing small, obsessive moves, while some still walked the edge. A pair darted off and slammed against the upstage wall. All seemed to train their attention on voices giving varying directions for much of the first half. Heaven contained lots of music—hymn-like choruses, rhythmic songs with guitar, chants, hypnotic sustained chords—varying interestingly in dynamic and adding some ritual spirituality.
One performer wrapped lengths of Ace bandage around her fingers and torso, wedging a roll in her mouth; another belted a song into a wall-mounted mic. Several of the dancers knelt to pray on the sides, and at this point, we feel a turn from inclusiveness to being excluded. But the group united at the end in collective affirmation, and while no religious message was conveyed, the obsessive attention to minutiae convinced me that god is in the details.
Kurt Hentschläger’s Zee opened farther downtown at the 3LD Art & Tech Center. Billed as “A Rigorous Mindscape; A Hallucinatory Architecture of Light; A Dream Machine,” it is—I think—somewhat like entering a very dense fogbank during inclement weather. (Due to health issues, I could stay in the installation only briefly.) But between the encompassing dense white haze, strobes, and a reverberating sound track, your perceptions can shift—you may be transported, your mind and senses altered. It runs through Nov 15, the first event of FuturePerfect, a new performance/media/tech festival.
Images: (top) Photo of a performance of Heaven at PS 122 by Justin Bernhaut, (bottom) Zee.