Winter 2023 In Dance

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This writing is an accumulation of reflections on trans- formation taken from dark/lessons/rupture , an evening of performance excerpts featuring new works by Jess Curtis and Beyond Gravity artists, Silk Worm and RUPTURE (jose e. abad, Gabriele Christian, Stephanie Hewett, Styles Alexander, and Clarissa Dyas), co-presented by Gravity and Counter- Pulse. These works will premiere in 2023. Notes on Rendering Vessels by JAMES FLEMING

vase cut down the middle and spread by a dough roller. It is malleable, soft.

When I close my eyes, I recall Cate Blanchett presiding over her family thanksgiving dinner in prayer: I am for… ham art, pork art, chicken art, tomato art, banana art, apple art, tur- key art, cake art, cookie art. I am for an art that is combed down, that is hung from each ear, that is laid on the lips and under the eyes, that is shaved from the legs, that is brushed from the teeth, that is fixed from the thighs, that is slipped on the foot. 5 When I open my eyes, Silk Worm is there, posing gloriously on the pedes- tal for the audience. She is covered in a many-hued garnish of boas.

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The vessel is thrown over a poised ensemble of dancers. A small light flashes in the hands of Gerald Pirner and his voice calls out across the pitch-black expanse: Here is a hand on a shoulder, a head with hair dangling down, a hand and an arm, a head in their lap, the body laying on the floor. Michelangelo’s Pietà. It reminds me of the Pietà in Rome. A modern Pietà in America. With each flash of the light in his hand, a light sculpture renders into ‘the pic- ture as it were a blind invention of the picture’. 1 It is felt through bated air over the hairs on our arms, gilt on the cheek, as dancers carom in darkness. A multitude of embracing forms spread across the stage, beyond the stricture of light, where artists are passing 2 through pietàs, are becoming mama rays 3 , in verdant twilight sky.

We are feeling for a place for new things to grow. A thing that gives form, simulates, then supersedes, a vessel then for rendering. Switch the flowers in the vase. Maybe replace the vase altogether and lay the flowers on the table, on the floor. Add a side dish, a cut of roast chicken. Turn the lights down, turn them off entirely. Now it’s a party. In total darkness, dancers move across the stage. Murmurations and breath- work accompany the vibrational res- onance of feet slapping and sliding across the marley floor. Fluid air oscil- lates from their bodies to ours, an intractable embrace.

By Step 7, Silk instructs the audience: Open the oven door wider. Force yourself to confront a raw chicken, a greasy little bird lying in the dark waiting for the sun to come up. The vessel reveals itself through an intimate congress of ‘psychic gar- bage’, in a language that congeals and affixes like cold gravy solidifying on your plate. As the heap roasts, Silk cries out jubi- lantly: You did it! Look at that bird. Oil, chicken juices, dead flesh, crispy meat. The color, slammin! Super flavorsome. Teetering on a black banister above the audience, she waves into the lights, reciting the lyrics of Humpty Dumpty. A cagey wink and a flick of her wrist and the vessel is sent off; dinner, and the past with it, is over. III &theruptureisnow It is no secret that vessels often lie. They hold things plucked from else- where, like flowers in a vase, rosemary and sage and thyme in the cavity, all of us in the places we’re in.

One step at a time, she presents to us Lessons in Anatomy .

Step 1: hold onto your ultimate out- come with your mind and your favor- ite cooking vessel in your hand . The vessel is prepared delicately, it is patted dry and probably rubbed with salt all over. Inside it, Silk con- structs a repository for the semiot- ics of ‘bodily transformation, namely with changing sex’. 6 Above her, a sonic drone laps and lays, swaps and enfolds: lips smack, liquids pour down throats, cans pop and fizz as material is pushed by the larynx into an acidic oceanscape of the stomach. Composer Jules Lc fills the vessel with the gestational inte- rior spaces of the body, where silence becomes something of an embodied sine wave. 5 Manifesto ( 11 ). Directed by Julien Rosefeldt, performance by Cate Blanchett. 2017. In the piece, Blanchett is reciting remixed excerpts from Claes Oldenburg’s essay, “I Am For…” (1961). works/manifesto-_2014-2015/manifesto-pop-art-/ 6 In a conversation about Lessons in Anatomy between Silk and I, she references Martha Rosler’s “Semiotics of the Kitchen” (1975), a performance piece that explores the commodification of women’s roles in the kitchen. Rosler describes the seminal piece, saying that “as she speaks, she names her own oppression.”

For the program description for each new work, please see “More about dark/ lessons/rupture ” below.

In the absence of light, the stage expands into endless surface, like a

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Be sure to remove the sack containing the neck and innards from the cavity. 4

The vessel is soft, pliable. It has skin, like a bird for roasting. It washes the harvest season’s terrible history of destruction away with splashes of giblet-infused gravy. 1 Pirner, Gerald. “Ueber.” n.d. 2 “A feeling-vector contemplates its passage, attending to the dance of an occasion coming into itself.” Erin Manning, The Minor Gesture . p. 62. 3 Mutu, Wangechi. MamaRay . 2020. Nasher Museum of Art, USA. mamaray;jsessionid=3B98710F9B7DBBD92F745B- 0050C0838F 4 Clark, Melissa. “How to Cook a Turkey.” New York Times. November 25, 2022. guides/13-how-to-cook-a-turkey


in dance WINTER 2023 60

WINTER 2023 in dance 61

In Dance | May 2014 |

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