redevelop (death valley)
Last night we went to The Chocolate Factory for the opening of Brian Rogers’ redevelop (death valley). I really enjoyed it a lot.
While waiting for the house to open I got into a discussion about the challenges of writing about performance work that doesn’t fall neatly into any category and how too few “critics” in mainstream media actually bridge dance-theater-music-video-art-installation. Its a tricky situation b/c each discipline demands deep knowledge – on the other hand, you need to acknowledge that many artists aren’t working in pure(or singular) forms, so it is inappropriate to evaluate them based on narrow criteria. Generally, I prefer to err on the side of caution and as much as possible accept the work on its own terms.
I say this because redevelop (death valley) really is a hybrid work – and I think a darn good one. If I had to create a category I would say it is a three-dimensional time-based video art performance with movement and music. Its kind of like a really thoughtful, introspective terrarium/magic box, or maybe a surreal, cerebral real-time lava lamp.
As often happens, I forgot to take notes, so this may be inaccurate. The show opens with a video interview of a guy from the neighborhood (Long Island City) talking about how it has changed, then transitions into some movement sequences where the actors re-arrange the hanging screen/panels and are alternately revealed and obscured by said panels. They are simultaneously being video projected onto the panels (live)…. and there is ambient sound design happening, a fan blows wind chimes in a constant undertone. After that we fade into another video sequence – death valley – that has Brian and Sheila exploring abandoned towns and buildings in, I assume, Death Valley. And then we fade into another sequence where the actors, far upstage, eat dinner and chat, while downstage it starts to rain.
I think – and I may be wrong – that the piece is a meditation on place, home, memory and meaning. There is no “story” and no elaborate movement, nor are there crazy technological orgies of computer video blah blah blah. While I imagine it is very complicated to run the show – congrats to Brian, Madeline and Chloe for pulling it off! – the effect is simple, seamless, understated and elegant.
Maybe its like one of those spinning Japanese shadow lantern things? I don’t know. But kudos to everyone involved – that there is some art. And though I don’t want to single anyone out (all the elements were really strong, the sound and video were integrated wonderfully) BUT its rare that I notice the lighting in a good way – usually its because everything else sucks. But in this case it was such an integral part of the entire experience and Chloe Z. Brown’s work is beautiful and precise and artful.
Go check it out – the trains are F’ed this weekend so give yourself extra time to get out there. It plays until February 28th.