To Jen Rosenblit; for Clap Hands

To Jen Rosenblit; for Clap Hands, presented by New York Live Arts at The Invisible Dog Art Center.

Image by Maria Baranova

Image by Maria Baranova

 If this were an essay I could study it, I think, but it’s not, it leaves me too quickly.

All this information and I am a sieve.

“I can barely recall you.” You said that, I remember.

“In my memory it goes something like this.” You said that too.

“I’ll be the presence and you take note.” Equally applicable for both of us, I would say.

First I’m watching you prepare, shaking and tapping your chest, whispering to yourself. Your eyes and your whispers seem daunted, but not unwelcomely so. I think you are letting the adrenaline pass through, conjuring the energy so that you might become the eye of its storm.

I remember your body, you lay it on top of me in another show, Miguel’s show (that’s how they say it here: not by the title, but “Miguel’s show”). How good it felt, your weight against mine, that public intimacy, and I remember that now. I imagine we are still sharing that secret knowledge, but it’s probably just me.

You’re reading a monologue of collected anecdotes, all a matter of disappearing tricks. “No offense magicians, but this calls for real magic”; A ship, abandoned, all the cargo still intact, no trace of crew or passengers, all vanished; A hive of bees doomed to die, Queenless, to be Queenless is to die, to disappear; The bird in the magician’s cage, cage and bird together vanished under cloth. I’m pretty sure that in that trick the bird gets crushed in the collapsing cage.

You talk a lot about rearranging the furniture, of where the table or chair would best be positioned, perhaps “closer to the window,” (you even move the “window,” a gliding grid of light boxes), and you state adamantly that “the table is not a bed,” a distinction you easily disregard later on. This table is most definitely your bed.

Around the monologue there is play, games, athletics. Admanda Kobilka, wearing that Bruce Lee-esque wrestling singlet, bouncing and speed-bagging, ping-ponging with that smiley-face bat. (What? and Yes at once.) Effie Bowen, dramatically vertical, striking fencing blows against no opponent. Something or someone is always missing; incomplete partnerships. Duets for one.

Even as things gear up, things stay cool, mellow, undeterred by any pressure from us watching. How seductive it is to not be needed. I can’t help but desire you all in some specifically unsexual way. Are we all pathetic, those of us sitting on the perimeter, doomed to the sidelines? All of our combined thought processes are swimming around this moment. I wish I could see that. If we were all on the same page we’d be irrelevant, so thank you for the confusion.

The sprawl of composition is perfectly matched with my cloudy head right now. I have a hangover and it helps. I can choose to watch intently and hold onto the details, or I can let it all wash over me and wander as the work does. Either way it feels like I’m failing. A successful failure to be precise.

Give me your 8-bit trash rap and crunchy Gameboy electro, I love it!

And Alexia Welch. Where would we all be without you? Guiding us through the fog of multiplicity with your necessary operations, your practical approach, getting all the jobs done.

Two wet patches where once two wet bodies were showered. Absence sometimes leaves a definite mark.

“How long can you hold an absence?” That rhetorical question is written on a business card, received from Venus at Judson Church, and is still on my desk today. I’m still holding the absence, but I need the reminder. (Of course, I instinctively apply the notion to my romantic relationships.)

You all come together to hold so much heavy hot-pink felt, clutched between your three embracing bodies. Another successful failure inside this joyfully futile task. Sensuality is directed to objects, to materials, with you emerging naked from the enveloping pink, and finally all objects (including a bogeyman-ish Bowen) are wrapped, concealed, shrouded in fabric. The visual language of this final shrouding ritual feels so familiar, so resolved for what has been so far so structurally ambiguous. Why did you have to tidy up the mess?

I’m reminded of Claudia La Rocco’s thoughts; “The ephemeral nature of dance often leads to clichés about its being the art of the present. Would that it were. In some ways, the very fact that dance is fleeting makes it the least fully present of all the arts. Whether immediate or distant, the past intrudes, filtered through a most unreliable sieve: memory, which simultaneously augments and distorts every performance we see.”

How strangely freeing to consider that performance exists in absence, in the contemplation of things as past or passing, without the intense pressure of constant nowness. I’m still preoccupied with and empowered by Heather Kravas’s offer that the audience “see their own observation as completion of the artistic act.” If granted that power, is it then important that we understand or appreciate the performance right at the moment of its happening? That we get the most out of it by being in sync with our presence?

“I’ll be the presence and you take note.” Sure, but I really start to take note days later.

You are finished, you bow, and you leave. We all clap hands, and in your absence things can really begin.

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