As the Air Moves Back From You – Week 3
As the Air Moves Back From You was spectacular, both conceptually and aesthetically. I loved the way the work integrated dance, performance, and installation art, especially in relation to time stretched over several weeks, with live performance arising and disappearing. It created a sense of human performers and non-human elements as partners within a larger whole, where most often when I see performance (dance and performance art) my attention is occupied primarily by the human performers. Attention to the significance of human and nonhuman presences resonated for me conceptually, in that I understood the work as addressing an environmental condition of steady depletion. Have humans been too focused on themselves?
I saw Kristi's evolution towards destructiveness on the the pile of rice as a metaphor for human destructiveness, yet I also experienced it literally, in its simplicity, as someone walking, then later flailing, in sand. The quality of her initial footsteps in the pile (and the whiteness of the rice) reminded me of walking the dune-lined beaches along the Jersey Shore. Sand dunes are essential, fragile players in coastal ecosystems, and they are also enticing surfaces for humans to play on. I see them surrounded by protective fences and yearn to jump over and sink my feet into the sand.
The visual effect of falling rice was stunning. I was happy I came early to spend time seeing, hearing and smelling the installation-in-motion. I noticed the rhythms of movement within the braid of rice, the small explosions of grains hitting the ground, the scattering of rice beyond the edge of the mound’s slopes, the two little lights above, and, finally, the source of the rice: an aluminum container, which seemed impossibly small given the amount of rice pouring out.
Kristi's initial walk was my favorite moment of her performance, because I was kinesthetically engaged with what I imagined the walk felt like. Getting to know the rice (or any surface) through feet communicates something to me about establishing direct, non-intellectualized connection to Earth. Later, Kristi connected to the mound through other surfaces of her body in the manner of a contact improvisation duet with rice. At various times she paused, felt her weight, rolled onto other surfaces, lifted her head. In another memorable moment, she lay on her side facing away from where I sat. The stillness of her body, in contrast to the rice falling onto her lower back, reminded me of time’s passage as measured out in an hourglass.
The sweeping arcs of rice, during Kristi's frenzy, was beautiful. I connected, both visually and conceptually, to her evolution towards this frenzy/violence. I had less of a clear connection to an internal motivation driving the transition. The transition was complicated (in the best way possible), because for me as audience she was both an individual subject or character and the conveyor of a metaphor, as noted earlier. Once the transition happened, a messiness developed that I loved, especially the unfeigned slipping on rice. The rice communicated tranquility and fragility and yet, underneath, danger lurked within the cold floor. But the degree of danger was directly proportionate to the behavior of the human performer, perhaps a reminder of Maxine Sheets-Johnstone’s statement, in “Globalization and Other,” that “if there are endangered species, it is because a dangerous species exists.”