Allison Farrow’s “tiny open sky” makes rain, patchy sunshine
It’s rare that a dance inspired or driven by theory can actually penetrate the insular bubble of philosophic language and enact physical meaning in a waking state. You wouldn’t necessarily need to be familiar, either, with the writing of “Christian anarchist” Paul Virilio to enjoy or derive interest from Allison Farrow’s “tiny open sky,” presented April 20 and 21 at Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX) in Park Slope—a small, homey space with no wings or backstage. A dance theater duet with Farrow as a kind of contemporary Stepford Wife gone awry and Arturo Vidich as her clone/counterpart, they create, repeat, and automate—and speak of war.
It begins with Farrow posing in a kind of frozen anxiety, a lone figure in a futuristic space—or the vision of one from another time. A screen made of cloth and thin metal strips like saftey-pins hangs in front of the stage, creating an effect like pixelation. Four makeshift plastic plinths (think ‘60s TV sci-fi) stand in a row at midstage, catching light and abstract video projections.
Once the house is settled, the lights dim and rise again, Farrow standing center stage, behind the homemade scrim. She lets go a single utterance, “Ah.” She repeats, and then cycles—for a substantial length of time—into incessant, rhythmic, vocal gurgitations, as the speed and number of repetitions increase.
“Speed is essence of war,” wrote Sun Tzu. “Stasis is death,” responds Virilio.
Eventually, movement is introduced, followed by Vidich, shadowing Farrow, at first. Farrow speaks, lip synching at first with a mic over a recorded voice; then her own, real amplified voice is added, projecting absurd characters and desires. In these segments, a humorous yet false humanity pervades. As the subject matter gets more grave, the delivery becomes less so—war is given the most guffaws, and the point is made, through both irony and Vidich, careening against the wall. “Territory has lost its significance in favor of the projectile.”
While rough in spots, this work is distinctive, earnest.
Farrow is an engaging performer, and as the piece progresses, she becomes more comfortable, more in control. Vidich, whose total comittment and presence in his body—whether moving, speaking, laughing, or just standing there—always commands attention. His final, repetitive sequence of heavy footed, self-slapping, bent-kneed wandering, abrupt wall-hugging, and falling to one knee and one hand with one arm held aloft like a sword takes this performance to another level—one those who like to classify things would call dance. Look for him in performances by a host of other artists’ work, as well as his own.
Like the text, albeit it at times overplayed, Farrow’s movement successfully communicates Virilio’s ideas about where we are headed. In a world beset by the negation of space, the perversion of reality, and other aesthetics of disappearance, we become un-able bodies, repeating, echoing, automatic after-images of the remnants of human activity. Expressive as they are physically, they simulate the reflection of Narcissus diminishing, our evaporation. The promise of automation has been supplanted by meaningless repetition. In the words of the paranoid philosopher, “The loss of material space leads to the government of nothing but time…”