If you saw Miguel Gutierrez’s show, Heavens What Have I Done
, at last year’s Time-Based Art Festival
, you might feel like you know the dance artist. That solo work found Gutierrez monologuing, at a mile-a-minute pace, about politics, Plato and the pompousness of performance art, all the while dressed in clown makeup and a rainbow-striped costume. He was bombastic and unruly, to be sure, but he remained personable. Most importantly, Gutierrez conveyed a clear investment in his (albeit rambling) subject—crucial in establishing a connection between artist and audience.
Forget any sense of connection that Heavens may have fostered. And lose the name of action is oblique, diffuse and will likely leave you feeling very distant from Gutierrez and his five other dancers. Using his father’s neurological problems as a launching pad, Gutierrez has created a piece that purports to explore the mind-body connection—or, rather, the mind-body disconnection. To that end, the work incorporates black-and-white video, a smattering of nudity, a seance-like segment that involves handholding (germophobes, you’ve been warned), and costumes that look like what passengers on the starship Enterprise would wear to a pilgrims-and-Indians-themed Thanksgiving kegger (or at least what my high-school classmates cobbled together on breaks home from college).
With a giant white parachute suspended from the ceiling, the space has an otherworldly feel. After a brief segment involving a light-emitting box, the environment quickly turns freakish and dystopian, as the performers—seated in the front row among audience members—begin to sing. “Squeeze my hand, open your eyes, see the light,” they intone, as if inviting us into their cult. Though moments of dance, alternately fluid and robotic, follow during the 80-minute piece, they’re overpowered by tedious exchanges of dialogue. At one point, the performers, white binders in hand, read a script. If a college freshman found herself simultaneously studying introductory playwriting and Neuro 101, this is what she might write: “You’re talking about ideas imprinted on ideas imprinted on ideas, which is retarded!” Gutierrez sing-songs. The performers cackle. The audience does not.
Nor do the purposefully paradoxical bits of voice-over narration help. “I have no investment here,” the voice-over says at one point. “I’ve invested everything here.” Unfortunately, I could only agree with the first half of that statement.
SEE IT: And lose the name of action
is at Hampton Opera Center, 211 SE Caruthers St. 6:30 pm Friday-Saturday, Sept. 20-21. $20-$25. More info here