Sunday, March 13, 2005

Kata Mejia - "I Draw You You Draw Me In" @ PAC/edge

Kata Mejia was in my grad program. She is fascinated with presenting tragic images of women. She uses movement, ritual, drawing, domestic objects and food in her performances and did so in this her PAC/edge solo performance "I Draw You You Draw Me In". She won a commission from PAC last year to produce a work.

The space was segmented by tape that looked like thick, drawn white lines on the black stage floor, dividing the stage into irregular sections...some of which climb up the walls. The program stated that the piece was in four parts/rooms. Each room is a melodrama of a woman waiting, of the power to draw the other close being enacted, and then of the woman "crying for him".

The performance of these rooms was through ritualized movements and actions. There is no talking, only the occational punctuation of music and the sounds of her body moving in the space.

In the first room she pours rice in a pile in the center of the stage. She repeatedly stands and falls...grating herself against the rice on the floor. She plays with putting her dress on and off. She then moves onto the pile of rice and lays in it like a bed and at one point performs a lovely action of pulling the rice in and under her. The pulling creates a lovely sound of the rice against the floor, soothing the earlier grating somewhat.

In the next room to the audience's left, she performs a pouring sequence from a domestic water pitcher into bowls and cups. It creates another area of messy white on the floor and a surprise as rice pours from the pitcher rather than a liquid.

She then takes the bowls and cups one by one and walks along a path to opposite wall and to another taped section. She suprises us again by quickly placing the bowl on the wall where it sticks and the rice in it pours to the ground. She lays down with her feet to the wall, with the white splatter of rice beneath her, she slaps the ground, does a backwards roll slowly to her feet and follows her path back for another bowl. She repeats the sequence for each bowl/cup about seven times total.

The final section she fetches onions from a pile in the back corner of the stage. She acts out a stuggle to collect them all and bring them downstage to pile them before us. She bites one and eventually enters into a movement sequence of hugging herself and rolling around. It is lovers entangled, kissing and crying. She stops and stands and looks. She collects the onions and places them in two rows. Then she gets the bowls and cups and creates another parallel row of them. She goes to the back corner and fetches a bowl of flour and a sifter. She sifts flour over the onions and bowls. She then picks up the onions places them in the bowls along the front of the stage leaving the dots/shadows of the objects in flour behind. She then lays next to this flour marking and sifts more flour over herself. When she is fully covered she rolls to the side leaving a striking impression of a partly curled body in the flour. She lays there and the lights go down.

The aesthetic quality of dryness built throughout the performance as these dry, raw goods were displayed and became surfaces to rub against. This and the repetitive actions actually lead to a rather nice catharsis first in the peaking emotionality of the huggin movement sequence where Kata seems quite focused and committed and then fully resolved in how striking, quiet roll of her body away from the flour to reveal a beautiful silhouette. And while mostly being a self-involved and internal piece of performance, the general tragic feel lead me to connect the flour secetions those images of mass graves where bodies are covered in lye and for a moment this tragic self-involved woman who has lost her love is so sad that she seems to channel a greater universal sense of loss.

I was never moved to cry or anything, the melodrama was too over the top to trust and enter into for me but the little gasp at the end left me with a strong enough experience to make me feel the piece was successful.

Still because it just briefly reaches that archetypical moment that Kata has been working towards, this seems like a more minor piece from her. She is a young artist who is starting to actually talk in coherent sentences in her work and the shock of those first "mommy"'s and "daddy"'s is wearing off and I am now tuned to expect her to take us more into sustained moments of archetypical communion.

A friend of mine made an interesting note that Kata seemed to lose her commitment as she would progress through a series of repetitions. Starting precise and then getting more sloppy and rushed as the repetitions continued. Perhaps a risk of self-directed material. Sticking to her agenda might help sustain her hold over the audience and her connection to the material.

She has in the past dealt with equally visceral body acts and social material that ranged from the domestic to the problems with kidnapping in her homeland of Columbia. I imagine she will be evoking rather powerful forces when she finds more ways to connect her willingness to experience and proclaim suffering and grounds it in the historical and cultural contexts she is interested in.

Her piece also struck me as a rather good example of where performance at PAC/edge is at. Small works by young artists who are willing to experiment creates at times uneven pieces but in general there is a sense of risk and maybe you might share something special with a small crowd some night.

I watched Kata's piece on opening night with a small crowd of her supporters and found myself wondering where the opening night crowd was for this years commision winner.

I also was shocked early on when the door people repeatedly made a huge noise as they allowed late-comers to enter and walk right in front of the stage to find seats well after this quiet and delicate show had begun. Sloppy.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 28, 2005 7:09 AM  

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