Ivy Baldwin’s defiant and poignant work for four dancers at the Chocolate Factory Theater is the outcome of deeply considered collaboration.
At the Chocolate Factory Theater in Long Island City, Queens, the Institute of Useless Activity’s “This and That” is also experimental, but it occupies the other end of the overload spectrum. Its medium is light and shadow.
Meanwhile, at the Chocolate Factory, a former machine shop in Long Island City, there’s a show that Witkacy would have loved. “This and That” is chock-full of pure forms being manipulated and juxtaposed. Staged amid a mess of equipment and projectors and lights on stands, it has the feeling of a demonstration hour, a sharing among friends. It is free of psychology and dialogue, at least in the conventional sense, a bare hour of “choreography” made just from light and shadow.
Redactions: Abigail Levine turns life into performance through a subtle catalogue of utterances, inscriptions, and gestures.
Handwriting beneath squares of painted color gradients hang in the gallery. Not yet alive in the lungs, the mouth. Quite a few pages. When language fails, we body forth. Who is we? Audience, dancers, author? Authors? A catalogue of poses, alphabet, reminiscent of uncountable things, references, symbols. Digression. Imaginary plot: place bodies beside bodies and add chairs, fabric, paper, glass bottles, bricks. Turn the page.
The choreographer Donna Uchizono presents “Wings of Iron,” a subtle, virtuosic exploration of the art of perseverance.
Luciana Achugar presents the premiere of “Puro Teatro: A Spell for Utopia” at the new, improved Chocolate Factory, but its pleasures feel one-sided.
Aya Ogawa’s gentle, forthright reckoning of a play is a belated processing of the loss of a parent by a daughter who now has children of her own.
Before the show gets going at the Japan Society, the director and playwright Aya Ogawa invites the cast to tell us about a failure. Ogawa’s The Nosebleed stemmed from a multiyear teaching and workshopping project about the concept, one in which Ogawa encouraged other playwrights to work through and to claim their failures. According to their director’s note, they couldn’t shake the feeling that they were somehow ducking the assignment themselves, keeping protected while the others stripped bare.
Some days, I find myself so lost in my own thoughts that I completely forget where I lock my bike. I walk around in circles, block after block, examining every bike rack and street post trying to find my own. Sometimes, I walk right past it, after a cursory glance has me convinced it’s just a look-a-like, and only a second look forces me to recognize it as my bike. In these moments, I am walking outside but I am clearly elsewhere. I am questioning my choices, my relationships, my values, and asking myself: why exactly are you alive? Some of the most compelling artwork encourages us to reflect on this interiority and the underlying thoughts we hold. Transgressive, unpopular, unwelcome, unmoored––we suppress until we have the emotional capacity to process these thoughts. Making sense of it all can be difficult, and sharing this confusion even more so, as we expose ourselves to the risks of the unknown. I am reminded of these thoughts as I walk through Stephanie Acosta’s immersive exhibition Good Day God Damn at the Chocolate Factory.