Mariana Valencia offers “Bouquet” at The Chocolate Factory
Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Infinite Body

What is it?

First thought as you take your seat inside The Chocolate Factory’s performance space and look across the floor at a large, ungainly parcel wrapped in a net and resting on a long white base.

It’s oddly shaped, and a gap in the tied net that displays an inner wrapping of pale aqua. There’s also something small, squarish, equally mysterious stuck between this aqua surface and the netting.

As you continue glancing across the space, you notice the back wall sports a painting of a vase of flowers. A bouquet is a collection of flowers–a collection of things deliberately chosen for aesthetic effect for yourself or others to savor. By the end of Bouquet, you will understand Valencia sees herself as a bouquet.

She enters suddenly–Hi! Thanks for coming!–a radiant apparition, amusingly modest and yet a little larger than life. The red of her matte lipstick pops as does the metallic cobalt blue of the unitard she wears under dark khaki-tan slacks. She speaks. Her gesticulation–big, sharply delineated gestures–click into place with satisfying assurance even as they remain elusive in meaning. There’s charm, a connection with her audience. But, over time, the verbal stream becomes choppy, broken into haltingly-delivered bits–word by word, syllable by syllable, incomprehensible sound by sound–as if, intermittently, she’s withdrawing or retrogressing.

But check her face a bit later as she begins to unwrap and unpack her parcel. The singing and speaking voice you hear now is in the air, recorded, maybe comes from where the revealed items come from–the past, the archive.

“The game is on/Give me a call, boo/My love is strong/Gonna give my all to you.”

Whatever you’ve expected the lumpy package to contain, it turns out to hold simple items which Valencia sets out in a clear, pristine arrangement and identifies–“a bandanna, a pillow, a mat…pomegranate, plinth, tempered glass”–without narrative explanation. They are, simply, “some of my favorite objects,” and you’re wise to accept these talismans as they are.

She does mention that the floral bouquet painting was made by her dad–“a Sunday painter.”

A body is a mass of stories, each body unique in its collection. But that emergent individuality continuously circles back into the multiplicity of its sources. So, Valencia gives her all–or, at least, a fair representation of what all might be. And then she leads an exercise that draws the audience into this multiplicity as well. Now you, too–all of you–have joined her ensemble, joined with her voice, become her history and her future.

Eva Yaa Asantewaa for Infinite Body – March 20, 2019