Everything Avant-Garde Is Old Again
Helen Shaw, The New Yorker

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. The Polish catastrophist wouldn’t have recognized its mood, though—it’s sweet and gossamer fine.

The first portion of the short event consists of improvised live video feedback accompanied by recorded music—some jazz, a Bach cantata. Wendt manipulates electronic equipment (cameras, projectors, a laser pointer) in ways that create digital interference; the resulting feedback-generated shapes look like the animation in the most abstract sections of Disney’s “Fantasia.” We watch the wall, where pink towers build and crash, symmetrical fuzzy fractal shapes curl toward each other, little dots sizzle around like oil from a hot pan. In the second movement, Wendt goes lo(wer)-fi, making hand-shadow vignettes on the wall, again to music: a cowboy, his hat brim made from a pinkie and a thumb, sings to his dogies; a woman cradles her baby as she swings in a garden; a disco dancer snaps and struts to “Night Fever.” Wendt uses the circle of light like a camera’s eye, so we see figures at a distance, then in “closeup,” then they seem to dissolve into a black blob (his wringing hands), as if a projector light is burning through a film.

There’s a quality of retreat here—we’ve all been invited under the blanket fort to play. Soltanoff, one of our most interesting multimedia directors, treats his high-tech tools like toys, and Wendt also seems animated by a “let’s see what I can do” spirit, impressed by the simple, childish pleasure of making a rippling ocean by flexing his fingers. I found it utterly, blissfully, completely restful. If “This and That” reached for the metaphysical, I missed it. In fact, as I went back home on the subway, I scoured my mind for evidence that I had been to the theatre and found only a sort of bright, humming breeze.

Helen Shaw for The New Yorker – September 14, 2022