BWW Reviews: MAGICAL Goes Beyond the Illusion at New York Live Arts 1/15-1/19
As I arrived at New York Live Arts on Friday evening, it was clear that the audience assembled to watch Anne Juren and Annie Dorsen's collaborative work, MAGICAL, had not stumbled upon this performance in an act of whimsy. The lobby was informed, buzzing with anticipation, and as the performance began, I could feel the Women's Studies adherents around me creeping toward The Edges of their seats. I was prepared for an evening of angry and lustful nostalgia for unshaved armpits and the advent of birth control. What I experienced, however, was a visceral reaction to the quality of the performance; a clever disguise for the underlying cerebrally inspired work of performance art.
The curtain opened on performer Annie Juren and director Anne Dorsen's MAGICAL to reveal a smaller set of white curtains framing the center of the stage. Between them a copper cube scuttled about, driven by an unknown force within. A distorted recording of Carolee Schneemann's thoughts on her 1975 work Interior Scroll bled spottily through the speakers. Wearing a loose-fitting housedress and standing behind a table covered in kitchen utensils, performer Anne Juren launched a combination parody and recount of Martha Rosler's short film Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975). In Rosler's no-nonsense fashion, Juren lifted each utensil, called out its name and proceeded to demonstrate each utensil's use with unusual fervor, bordering on violence. The audience laughed nervously, not sure whether Juren was hilarious or dangerous as she, with expression of sly self-consciousness on her face, created the seamless illusion of funneling breast milk into a glass and drinking it, changing a cracked egg into a bra, and making salt fall, almost as if by accident, from midair.
MAGICAL continued to navigate through a treasure map of iconic feminist performance art, using the aforementioned housedress as the cut piece in homage to Yoko Ono's 1964 work in which her dress and underwear were cut away from her body piece by piece. The remnants of the dress became a head cover for an abbreviated version of Marina Abramovic's Freeing the Body (1975) performed to Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love."
Amidst the magic and trickery, Juren and Dorsen began to surreptitiously delve into what seemed to be the crux of their research: Is this iconic feminist art relevant in 2013? Have women gained liberties, or are objectification and discrimination simply being called by a different name? How has the obviousness of the plight once referred to as feminism influenced the current situation for women? What have we grown to accept? These women mark our course by putting a naked lady on stage and simultaneous joking about and honoring feminist ideology. Irony is depicted not only as appropriate but as a useful tool in the process of understanding.
Cleverly disguised as magical play, Juren and Dorsen reach deep within the body of the female psyche, forever expressed as the place where all natural things begin, to find batteries, a strand of lights, and a movie projector, which, in order to round out the evening, displayed segments of Schneemann's Meat Joy. Juren took her bows in a leather jacket and crotchless chaps, with a large gun strapped across her chest.
MAGICAL, created and directed by Annie Dorsen and Anne Juren: Co-Presented by New York Live Arts and Performance Space 122 was part of the 8th Annual COIL Festival Jan 15, 17,18 7:30pm; Jan 19 at 6pm.
Photo by Ian Douglas, courtesy of New York Live Arts