In her film/performance works, Los Angeles–based artist Miwa Matreyek interacts live, through her projected shadow, with carefully crafted videos, to dreamlike and kaleidoscopic effect. Her multimedia work This World Made Itself will be presented January 29 as part of both the Walker’s Out There and Expanding the Frame series. Invited to participate in the Walker’s recent series of artist top-10 lists, 2014: The Year According to , Matryek selected another Out There work, CAMPO/Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido’s Still Standing You, as her favorite performance of the year, describing it as “almost childlike but simultaneously emotionally complex.” In advance of the January 15–17 presentation of the piece, we invited her to expand on her experiences with Still Standing You.
I saw Still Standing You last year at Fusebox Festival in Austin, and it’s one of my favorite shows ever. I tend to like or dislike shows with my gut feelings rather than by checking myself intellectually, and this show has a lot of great raw gut.
As the doors open, Pieter Ampe and Gui Garrido are waiting for the audience in plain clothes—jeans and T-shirts. From this first moment their duet has established a distinct dynamic: Pieter is on his back, holding Gui in the air with his legs like a human stool. As Gui starts the show by casually chatting up the audience, Pieter struggles until we start to worry that his legs are about to give out, growing a bit uncomfortable with Gui for clearly putting Pieter in pain. We in the audience are already drawn in to the drama of empathy, curiosity, and unease that we experience throughout the show, as the performers push the boundaries of what two male bodies can do on a stage together.
The dynamic is often childlike but violent, like two giant toddlers who don’t know the limits of their own bodies or the limits of each other’s bodies and their thresholds for pain. They use and abuse each other, sometimes controlling each other’s bodies like fleshy props, there to conveniently toss around or step on—sometimes confrontationally and whole-heartedly upping the ante with their violence towards each other, like Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny in a ever growing arms race.
And there is a lot of abuse in this show.
I found myself trying to interpret micronarratives as the pair organically shifted from one relationship dynamic to another. Sometimes they seem like lovers, tenderly knowing every part of each other’s bodies or holding on to each other violently as if nothing existed outside of themselves. Sometimes they are like brothers, playfully and slightly cruelly competing with each other. And sometimes they seem like violent, crazed proto-humans or baboons in a zoo, duking it out without an awareness of social taboos like some neolithic fight club. Throughout these moments, my feelings as an audience member ran the spectrum, from guilty voyeur to mortified bystander, bemused anthropologist to the witness moved almost to tears.
Both Pieter and Gui are trained performers/dancers, but for this piece, most of their movements are stripped of formalities and very familiar. Watching, it was easy to find within myself visceral memories from childhood: competing with my brother to see which of us could punch the other’s shoulder harder, or, alternately, liking someone so much you wanted to bite them just to the threshold of breaking skin, to test them and test yourself.
I don’t know if it was specifically the crowd in Austin, but I’ve never felt so connected to the collective people that comprise the audience as when we experienced this show together. We all laughed, gasped, cringed, worried (a lot), and melted a little bit as the duo’s dynamic shifted from violent to tender, cartoony to hypnotic. I felt that the show was intelligent (more in an EQ way than IQ, although I also think they’re smart) in the way these artists could draw out so many emotional complexities on stage, while also pulling the audience along, unaided by text or a formalistic performance structure or narrative, with just their bodies unfolding over time.
By the end of the show, I certainly felt a bit wild-eyed, like I either wanted to doggie pile someone or play bloody knuckles or just enjoy having someone (a friend, a sibling, a lover) close enough to me that I could play hard with them, to the point of almost hurting them… something I’ve forgotten as an adult but that lurks somewhere deep in my psyche.