To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Here, artist and writer Taja Will shares her perspective on last night’s performance of This Bridge Called My Ass by Miguel Gutierrez.
May this review or commentary be as queer as the work. May it disrupt our normative ideas of “the review” with humanity and the historical realities of viewing and commenting on brown (racialized) bodies.
“I stand in my kitchen, dumbstruck, specific, as I listen to the news on the radio. I become enraged reading the stupid comments on the New York Times website on articles about gender, race, or anything having the slightest bit to do with difference. The swarm of rage and sadness frames my vision, butts up against my belief in possibility and change. Is the quantity of this belief measurable—distinct? What amount of my cellular makeup is caught up in this feeling, or in the matrix of melancholy, as I mull over a litter of injustices, personal or systemic, that occupy my awareness? Am I a subject or a vessel, an agent or a channel?” —Miguel Gutierrez, “Does Abstraction Belong to White People?”
We entered into action, the room was bright and intimate by proximity. The performers are speaking rhythmically in Spanish; they’re focused on moving, using, and discarding the many objects that occupy the room. The space feels thick, it is liminal, and all action is temporary. The work then proceeds in two parts, what I would call The Practice, which is borrowed from my history working with and learning from Miguel. The Practice transitions into a telenovela with a stark change to the space as all the colored fabrics are laid out flat on the floor, it feels like ritual. The Telenovela plays through from character introduction to absurd drama and completes in a God-like, sci-fi, universal monologue from an additional and surprising character.
I’m not interested in calling it chaos and I’m not concerned with narratives of logic applied to “meaning making” in contemporary performance or the histories of White Avant-Garde and their contracts with aesthetic and viewing culture.
In his BOMB magazine article “Does Abstraction Belong to White People?,” Miguel confronts the predicament of erasure, in dance classes, in performance, when Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) bodies, their impact, contributions, and experiences are literally erased from space. I know this work is performed by an all Latinx ensemble, I know it’s conceptual research includes queer, brown feminist critique on white feminism by way of Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga’s seminal 1981 anthology, This Bridge Called My Back. I’ve been introduced to the work in a way that invites me to consider the identity politics in the room, on a spectrum from radical to reductive. Bridge illustrates non-monolithic Latinx identity through saturated stereotyping. It’s cunning, it’s perhaps messy, a vulgar reclamation of the historical sexualization of Latinx bodies, si mami, gracias papi.
I watch the audience watch the work. I’m considering the hypervisibility, assumptions, essentializing, and categorizing that might be happening. I wonder through what lens They (the people along the side to my left) saw when they were laughing and pointing, from what power, privilege, assumed consumption or possession are They viewing the work? I wonder this about myself, as I feel a kind of warmth of belonging (“these are my people”). Is that the privilege of a shared identity demographic, or multiple, or because I make and perform dance, or because I know someone in the ensemble? I’m confronted with my own desire to connect to be involved, confronted by how I’m looking at the flesh in front of me, with recognition of the body, bodies, with awe, with objectification, with longing to join, maybe?
I want to hold a clamp.
Flesh, obviously, I want to touch and be touched.
Objects, they make temporary borders or connections.
Objects that failed but were not punished for doing so.
Exact specificity of object choreography.
Relationship, togetherness, immediate and temporary.
Sensual or Sexual or Erotic. Confident Confidence. Fearless Intimacy.
The practice and the telenovela, equal a whole.
“Cross borders and shit on your front lawn… I am Hero and Villain alike.”
Perro of the People.
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