Nox Contemporary: Collaboration at its best

With sentiments similar to that of the new film series, Screen Deep, the second Alternative Genres (August 27, 2012) show at Nox Contemporary provided Salt Lake with a chance to experience converging

forms of performance and film.  Upon entering the gallery, I was greeted by parallel rows of laptops screening a variety of video pieces from local artists.  As I put on the headphones to view one of Aniko

Safran’s pieces, I was able to leave the rest of the world of the gallery behind, creating instant intimacy.  In one work,  Safran explores the notion of time and space through the use of a metronome.  As I watched (and heard) the ticking of the metronome in its various settings, everywhere from a nondescript room to flourishing shrubs, I was forced to think and rethink about the way in which one feels and experiences time.  This idea was further exaggerated by my peripheral setting, where everyone else in the gallery existed in a separate time and place from myself.

I was then ushered into a larger, adjacent room, which was entirely bare in order to view the second live performance of the evening (having already missed the first).  As a contemporary piece, Samuel Hanson’s “Duet”, was flawless, which is to say that it was far from being perfect.  Hanson explored the process of creation by choosing two volunteers from the audience to help him construct the piece in

the moment.  Upon blindfolding them, he guided each to a separate corner of the room.  He then instructed them to simultaneously cross half the distance from one to the other, then repeat, and repeat, etc. After many back and forth attempts at this, the two individuals finally met somewhere near the middle.  At this point, Hanson asked them to interact with one another in various, simple ways, until they

were each lying on the ground, one massaging the other’s arm.  We, the rest of the audience, were invited to form a circle around the two of them and were then instructed to slowly back away while keeping in

mind that their figures were only getting further away and not actually shrinking as we would perceive.  Again a test of trial and error, as Hanson asked us to restart this process each time we lost

awareness of the fact that they were not actually getting smaller, all the while, the massage continued.  At the end of the piece, the two volunteers stumbled their way back to their original positions in

opposing corners, back to the beginning, as if nothing had happened yet.  While this piece made me hyper aware of the process rather than product, it left me asking the question: how much should the

performance be the choreographer’s vision and how much should be the artist’s contributions to it, as a consequence of Hanson’s intermittent statements of, “No, I actually want you do it more like

this” when things were not happening as he envisioned them.

Before the next performance began, I was able to view another video piece.  “Trent goes Bowling” by Jan Andrews consisted of a video showing the creation of shards of mirror which were now on display inside of a salmon suitcase.  The video showed the artist (and friends) rolling a brilliant pink bowling ball (also exhibited in the gallery) across the room in order to break various sizes of mirrors.  The lack of headphones coupled with the white noise of the rest of the gallery made it impossible to hear anything in the video except for the crisp shatter of glass.  Along with these, the artist had provided a statement in which she divulges that this piece was originally the preparatory work for another.  That is, she needed the glass shards and came up with a creative way to acquire them and the process ran away with her becoming something else entirely.  At this point, she knew she had created something that she wished to share.

Once again, I entered the bare room, this time equipped with a ballet barre and mirror.  Valerie Atkisson began what appeared to be a warm up routine, which she performed several times over with succinct rhythm.

Her  movements were also clearly in conversation with the music she had chosen, a classical piece.  Her elegant motions and perfect timing evinced this austere notion associated with such modes of music and dance.  At the end of her piece, Valerie removed a large white poster board which had gone unnoticed underneath her feet for the entirety of the performance and held it up to show a second piece which she had now created.  Upon closer inspection of this dance drawing, I was astounded by the beautiful lines she had created, which mimicked the fluidity of her entire piece.

The final performance of the evening was “The Windy Gap” choreographed by Ashley Anderson and performed with Efrén Corado.  Set to a series of slides, Anderson danced the first part of the piece solo, then Corado, and finally the two of them together.  Each time, to the same set of slides, with each individual performing the same routine.  The beauty of the piece came from its unfolding, watching the way each interacted with the photographs in their own way, Anderson incredibly aware of the details in the images behind her, and Corado mimicking formations and shapes in the stills.   In the end, the way in which their seemingly individual pieces came together was seamless, each in communication with different aspects of the photos, each in communication with one another, at one point Efren’s piercing slaps of his own thighs

dictated the movements of Anderson.  I found this performance in particular to be quite fitting for the gallery setting.  I could imagine this unending repetition of routines, much like Valerie’s, to recur again and again alongside others, installations, videos, stills, etc.

Echo Smith studies classics and literature at the University of Utah. She regularly attends dance, theater, and music performances in SLC.