Sunday, April 19, 2015

An empty house (full of air) at Pandora Park

Luciana D'Anunciacao is a multidisciplinary artist who works with video, sound, lighting, fabrics, textures, found objects and her own body to create immersive and deeply sensory durational performances and installations. She recently graduated with an MFA from SFU's School for the Contemporary Arts, and with the collective Dance Troupe Practice currently has a three-year artist residency with the Vancouver Parks Board, based out of the fieldhouse at Pandora Park, on the east side.

As part of the first phase of this residency, D'Anunciacao has collaborated with Carolina Bergonzoni to create a site-specific movement piece that takes place within the confined space of the fieldhouse, a kind of caretaker's cottage attached to the park. Actually, the work begins in an even more constricted and spatially delimited manner, with audience members clustered around the door to the cottage, watching as D'Anunciacao, standing upright, and Bergonzoni, squished horizontally along a low shelf, shift their limbs and redistribute their weight within the very shallow and narrow interior of the front closet. Restricting their movements even further are the large plastic pillows filled with air that the performers--both wearing matching pajama tops and bottoms--must work with and around. 

The air bags are intriguingly paradoxical props. On the one hand, they function as a further impediment to the mobility and presumed desire for extrication of the performers. At the same time, they serve as a protective buffer between their bodies and the hard surfaces and sharp edges of the space they are moving within. And it must be said, on this front, that D'Anunciacao and Bergonzoni are by no means cautious and delicate movers in this part of the piece, despite the physical restrictions placed upon them; I offered several empathetic winces for battered elbows and hips as both women flung themselves about with abandon. And yet, as much as the performers' costumes conjure the image of the air bags as comforting and pliably soft pillows, witnessing D'Anunciacao bury her face more than once within a well of plastic also brought to mind all those warnings one received as a kid about not putting plastic bags over your head. Here, another aspect of the air bags bears mentioning: the sound they make when the performers move with or against them. This reverberating acoustic echo was something that, from my own restricted viewing position, I came to anticipate and listen for as a reassurance that the performers were still in fact moving.

Eventually D'Anunciacao and Bergonzoni extricate themselves from the closet and bolt, along with their air bags, to two separate rooms at the back of the cottage. This is our cue to enter the performance space and take our seats within its tiny open kitchen. After a duet of opening and closing doors set to a bit of adapted text from a Brazilian writer, the final portion of the performance takes place in the kitchen. Retrieving two new air bags--one from the oven, the other from the fridge--D'Anunciacao and Bergonzoni roll with them across virtually every surface and into almost every nook and cranny in the room. This includes not just some inventive partnering on the floor, but also a sequence of amazing bodily juxtapositions involving the surfaces of appliances and countertops and the interiors of cabinets. Indeed, it was a compelling visual contrast to see D'Anunciacao, the taller of the two performers, maneuver her body along stove and counter tops, dipping her head into the sink while Bergonzoni, who is physically more compact, folded her limbs into the inside of the cabinet underneath. I wouldn't have been surprised, at that point, if they had gone on to change places by squeezing each of their bodies through the drain.

All of which speaks to how organically this piece was in tune with its site. I look forward to what else D'Aunciacao and her collective creates over the next three years.


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