Saturday, April 16, 2016

FUSE: This is Now at the VAG

I haven't been to a FUSE in a while and despite my difficulties in shaking this cold I'm currently battling, last night I made sure to haul myself to the latest iteration. This only partly had to do with getting a first glimpse of the current MashUp show on at the VAG--about which I have been hearing such wildly divergent things. (I'll have to go back more than once in the coming weeks to judge for myself.) I was mostly inspired by the fact that this latest iteration of FUSE was curated by Joyce Rosario, Associate Curator at the PuSh Festival. And that it featured some of my favourite local artists.

In "Backing it Up," Justine A. Chambers took the sometimes maligned, often overlooked role of the back-up dancer and moved it centre stage--or at least into a corner alcove on the second floor of the gallery, a nice bit of (de)focalization that hints at various overlapping ideas of recessiveness at play in this ubiquitous pop culture phenomenon. That is, the whole raison-d'être of back-up dancers is to recede into the distance; at the same time, no matter the dominant celebrity parent they are working for, there appears to be a standard repertoire of moves that they all inherit. Chambers plays with this by building her score on a basic step-touch sequence. To a loop of classic Motown tunes, a gaggle of Modus Operandi dancers shift their weight from one leg to the other and snap their fingers in time to the music, occasionally changing their facings and group formations. But then something far more interesting starts to happen: entropy inserts itself within this simple bit of unison. The automatic--and automaton-like--steps and snaps dissolve into a chaotic riot of off-beat tics and awkward, non-synchronous gestures, the various head shakes and eye rolls and face brushes refusing to be disciplined by an imposed technique of anonymous legibility, and imposing instead 20+ separate scores that say: "Look at me, see me, I am a body that matters--even here, in the back row."

Circling briefly around Natalie Gan's "Chinese Vaginies" (which already by 8:30 had a long waitlist), I made my way briefly to the third floor annex to take in Remy Siu's "New Eyes-Study #2," an impressive immersive installation of light and sound and smoke. Then it was up to the fourth floor for fellow Hong Kong Exile member Milton Lim's "okay.odd," an eye-popping and satirical video take on the practice of mindful meditation and linguistic free association.

I spent the most time in the adjacent rooftop pavilion, where the musician and DJ Kareem Abdul Jabaastard and the dance artist Deana Peters/Mutable Subject (together with friends, including Elissa Hanson and Kristina Lemieux and Alexa Mardon) were throwing a dance party called "This is Not a Performance!" With an amazing playlist of song mash-ups and an equally amazing view of the city, it was hard to resist this particular groove.


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