Let's talk about what you're seeing above. It is not clear whether that dancer is meant to be human or machine. He, she, they, or it is doing a glitchy crawl all the way down the red carpet. It's somehow both robotic and animalistic. The head is covered in a red stocking that completely hides the face. There will be five of these glitchy crawlers creeping one after the other down this red carpet until they all stand up in formation until one removes the red cap. That one dances her violent, passionate love-hate with these red-headed anonymous hybrids, who feel familiar. This is how I feel about my phone, for starters. It won't leave me alone, and I can't break up with it. I don't think I'll ever be able to break up with it.
That's the start of Pylon II, a production I saw Wednesday night that thoroughly cast a spell on me. It was the creation of Coleman Pester of //Tectonic Marrow Society; dancers Lorraine Lau, Cheryl Delostrinos, David Rue, Randy Ford, and Jenna Eady; visual artist Alexander Boeschenstein, whose mesmerizing cracked visions were projected on the overhead screens along with live surveillance feedback and manipulation; and Monika Khot, whose fear-inducing soundscape hacked me.
It was rainy Wednesday night. And it was a Wednesday night in Seattle. I expected 9e2 to be lonely and suffering. But King Street Station was packed. Then I had a new worry: that it wouldn't live up to its history as a 21st century reboot of a great 20th-century art adventure—the time when, in 1966, 30 engineers from Bell Labs and 10 artists, including Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, drew 11,000 people to New York's massive 69th Regiment Armory to see Nine Evenings of high-tech-art events.
I stopped worrying. 9e2 continues for two more nights and you should check it out.
Among the highlights Wednesday were Pylon II, which brought me to the realization that in general, there is something magically tense about the intersection of digital technology and the sweat and bump of dance.
Another piece did the same thing just as effectively but very differently: the performance of The Biology of Culture: Cue Signaling by visual artist Romson Regarde Bustillo working with dancer David Rue and the research scientist Jason Berndt. In this ingenious piece, what you'd have seen was an outer circle of people who were Filipino and Black (Bustillo is Filipino and Rue is Black). That outer circle was an audience, but it was also a performing group within the piece, egging on and responding to the various movements of the solo performer in the center: first, a bodybuilder (Bustillo's brother!), and then, Rue. Rue had developed his own choreography based on his background in West African dance as well as prior conversations with Bustillo about the patterns embedded in Bustillo's curtain-sized prints hanging in the very heart of the performance space.
The inner audience snapped their fingers, held red balloons, wore blasts of the color red, and generally seemed to know things the outer audience didn't. But there was no single central meaning, only layers and levels that were cultural, personal, aesthetic, and cognitive. The performance raised vital ideas and questions about the ways that people understand and misunderstand each other, and how we try to bridge the gaps using everything at our disposal, from body language and words to facial expressions, fashion, decoration, and design. It was also gorgeous art and dance mutually amplified.
Corny as it sounds, it felt good to experience all this work alongside all these people. Fifty years ago, engineers and artists were still very separate people, and no regular person had a wireless anything. The technology is all of ours now.