Intriguing, with occasional flashes of insight into the nature of the brain and perception, And Lose the Name of Action, the Miguel Gutierrez dance/movement performance piece at the Museum of Contemporary Art through Sunday, attempts to find answers to the question of whether the conscious state and personality are created only by brain activity or perhaps through the experiential process of body action. Does perception inform consciousness or does body movement play a role in finding meaning? Inspired by a series of blood clots his father had that affected his cognitive and language functions, Gutierrez began to ask these questions and examine the role movement has in determining reality.
He employs video narration, tossed chairs, and the concept of intimacy and direct experience, by seating the audience on 3 sides of the irregularly shaped stage along with the performers. At one point we are welcomed and asked to hold hands, along with the 6 dispersed and also seated performers in an effort to trust the experience, much as the 19th century spiritual movement believed the spirits of the dead could communicate with the living. These movement/dance artists make multiple entrances and exits through filmy white curtains, further enhancing the idea of ghosts entering through walls or quietly disappearing and reappearing to the sides of the audience.
I wouldn’t call this a true dance work, even as generally understood today as post modern dance so much as staged movement that probably arose from a rehearsal process of improvisation, creating a sense of conflict and confusion. A sense of frustration, isolation, and the inability to communicate through spoken language brought to mind the terms disorder, disintegration, and what it must feel like for a person with impaired cognitive ability, aphasia, or perhaps psychological issues, even a sense of incarceration, if only in one's mind.
Dressed in white or off-white gauzy costumes, except for one, several performers take turns examining a white box, which is moved around the floor and revealing, when opened, a bright white light, a small book, reflective perhaps of the choreographer’s research into philosophy, the paranormal, neurology, and somatics. Two performers read directions for dance steps that are on the inner lid of the box and repeatedly try to perfect—albeit without success. The changes of light colors and sound convey altered states.
There is dialogue, much of which is unintelligible, and a strong desire to make human connections but fail, either through strong embraces, some waltzing, and one scene of attempted sexual interaction. The result is a frenzy of wild movement, some coordinated, most individual and isolated, and a lot of running around the stage trying to either to catch or chase each other. Inhibitions are discarded through some nudity and shouted profanity during the major chase scene. The prolonged tossing of folding chairs by 5 dancers while one was trying to establish a sense of order out of chaos was particularly poignant and disturbing as she continually talked to herself.
The exploration of knowing/not knowing, desire and the search for meaning, and mind-body connectedness ultimately does not hold together well, however, and becomes repetitive and somewhat boring. The performance was only 90 minutes, without an intermission, but seemed much longer, owing to so much repetitive movement and the relentless pursuit of establishing control out of the uncontrollable.
Concluding performances are Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 3
and 7:30 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave. 312-397-4010