Although the New York Times calls “And lose the name of action” by Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People a “maddeningly incoherent” and “meandering […] performance piece,” it seems to me critic Alastair Macaulay might have missed some key lessons in life, philosophy and dance history. Gutierrez’ non-traditional dance company posits neuro-physical, philosophical and spiritual quandaries paired with instillation, hallucinatory audio and video/text. If one considers the works of influences such as choreographer John Jasperse whom Gutierrez originally danced for at the MCA-Chicago about ten years ago in addition to the seminal inspiration of postmodern dance pioneer, Deborah Hay, there lies no adverse disconnect between the unfolding, present and very alive, audience-based environment proposed by the work.
Hay’s innovations with unconventional, untrained dancers or long-scale ritualistic dance, and Jasperse’s enigmatic interactions with sets and props frame the work of Brooklyn-based dance and music artist, Gutierrrez. Straddling lines between categories of dance, performance art and multimedia theater, “And lose the name of action” puts the audience on the actual stage with the dancers to sense, feel and breathe in the moment. In a recent conversation with the Director of Performance Programs at the MCA-Chicago, Peter Taub says Gutierrez “always pushes the envelope. He’s really brave. He puts himself out there in fascinating and evocative ways. I’ve always been astounded and taken by his spirit and intelligence, by how he explores real issues, things that are actually meaningful.”
Gutierrez doesn’t only create difficult dance. He is actively engaged as the inventor and disseminator of the absurdist workout, DEEP AEROBIC, “for the radical in us all.” He has also published a book of performance texts, “When You Rise Up.” However, you might know Gutierrez for his choreographic dance fame with LeTigre‘s outré music video for their hit, “Decepticon.” The video, titled “Aerobicon” was recorded only after its original live performance at a downtown New York event as part of a duet series called “Tandemonium.” Eventually catching the attention of Kathleen Hanna, the dance made its way into the band’s CMJ performance. Gutierrez also choreographed and performed in Holcombe Waller‘s music video “Hardliners.”
With such an accessible and popular dance record, one might question Macaulay’ criticism. Celebrity aside, the longstanding career of Gutierrez and the arrival of his unique family of dancers to Chicago’s MCA-Stage marks a full circle of artistic method, vision and application. His process-based, improvisational performance art is in fact interdisciplinary, multifaceted and thus seemingly elusive. However, when one considers the nature of the piece, tackling issues of Cartesian concepts while implementing some Alexander Technique breathing exercises, there should be no misunderstanding of the sparse conflicts at play here.
Taking into account the origins of the performance, stemming from the neurological problems endured by his own father, Gutierrez’ seeks not to answer any formal questions on the nature of identity, personhood or how we define communication, but rather unlocks an experience between the audience and the dancers, intentionally varied in size, body type, age and appearance, to match us, the real people and our lives. The piece strives to engage topics of language, understanding and expression with or beyond the body, delving into phantasmic elements, supernatural impulse and spiritual realities.
That stated, the mind, the body and the spirit have always been contentious, fragmented, conflicting and messy terrains, not simply for philosophical debate, scientific investigation and religious dogma, but for the ordinary and everyday muddles of life. And lose the name of action offers a glimpse at the “meandering,” the “defuse,” and the “maddeningly incoherent” aspects of our ambiguous existence as etherial matter. The New Yorker‘s Andrew Boynton states it best, “For an artist like Gutierrez, so focussed on the human condition, so curious about the role of language, so committed to movement as a mode of communication, a complex work like ‘And lose the name of action’ is not the whole conversation; it’s just a start.”
Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People
“And lose the name of action”
Jan 31–Feb 3, 2013 – For tickets to “And lose the name of action” at the MCA, 220 E. Chicago Ave.: 312-397-4010 or mcachicago.org