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Greg Hendren on Eiko at The Met Breuer | Eiko + Koma
Greg Hendren on Eiko at The Met Breuer

Greg Hendren on Eiko at The Met Breuer (November 12, 2017)

Your performance overcame any association with a gallery that is normally brightly lighted.  When entering the dark room I forget it was a museum.  You created a complete environment.  I read that you wanted to “stain” the museum while you were respectful to the institution.  I think you succeeded.  I’ve seen many exhibitions at the Whitney, but when they include videos, after walking back into bright gallery with fixed, unmoving “trophy” images hanging on walls it’s difficult to carry along the video experience. 

When I first walked into the room I saw an image on the wall but couldn’t see you.  When my eyes adjusted I saw you next to the wall blending into the image.  In many of the images you were partially camouflaged and I could only see part of your body.  Sometimes the head, sometimes the arm or leg.  One time when you were standing in front of an image I saw your head clearly on your chest, just below your neck – an eery image. 

The wall-size images created a theatrical space, but nothing like a backdrop.  (I found myself thinking throughout your performance that you had created an environment that could never be created as “virtual reality.”  Those people wearing the 3-D google-glasses will never experience the profound “world” you created.  How terrible.

I’ve never seen anything quite like this in any dance or theatrical performance.  You’ve created a unique piece.  A small room, moving images, different scales, clothing that you wore in the pictures and then in the space.  I felt as if I was constantly moving and watching so intensely to stay in your multi-dimensional space.  Where was I as a viewer?  Where were you?  Everywhere.  The fixed images on the wall weren't fixed because the images were as vivid as you were in the room.    You continued to insert yourself into the scenes, step out, move under, around, constantly in motion.  In one scene a red cloth waving in the wind filled the entire frame like a banner, and you calmly walked towards the wall.  I agree that at times you were dancing with yourself.  But you were dancing with a self that constantly changed scale and shape. 

The room also was moving constantly.  In the space you created, audience members were seated or standing against all the walls, but they were participating.  Some people moved when they were in the frame.  Others sat quietly as the images passed over their bodies temporarily camouflaging them so that they become part of the scene. 

By placing the speaker on the cart the volume of sounds subtly changed as you moved the large cart (functional, but at least for me it’s another heavy burden that you pulled) slowly around the room enveloping the audience.  (You also directed your anger towards the cart, perhaps technology?, as you yanked the support straps off and threw them into the air.)  Your selection and arrangement of a a complex mixture of many natural sounds including waves crashing, sea birds, a tinkling bell and music suggested life unyielding to the destruction.  The loud trucks hauling debris were a jolting reminder that heavy, dirty work is continuing. The sounds also supported the image’s narratives.