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Flash Review 2, 2-8: "Flicker"
Surprisingly Tender S&M Blood Sports and other Task-oriented Choreography from Big Art Group

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2002 Chris Dohse

NEW YORK -- There's so much going on in the post-Queer hybrid pastiche that is Big Art Group's "Flicker" (seen last Friday at P.S. 122), the movement element in it is easy to overlook. But the work's choreography-that-can't-be-called-dancing (organized by "Movement Coach" Krissie Marty) is integral to its success. A frenzied combination of live video projection and performance,"Flicker" relies on the split-second timing of its stagehands cum performers to navigate a joyride through themes of bi-questioning, drunken, hysterical youth, controversial sex practices and teenage splatter films. A loud, reeling example of pop culture eating itself, the work delivers the instant gratification of the contemporary and the commercial with an "eviscerating smile." The result is always interesting, but rarely pleasurable. The pedal-to-the-metal pace becomes monotonous and the throwaway subject matter irritates, but the cast's energy makes the project work as slapdash kitsch. They're so hopelessly young and thin and healthy and ambitious and fabulous; you can't even hate them.

The form of the piece, called "real-time film" by Big Art Group's founder Caden Manson, requires some definition. The audience is faced with a wall of three contiguous blank screens, with a gap below -- tall enough to see the feet of the cast, who stand behind, and a growing pile of prop and costume detritus. Three mounted video cameras and the cast's heads appear above. When faces or objects get in the range of any camera's eye, these images loom, often harshly distorted and deranged looking, on its respective screen.

Two separate narratives emerge and are told piecemeal, like soap opera. In one storyline, Vivian Bang's waif-like roommate Justin Christopher, freshly returned from the emergency room where his stomach-full of pills was pumped, becomes acquainted with Vivian's sometimes beau, Jeff Randall. Justin plays "Justin" as a glorious mess and consummate victim, all tics and screech. The flirtation between the two boys, which eventually includes the bitchy Viv and an ominous, Dahmer-like nurse, Rebecca Sumner Burgos, plays out under the scrutiny of Jeff's omnipresent video camera. In a central moment, film within film within film documents a surprisingly tender shower scene of S&M blood sports. In a second story, a slasher/Sasquatch stalks teen party-goers through a wood. As one might expect, the two story-lines collide and things end badly for all involved. Only the nurse, whose eerie new-age homilies take on a cautionary air, remains unscathed.

Several roles are played by multiple performers, as defined by the color of corresponding wigs. When not speaking, or more frequently shouting, their lines, all actors facilitate hundreds of detailed camera shots, usually interspersed with brief flashes of blank, variously textured cards. Complex multi-camera sleights of hand are ingeniously and humorously executed. However, the audience is ostensibly directed to focus on the foreshortened product of the behind-the-scenes work, glimpsing its edges only. This frenetic, machine-like, intricate dance of props and people is the real star of the show and conjectures a new sort of extreme task-oriented choreography.

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