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Flash Review, 4-25: Childs World
Immaculate Conceptions at the Kitchen

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2002 Chris Dohse

NEW YORK -- Lucinda Childs inhabits the immaculate geometry of Sol LeWitt's 1979 film "Dance" like an angel dancing on the head of a pin. Her iconic, impassive figure looms over the intervening decades, a postmodern totem, merged eternally with LeWitt's rectilinear decor (black grid on white floor cloth) and Philip Glass's mesmerizing score. For the Kitchen's 30th anniversary, in a program seen Saturday night, Childs also ghosts herself, dancing live behind the scrim upon which LeWitt's film is projected. Her repetitive skips, steps and small jetes done in the now -- in straight lines and around the circumference of a circle -- correspond nonchalantly to her filmed cadences and parabolas. The performance is a technical marvel, a monument to a certain period of art history, a minimal, relentless arithmetic. Yet stripped as it is to an autistic, tireless austerity, Childs's delicate presence is haunting and inescapable. She becomes more than a universal human figure, inexhaustibly functioning in relationship to its surrounding space. After time, you notice her frailty -- that one of her arms seems to rotate more freely than the other, the mudra-like shapes her hands often form, her shy, averted gaze and her ironclad chill. She embodies the 'space-bewitched' creature once hypothesized by Oskar Schlemmer.

It's harder to get a grip on the brief "Underwater," a fragment from the Glass/Robert Wilson 1998 opera "White Raven." Childs balances a simple walking and talking solo, elegantly performed, beneath a descending, threatening needle, or perhaps it's the lowering hand of God's stopwatch. She recites a celebration of Wilhelm Reich's universal, cosmic and biological blue orgone energy (text by Luisa Costa Gomes) and is circled by a sea monster (danced by Johanna Hegenscheidt). Childs is as cool throughout as an azure sea, yet some urgency or lunatic determination drives her to escape the scene finally via a ladder into the rafters.

"Description (of a Description)" showcases Childs the actress and allows her to become the vehicle of Susan Sontag's brilliant, poetic text. Sontag/Childs narrate what seems at first an odd story of a haphazard encounter with a man on a sidewalk. "Time had fallen in on him," Childs notices. The man becomes a catalyst for a meditation on failed relationships, the inexactitude of experience, the inescapability of time. Echoing from and around the precariously raked platform (designed by Hans Peter Kuhn and Mathias Hofman) on which Childs looks increasingly isolated, the rhythmic, mellifluous text reminds us that the unexpected is always upon us. Time, happenstance, and reflection will soon fall in on us all.

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