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Flash Review 2, 10-10:
Tolentino Bottoms Out; Finley Scares the Shit Out....
By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2000 Maura Nguyen Donohue
On Saturday night I was
eagerly expecting a down and dirty double header with Julie Tolentino's
"The Bottom Project" at The Kitchen and Karen Finley's "Shut up
and Love Me" Late Nite at P.S. 122. In the end I wasn't disappointed.
In the beginning I was.
Julie Tolentino's bio
reads like the personal ad for the girl I always wanted to marry.
This is a woman who credits her tattoo artists in her bio, has appeared
in videos for Chaka Khan and Diamanda Galas and in Madonna's SEX
book, founded the Clit Club/nyc, performed with Ron Athey, spent
10 years as a senior member of David Rousseve/REALITY and she's
hapa (half- Asian) to boot. Having seen her in Rousseve's "Love
Songs" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music I already knew what an engaging
performer and excellent dancer she was. I'd caught glimpses of her
earlier work "MESTIZA -- Que Bonitos Ojos Tienes" on video at the
Intersection II conference so I was eager to see what she'd come
up with from the bottom.
The cavern of The Kitchen
matched the fantastic design work to create a space inaccessible
by any road map. Tolentino and Jet Clark create a striking installation
with evocative set design. Catherine Gund's video, David Ferri's
lighting, Julie Fowell's live violin, Killer's heart attack-inducing
live percussion, sound compositions by Aldo Hernandez and Killer,
and Bernard Elsmere's (F100) live computer synthesis and sound installation
all worked towards pulling the audience into an eerie internal world.
The work is full of haunting image after surreal image after psychedelic
image after beautiful image. There's Julie with her head bound in
rope, there's three bodies suspended and spinning, there's a bloody
hand, there's a chorus of hair thrashing, there's Julie sticking
pins in her arm, there's a woman enclosed in a square Plexiglas
column slowly being covered by a dropping stream of dust for almost
the entire duration of the work, there's a body submerged in a sphere
of milk, there's a woman on a slowly deflating bed, there's Julie
pummeled by dropping rice. It was like the trailer for a dream except
of course in dream time. However, like in a dream the images did
not add up to any recognizable whole. The large cast worked hard
to enliven and engage, and Tolentino's all too brief bouts of movement
were delicious morsels, but the overall atmosphere of the work seemed
intentionally distant and emotionless.
As an evening, though,
it all balanced out once confronted with the overwhelming intimacy
of "Shut Up and Love Me." Note: This review is rated R for language,
adult content and explicit sexual imagery. NEA Censors beware...
Karen Finley is a relentless force. She is a performer who constantly
shifts between a state of 'on' and a state of 'ON!' From the moment
she appears masturbating in a tight red dress and high black heels
to the moment just before exiting, naked and covered in honey, she
is a blatant and unapologetic torrent of the psycho and the sexual.
of the mother- and father- fucking Oedipus and Electra complexes
begins with an assault. She dances, rubs and thrusts her way through
the audience after delivering a spectacular boob ballet. She slices
through tales of a woman overcome by historically female neuroses
with a razor-sharp wit and intense self awareness. We skip across
her psychic landscape and through unexpected time warps as she portrays,
or sometimes recounts, sexual propositions to Daddy and Vietnam
vets. Her powerful performance lies not only in her outrageous inappropriateness
in speech or deed but also in her ability to turn her fantastic-unkempt-red-hair-long-legged-small-waisted-well-breasted
body into an instrument of terror. Whether she is barking like a
dog, enacting a tongue-sucking dance, or, even, playfully rolling
in honey she is a demon caught in corporeal glory. Sharing the same
space with her is frightening, exhausting and exhilarating. This
work is alive and scares the shit out me. That Finley's work is
still considered explicit and shocking is a startling reminder of
how far women's sexual liberation has still not come. It makes me
grossly aware of my own passivity in a realm I'd considered myself
to have been a ruler of sorts. And I'm not talking about the concert
"Shut Up and Love Me"
continues this Friday and Saturday, with shows at 11 p.m.
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