Hannah Geil-Neufeld on Sharon Picasso’s “pleasure. only briefly.”

sharon picasso

Where am I? Watching a nest. In an abandoned warehouse, maybe. Certainly a big dark space. I’m at the BLB, but the space feels huge when the light comes on that draws my attention to the nest. It’s off to one side, tucked in a corner of the huge room. There’s something there. A person? At first I can’t quite tell. The light illuminates the nest (a collection of orange extension cords and a few light fixtures) and a still shape. Arms start to move. They show me that they are arms. They show me that they are attached to a body. I am surprised that I am surprised by this. Once I see it I don’t understand how I didn’t see it all along.

And then the piece is over.

Not really, but the title is certainly fitting. After watching pleasure. only briefly. I feel like I just woke up after having ten different dreams in the span of a minute, but I can’t quite remember any one of the dreams specifically. Certain images stick, and I have a lingering visceral memory of what happened, but try to say it out loud to myself or someone else and it slips. I grab at it because I want it back. There was a nest. It was orange. Was grandpa there? Yes. Were there crickets? Yes. And construction sounds? Yes. What was Grandpa doing with the crickets at a construction site? Was it one dream or separate dreams? Before I can answer these questions I’m back at the BLB (the stage and space shrink back down to their natural size when the house lights come on) and Picasso is on stage talking to Laurie Van Wieren about the making of the piece in classic 9 x 22 fashion.

But let me try to take you into the dream. The piece happens in segments created by light. Picasso is the sole performer and also controlling the lights by flipping switches in the nest. She flips a switch, performs a segment of movement, flips a switch, and starts something new. The switch-flipping changes the lighting and the quality and/or pace of the movement in a way that makes it pleasantly difficult to tell exactly who is controlling who. At one point Picasso flips a switch that sends her into a convulsive state that ends as soon as she hits the lights again. Is Picasso or the light in control?

Throughout the piece a soundscape composed by Picasso adds an extra layer to the movement. The first sounds I hear are “nature sounds” (ocean, crickets) and as the piece progresses highways and construction sounds are added to the mix. A repetitive clanging emerges. I crave silence.

And then the dream is over.

In the talkback, I learn that Picasso started by doing a lot of reading about synapses in the brain, but then decided to put the books down and rely on what her body already knew to make the piece. It is clear that Picasso’s body knows a lot. She mentions that the sound score was a recreation of the soundscape one hears sitting on her mother’s patio at night. She didn’t know that that was what it was until after she made it. She also notes that she forgot to turn on the strobe light during this particular showing of the piece. Multiple audience members mention a strobe-like experience during the convulsing section of movement. Picasso’s movement and light control made a strobe, without a strobe, without knowing she was making a strobe.

pleasure. only briefly. reminds me of two truths:

a) we know things that we don’t know we know

and

b) in the moment between seeing something that we know and recognizing what it is, we learn something new

Gratitude for both. Reminders from dreams we can’t quite remember.

Arms. Grandpa. Crickets. Black.

 

-Hannah Geil-Neufeld

 

pleasure. only briefly.

created and performed by Sharon Picasso

9×22 Dance/Lab

Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater

November 25, 2015

 

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