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Monday, September 13, 2010

So Maybe I'm "Not the Best Person" to Review Blanket

Posted by Marjorie Skinner on Mon, Sep 13, 2010 at 3:44 PM

After getting out of the debut of Nicole Kelly and Noelle Stiles' Blanket yesterday evening, I tweeted—perhaps callously:

Blanket didn't do anything for me besides put my right asscheek to sleep. Made my BF "giddy" tho. #TBA10

For what it's worth, and to the show's credit, my date to the show—ahem, the "BF" in question—and I ended up periodically revisiting the differences in our experiences of this piece until getting home from the Works' Art Party well after 2 am (On a school night. Brutal.)—more on that later. The quote in the title is his, after we got into unpacking why he enjoyed it and why I was nonplussed. I wasn't displeased, mind you, just unaffected. Blanket is the kind of show that I like to challenge myself to attend, because just dismissing or ignoring it would be too easy. The PICA preview of it reads:

Blanket contemplates the body as information and objects as instigators. Drawing from the personal, scientific and cultural, Blanket explores human engagement and cultural shifts toward synthetic experience.

That doesn't convey much, in my opinion (I find this to be an almost universal truth about PICA's TBA guide descriptions). It doesn't particularly intrigue me, nor is it a deterrent. Later, I did a little more research into the show for a blurb we put in our own TBA previews:

An installation of soft sculptures by Danielle Kelly—lumpy tubes and manatee shapes in sale-bin fabrics like camo and grandma florals, maybe a sweep of fringe—that don’t just look like body pillows; visitors are encouraged to hug them. Though not during the performance, please, during which Noelle Stiles will dance languorously among them in a piece meant to provoke questions about the virtualization of society and whether the color yellow really makes you smarter.

There was a lot of yellow, including for me the highlight of the show, which was when soloist Noelle Stiles donned the yellow-fringed pant leg you see on the official TBA guide's cover photo. Before attending (after having watched some online video footage) I suspected I might find it dull, but otherwise I like to think that I went in with an open mind, curious to see how I would respond to it. I did the same thing with Jérôme Bel’s Cédric Andrieux—I was (the only person, maybe?) underwhelmed by 2008's Pichet Klunchun and Myself, but I went anyway, and absolutely loved it. The difference I think was that Cédric appealed to my fondness for narrative and impressed me on a technical, physical level, whereas I found Blanket uncommunicative and vague, a kind of aimlessness that at best misses me completely and at worst, annoys me, while the performance itself wasn't especially unusual. Proficient, well executed, varied, and energetic, yes, but nothing that shouted to me with its prowess. I can get down with the mutant huggable, and occasionally fringed, blobs that decorate the lovely, light-drenched space:

blanket.png

Photo: Yasue Arai

For his part, my companion's reasons for enjoying it were all on a sensory level. He found it warm and uplifting, but not profound or even particularly meaningful. All of which are worthy goals for any art, I think, and maybe I'm demanding to much of a thesis here, but if you state you're contemplating things like "cultural shifts," then it's some kind of mutual misfire that I was left unchanged. I'm not fond of the idea that I should lower my expectations because something is sanctioned by our local institutions as art. If it's to be a purely sensual experience, why bother the virtualization of society about it?

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