On a bridge in Denver, spider black arms wrap and convulse. They take a break and walk into the rolling creek/river before transferring to the alley. The composition of urban decay with human form takes the viewer on an epic journey in Control Group’s Salon Romantik, opus 3: FEAR & PROPHETS. The multi-site performance also includes a cultural/historical bus tour. As a viewer/voyeur, you traverse from a downtown alley to a repurposed wastewater treatment plant turned park to a national wildlife refuge. The audience is transported and dropped into these various locals struggling with each dislocation as to how to view, how to interact and how to smack the late summer bugs tickling arms.
Control Group has created mobile installation at its best with viewer engagement, entrapment and discomfort. The included photo montage provides only glimpses into the varying ecologies of the performance. The dancers went from looking like an urban synchronized swimming gang to convulsing thriller zombies to horse-mask wearing egalitarian mistresses posing on furniture in the wilderness.
The musical components of the interactive journey included sound-based atmospheric noise to pop-culture including the Doors and vaudeville sounds like they belonged on the musical, Oliver.
So, what was the overall concept amidst all of this? Following the transformation of homeless to zombie, the dancers become the four horse (wo)men of the apocalypse. It is a mystery set in juxtaposition with community. How are we as community members creating our demise? Are we adding to the eventual closeness of the apocalypse through our trashing of the environment and over-building or are we preserving life?
While many may begin to recall the Book of Revelations or Sunday sermons, my mind turns to the first stanza of William Blake’s London:
I wonder thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
Stealing from Control Group’s own artistic director, Patrick Mueller, this performance instigates thought by “tracking human imprint on our natural environment. Histories, futures and fictions collide in an immersive avant garde performance event that slams together Manifest Destiny, the modern Romantic ethos, and pop-culture renderings of the Apocalypse to prophecy our downfall and our prospects for redemption.”
What is this redemption? How do we go from this experience of dust, dirt, bugs and grime to living and changing or not changing the trajectory of our society?
There are a couple options; one is to attend the concluding Opus 4 and Opus 5 of this Salon Romantik series. The other is to go home, wash your hands and be the change you wish to see.
Information on Control Group Productions: Control Group is directed by Patrick Mueller with assistant direction by Kristine Whittle. Director and Guide: Patrick Mueller. Creation and Performance: Hallie Bauernschmidt, Taylor Semin, Kate Speer, Kristine Whittle. Sound Design by Brian Freeland. Site Design and Consultation by Sergio Preston. Original Fashion Pieces by Tricia Hoke. Additional Costume Design by Kristine Whittle and Buffalo Exchange CO. Lighting by God.
Opus 4 and Opus 5 of Salon Romantik are anticipated in the coming months. It is rumored that Opus 5 will be presented before Opus 4 and could hit the streets of Denver in November 2013.
W. Celeste Davis Stragand: Published author, showcased artist and local Denverite, W. Celeste Davis Stragand is not new to the art world. Her passion for delving into the root of existence and movement will challenge and praise both choreographers and the audience. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Celeste holds two bachelor of arts degrees, one in Chemistry and the other in English. She is also a graduate of Naropa University holding a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing and Poetics from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. A former national slam team poet, Celeste is a graduate of the Downtown Denver Partnership Leadership Program and sits on the American Institute of Architects Colorado board. Her passion and enthusiasm for the kinetic arts will frolic and frenzy through the upcoming season of performances with many hopes for an encore!