In Impossible Landscapes, Invisible Cities, performed at Da Gallery in 2011, I worked with dancer/choreographer, Cori Kresge to explore the way human existence might be altered by an increasingly hostile urban habitat. Throughout the performance, I painted on the surface of a large back-lit scrim made of paper. Inspired largely by a residency in India in 2009, where I encountered many seemingly impossible circumstances, I created a teetering landscape within which Kresge, donning a gas mask embellished with feathers and beads, inhabited a creature that was both bird and human. Set to a sound score by David Barratt, excerpts from Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino were read throughout the performance by Rick Mangi.
Calvino’s fantastical short novel suggests how a person approaches a city in their daily life and how they both see a city, but also how the city responds to them. In “Invisible Cities,” Marco Polo tells Kublai Khan about 55 of of the cities in his empire, but they don’t speak the same language, so he could just as well be telling him about the same city from 55 different points of view. As these explorations are narrated, the piece explores a post-apocalyptic landscape and architecture and how humans will struggle and evolve to stay alive within it.
Kresge’s masked character is part of her full length project, “Sapience I-X ‘Human Story.’” The gas masks, which Kresge has embellished with feathers, beads, fur, and other found objects, conflate human, bird, and insect forms, transcending a wartime survival tool into an expression of animal nature. This interaction of dance and drawing explores how an urban environment denies yet idealizes the natural world, all the while forcing animals (including humans) to conform to it or perish.