Argentinian multidisciplinary artist Fernando Rubio makes his U.S. debut this weekend with the site-specific interactive performance piece Everything by my side. A copresentation of PS122, Hudson River Park, and the French Institute Alliance Française as part of FIAF’s annual Crossing the Line festival, the work, alternately referred to as a play and an event, features seven local actresses in white costumes on seven white beds on Pier 15 in the park. One audience member is invited onto each mattress (shoes off, please), where the actress whispers childhood memories to them. Each cycle lasts fifteen minutes; admission is five dollars, and you must reserve a spot in advance here, selecting English or Spanish as your language of choice. (There is an onsite wait list as well.) A professor of dramaturgy at Escuela Metropolitana de Arte Dramático in Buenos Aires, Rubio has been creating theatrical events, installations, and interventions with his company, INTIMOTETROITINERANTE, since 2001. Everything by my side should be a fascinating, intimate experience, whether you are participating or merely watching from the wings.
Update: For Everything by my side, Argentinian artist Fernando Rubio has set up seven white beds in a horizontal row at the southwest end of Hudson River Park’s Pier 45. Directly behind the beds and across the water are downtown Manhattan and the Freedom Tower, with New Jersey off to the west. As the piece begins, seven actresses (Nanda Abella, Lenora Champagne, Kate Douglas, Rachel Lin, Hannah Mitchell, Rebecca Robertson, and Jessica Weinstein), dressed in white, walk slowly to their respective beds, sit down, pause meditatively, then crawl under the covers. Then seven audience members, instructed to remain completely silent throughout the performance, are each assigned to one of the beds, and in unison they walk over, take off their shoes, and get under the covers as well. Each actress then relates a scripted story, told in four parts in the second person, exploring good and bad childhood memories. The dialogue is general enough that it can evoke real, powerful memories in the listener — at least it did in me, as Douglas (a singer and musician who is also currently appearing in the interactive, immersive Sleep No More at the McKittrick Hotel) guided me to recollections that were both sad and happy and wholly unexpected. For most of the time, we looked deep into each other’s eyes, studying each other’s faces, making for a deep, intimate experience despite the very public setting. For those moments, it was as if we were the only two people in the world, especially as she stroked my face and placed a hand gently on my chest. (Although we could have done without the shrill, noisy Water Taxi that passed by at an inopportune moment.) For a few minutes, a warm, caring connection was made between complete strangers, but it’s likely to be different for each person, as some other audience members spent the duration of the performance on their back, eyes closed, and also had strong emotional reactions, while others reported little effect. As with most interactive theater pieces, the more you open yourself mentally and psychologically, the more you can get out of it. I ended up getting a whole lot out of Everything by my side, which I’m extremely thankful for.