Who: HERE and LEIMAY Ensemble
What: Sculptural performance art installation
Where: Astor Place Plaza
When: October 1-4, free
Why: In an April 2012 twi-ny talk, multidisciplinary HERE resident artists Ximena Garnica and Shige Moriya, the founders of LEIMAY Ensemble, explained, “It seems to us like we all see life and performances and things with our own frame. Through our work we challenge ourselves and our audiences to make these frames as malleable as possible so we can expand our understanding of the body and our experience and understanding of daily life. Consequently, we enlarge the realms of perception and creation and discover the possibilities for interaction therein.” Colombia-born Garnica and Japanese native Moriya reach for a new level with the sculptural performance art installation Correspondences. Part of HERE Arts Center’s #stillHERE: IRL initiative, which takes the innovative downtown institution outdoors during the Covid-19 crisis, presenting works in real life, Correspondences runs October 1-4, providing an intervention in one of Manhattan’s usually busiest locations, Astor Place Plaza, an area that bursts with life and energy in nonpandemic times. Correspondences features LEIMAY’s Masanori Asahara, Krystel Copper, and Garnica, along with Ricardo Bustamante and Brandon Perdomo — in vertical transparent chambers partly filled with sand. The performers, wearing only gas masks, move around the confined space, hampered by the several feet of sand, which occasionally erupts like an extreme weather event; the soundscape was designed by Jeremy D. Slater, with costume fabrication by Irena Romendik. The thirty-five-minute activations — scheduled for October 1 at 8:00, October 2 and 3 at noon, 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, and 8:00, and October 4 at noon, 2:00, and 4:00 — serve as a beautiful yet harsh reminder of what each of us, and the world as a whole, faces as we deal with isolation, masks, social distancing, the lockdown of theaters, climate change, and interacting with other human bodies.
In conjunction with the installation, HERE and LEIMAY, whose previous work includes Furnace, Trace of Purple Sadness, Becoming, borders, Frantic Beauty, and Floating Point Waves, are also hosting special related programs. For Correspondences — the Audience Files, people are encouraged to participate in online conversations, addressing such questions as “How do you cope with uncertainty?,” “What happens to your body when you encounter the unknown?,” and “Why are existential questions of being, interdependence, and coexistence vital in these times of readjustment of powers and values?” From October 1 to November 30, you can view a twenty-minute film of Correspondences from its summer 2019 iteration at Watermill Center. From October 6 to 10, you can register for “Dancing for the Environment” online LEIMAY encore classes, with one hundred percent of the proceeds benefiting Organización Nacional de los Pueblos Indígenas de la Amazonia Colombiana, Green Worker Cooperatives, El Puente, and the Loisaida Center. And on October 29, “Correspondences Talks” will bring together activists, scholars, designers, and scientists to discuss the idea of “decentering the human.”
Update: Even though Correspondences was created before the pandemic, it is a dramatic and timely look at what life has become for every one us. In Astor Place Plaza, there are three vertical booths with two transparent sides. A trio of performers, wearing skintight costumes that cover specific parts of their body and gas masks with purple filter cartridges, are led inside the booths, where, trapped, they move slowly in several feet of sand. Every few minutes, black-and-white blowers connected to the booths — resembling a mix between Star Wars stormtrooper uniforms and Darth Vader’s helmet — suddenly, without warning, pour air in, causing the sand to whip up like a mini-tornado and forcing the dancers to lose their balance and fall. As they get up, sand oozes from them as the blower threatens to knock them down again. But they keep on getting up, because that’s what we do when faced with a crisis, be it global warming, a pandemic, a struggling economy, political shenanigans, or the lockdown of indoor performance spaces. Be sure to wear your mask and respect the white chalk boxes on the ground that are there to maintain social distancing. For a slideshow of the 2:00 performance on October 3, go here.