Journal

Redemption is not always guaranteed Oct 10, 2011

By Davora Lindner

A few days after viewing Te haré invencible con mi derrota I’m still sorting through the tragic imagery and political stance of the piece.  Contextualizing the performance with additional information about Jacqueline Du Pre and Liddell’s own statements add resonance to the work that other viewers may also find useful to interrogate their experience as a viewer and participant.
 
Other than the brief synopsis in the program I had no idea what the performance was going to entail and viewing it with no preconceptions can be a harrowing and trance-like experience. 
 
From the outset I was completely engrossed and lost track of time.  Despite the eventual grumbling of neighboring audience members this piece is not an endurance challenge and didn’t underscore a statement about the passage of time or repetition.  Those responses seem more indicative of individual viewing tolerance.  Passages are confrontational but also concise.
 
Liddell’s piece was almost cinematically thrilling and indeed the most sensational and easily ridiculed elements of performance art have been employed here in relevant and new ways. Extreme images of beauty and glamour are laced with razors, needles, liquor and guns. Defiant caterwauling, self-injury and a violent sense of ennui are foisted upon the audience in case you ever forgot what is being addressed.  Adolescent signs of rebellion and the awkward grasp for agency in middle age seem to be at the core of what the piece is addressing.  This is complicated terrain, where it’s easy to come across as self indulgent and ugly.  Few artists address these topics in such a dramatic manner and this work includes a liberating candor that is stunning. It was both breathtaking and troubling to witness.
 
I was surprised to learn Liddell incorporates alcohol in her work, I assumed those were props, though the revelation that she is drinking and dancing hasn’t altered my view of this piece.  She maintained an alarming sense of control in navigating complex choreography and exhausting vocalizations. With the level of frankness on view it seems safe to assume there is also a good deal we do not know about the artist and her practice. 
 
The risks she takes as a performer have numerous precedents and really pale in comparison to prosaic acts of self abuse routinely unexamined or remarked upon off stage.  Redemption is not always guaranteed when viewing or making art, the piece seemed to address this fact head on.  Peering at vignettes of humiliation and misery shouldn’t be a comfortable experience and yet I perceived an undercurrent of resistance in this work as well.  Thoughtful comparisons and associations could be made to the work of artists as diverse as Ron Athey, Cady Noland and even designer Martin Margiela.

I look forward to continued dialogue about this piece and want to thank On the Boards for including thoughtful, polarizing works in their programming.  

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