The Room Nobody Knows – Curator Note Feb 6, 2014

by Lane

Purportedly, I said somewhere that The Room Nobody Knows is the strangest show I’ve ever seen, but to be honest, I don’t know if that’s true.

Five years ago in Dubrovnik, I watched the artist Siniša Labrović illustrate the idea of a self-contained ecosystem by repeatedly peeing into his own hand and drinking it. That was pretty strange.

And there was Ann Liv Young having a panic attack because her mermaid fin was too tight and then having an allergic reaction after munching on a whole fish and spitting its guts on the audience. That was strange, too.

There was Romeo Castellucci at the Palais des Papes in Avignon riffing on Dante’s Inferno with a white stallion, exploding tvs, 100 extras, 30 infants, a rock climber, a burning piano and Andy Warhol.

And Banana Gakuen Theatre Company (now called Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker) with their 19 and 20 year olds in school girl uniforms – males and females, alike – performing a hybrid choreography of drill team moves and martial arts while they lobbed and spat water, seaweed and eggs at an audience wearing rain ponchos.

Gisele Vienne’s Jerk, a little puppet show about a serial killer that had its North American debut at OtB the day after Obama won in 2008, caused several audience members to have panic attacks.

I could go on about the first time I saw Sarah Michelson. Or Richard Maxwell.  Or Pina Bausch. Or Need Company. Or Christian Rizzo. Or Karen Finley. Or Radiohole. Or the Wooster Group, John Moran, Rodrigo Garcia, Kornel Mundruczo, Forced Entertainment or Lone Twin. All of these artists/companies left me completely flabbergasted at first blush.

The Room Nobody Knows is such a project. It’s not surprising that its director, Kuro Tanino, grew up in a family of psychiatrists and eventually practiced, too, before turning to the highly lucrative field of performance making. This show presents a kind of liminal space – floor 7 ½ from Being John Malkovich – that allows the viewer to nod off and disassociate from the usual theatrical devices of narrative, characterization, blocking and design.

As I write this I’m reminded that today – February 5th – is the birthday of William Burroughs. This is fitting given Mr. Burroughs penchant for rants on the “word virus” and the limitations of text-based language and anything that constrains the senses. (He liked heroin, too.) What I like about “strange” shows and experiences that stray so far from the norm is how they transcend attempts to decode them. I’m not suggesting any work of art is capable of defying critique but I like when using words to respond to art is made more difficult, all the same. I think such experiences provide opportunities for something else, pathways to a different state or consciousness if only for a short period of time. Maybe this is what Kuro means when he states that “this work can certainly cross borders to reach to the bottom of everyone’s hearts.”

– Lane Czaplinski, OtB Artistic Director