Truth and Reconciliation Oct 7, 2011

by Zoe Scofield


I am not sure what to say- or how to say anything in a coherent way, so I won't try.
I'll just write.
A friend told me that he is more interested in work in which his first response is "huh" and later thinks "wow", as opposed to work that does the opposite.  I agree and Angélica Liddell's piece falls into that category.  While watching it last night I felt slightly removed, aware of being in an audience with other people, aware of the inherent artifice created by theater and a bit wary of all of the talk of blood, razor blades, etc. However the piece hasn't left my conscious or subconscious mind- as I am drawing correlations between it and other work, experiences, etc. And as I think more and more about the piece, it gets better and better. Maybe thats my mind and my memory rearranging the work as I want and need it to be- or maybe it is one of those works that I need time to shift through, digest in the larger context of my life, experience and other work before it truly resonates to its full capacity.

The lighting is beautiful, the staging and the set up of the theater is clean, sparse and precise. Her costuming is simple and beautifully right (and somehow inherently not American). The fact that she is a stunning woman is disarming and makes what she puts herself through more palatable. Would I have been able to watch an unattractive person do this? Probably not. Would it have changed the overall affect? Probably.

The subject matter is difficult on several levels. The most difficult for me being the closeness of it- that thin line between a body and mind that one is able to control and use to their desire and a wrecked, ravaged mind that tortures one in its enduring inability to just continue. We are all riding that line and the blunt presentation of this fact is incredibly difficult to swallow. It is probably my largest fear that I will not be able to dance any more, that I won't be able to see or hear or speak or touch or to fully participate in this world. Having had glimpses of that- I fear it even more. So watching the piece, I knew what was going on, what she was doing, on a level other then getting the general idea of the artists intention.

The humiliation of being betrayed by one's body was so viscerally presented- it reminded me of watching my grandmother's astonished anger at her failing heart and body as she was dying last summer.  And how important it was that her family, someone who is still living,  be there to witness this with her. 
It was incredible to watch Angélica shift between this completely calculated woman watching the entire situation and a petulant child swept up in the need for immediate action. I know that, we all know that. I felt myself wanting more of a physical release- I wanted to live through her complete destruction of the space and objects in it. I am slightly ashamed to say that at times I found myself needing more of a bloodletting that I could vicariously live through.
But there is only so much destructive mourning and anger that one body can handle and enact day after day, year after year.  To that end, at times it felt like a ritual that becomes so entrenched in one's psyche and body that they forget its original purpose and the need it fulfilled.

And this made me think of professional mourners- people commissioned and / or compensated to mourn someone's passing. As if an aviator for other's grief and all of those other complicated, messy emotions that come with death of any form. Angelica feels like a translator in a sense, a medium whose body can contain all of that grief, anger, hatred, disbelief, clarity, beauty, blood, bargaining, humiliation, shit, etc that feels to volatile, invasive and toxic for everyday living.  It's as if she has honed her body and psyche to be able to contain this and then presents this experience for us to live through.
And at the same time I felt myself thinking about  how she has found an almost perfect way to control the uncontrollable, to organize, manipulate and make some sort of sense of the chaos and destruction she is lamenting. You can't get more in control then having a theater set clean razor blades, rubbing alcohol, clean clothes in the exact place you say, locate an air rifle, and several cello's that can be mutilated at your will.  A brilliant way to live with all of it really- a true survivor and warrior.
(Perhaps this is a distanced, romantic way of trying to organize and understand my experience last night. Maybe I am putting something on her and the work that isn't / wasn't there. But thats what we do- especially in matters so difficult and slippery.)

Last- I keep coming back to a poem that I have carried around with me for years, a sort of talisman that I find necessary.

Truth and Reconciliation

This man knows something
about healing. That the heart
must be torn open again
in front of compassionate witnesses.
That the accused must also step up
and reveal themself.
That no matter how high-pitched
the shrieks, how barren
the voice, everything must be
heard, everything must be
held, in the same room.

Ronna Bloom