Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Bindings (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

I went to see this show/installation this last weekend with a friend.  My friend found it quite dull.

For me however, it was an artfully created nightmare, ending with an almost explosive release and escape.  Yes, the "action" such as it is, remains slow and subtle.  Insidiously and brilliantly so.

The Bindings proved a title with many, many meetings.  At first there was raw beauty, hidden behind black gauze as women danced/moved in slow motion--said gauze almost like a placenta removed as the first piece of music ended.  After that, a series of actions, orders, demands and props began to appear and impact upon the ensemble.

A mirror into which to gaze, seeing every flaw, reflecting back unhappiness and shame.

Rope to bind limbs.  Chains to do the same.  Corsets at last to fulfill the same purpose.

A simple scale, stood upon in an endless ritual of self-consciousness and failure.

Plastic wrap, to bind as totally as possible the nude form of a woman almost inhumanly still, even as her mouth and face almost vanished under the wrap--even as audience members were encouraged to place things on "our toy" like jewelry or ribbons or name tags.

Or tape.  Black for nipples and groins.  Brown for mouths, with new mouths painted over them even as makeup turns these increasingly immobile faces into masks.  Head held just so, tummies tucked just this much.  It felt like torture.  Looked like it, but felt much worse.  My flesh began to crawl pretty soon as the exhibit began, and crawled ever more as the women of the cast were transformed into mannequins.  Into things.  Things that posed.  Things that cleaned.  Things to be placed and used as one does furniture.  And you feel complicit.

Yes, some audience members "take part."  But every second was a subtle, laser-focused revelation of the thousands of ways women are bound, bounded, given bindings and boundaries, braced and berated.  Ultimately, their faces became just about the worst.  Aware of their own slavery, and void of hope.  Quiet, impotent resentment.  Worse, sometimes the effect was complete.  Some faces ended up containing nothing at all, just the eerie stillness of a coffee table or an empty vase.  Because it all seemed so horribly, grotesquely familiar.  This wasn't even BDSM, the exploration of pain and submission.  This was just...reduction.  Reshaping as if flesh and soul were clay to be transformed into porcelain.

It did not end thus.  Rather, the bindings eventually were taken away or torn off.  Faces and limbs washed.  Corsets and shackled traded for cloth.  Angles becoming a circle.  The weirdly beautiful but horrific music of piped in complacency replaced by the sound of...breathing.

Followed by more than freedom.  Not merely the surcease of binding, but focus, and soon enough ritual.  For other things should indeed be bound.  Cruelty.  Fears,  Sadness and shame.  Malice.  Not to be burned, but drowned, covered and cleansed by soothing water.  A revolution not of violent overthrow, but healing.

That is what Vanessa Cate,  Angie Hoover, Natalie Hyde, Alariza Nevarez, Jonica Patella, Jess Sabine, Michaela Slezak, Mila Starfyre, Katie J. Stone, Laura Van Yck, Mae Lust and Lore Randolph achieve in this piece.  And peace.

As of this writing The Bindings has one performance left, Sunday March 15 at 7pm, at ZJU 4850 Lankershim Blvd (just south of the NoHo Sign), North Hollywood CA 91601.  I urge you to go see this.  Warning--This piece involves full nudity, witchcraft, and possibly explicit or triggering themes.

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