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In Performance: Karol Tyminski, This Is A Musical (American Realness)

American Realness
This is a musical
Karol Tyminski (Poland)
Abrons Arts Center, Underground Theater
466 Grand St

January 6-10

Karol Tyminski’s searing This is a musical offers up the queer body as a site of pleasure, trauma, and defiance. Tyminski begins by eliciting a variety of sounds from his body, slamming his back, legs, and hands against the floor to produce an array of thuds, slaps, and violent exhalations. Soon he employs a microphone and a sampler to amplify and loop these noises, the manipulation of his body providing an ever-building electronic score. This manipulation becomes increasingly sensual: at one point he drops his shorts, pulls up his shirt, and rubs the microphone slowly up and down the length of his body. And the sensuality becomes increasingly provocative, inviting the audience to gaze with desire as the choreography embodies frank representations of sexual play. Finally, when you think Tyminski has put his body on display as intimately as possible, a projected video goes even further.

Physical danger is a real presence throughout. Bruises and scrapes are visible all over Tyminski’s body as he throws himself to the ground again and again. During a climactic spoken-word sequence, he shatters two ceramic boxes filled with confetti over his head, then thrashes about the stage heedless of the shards at his feet or the microphone cord wrapped around his legs. In a kind of sexual phantasmagoria, Tyminski cycles rapidly through bliss, hysteria, terror, desperation, and unabashed animal heat. His display inspires authentic arousal and authentic fear and he knows it. The performance is overwhelming, often uncomfortable, but it is impossible to look away.

The piece ends on an unforgettable image, a smile of gratification delivered directly into the camera. The unashamed pursuit of queer desire is still a radical proposition, and Tyminski’s singing/screaming/desiring body is a thing of blistering beauty.

[Photo credit: Marta Ankiersztejn]

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Philip Wesley Gates is a director, performance maker, and writer/scholar currently based in Pittsburgh. Deploying queer, choreographic, and participatory strategies, their work proposes alternative possibilities and modes of relation. They hold an MFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon University.

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