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In Performance: Dana Michel, Mercurial George (Out There Festival)

Mercurial George
Dana Michel
January 11-13, 2018
Walker Art Center

Dana Michel’s solo work Mercurial George is a follow-up to her 2013 work The Yellow Towel, exploring similar themes of identity, but focused in to excavate each idea further down toward its root. Discarded objects litter the stage and serve as a playground for discovery and interaction. Michel’s childlike wonder and curiosity make these mundane objects–a coffee pot, a fabric bag, a spatula– seem new as she explores all the ways they can be used.

“I’m quite addicted to evolving and to learning,” Michel said in 2017 interview. “And I think the best way to do that is by getting into trouble.” The trouble she gets into here is the bold definition and redefinition of herself by means of exploring her surroundings. Her actions seem like the games children in a post-apocalyptic landscape would play, or an attempt to recreate habitual activities performed by members of a civilization long ago destroyed and only poorly understood.

Her small, experimental movements, as if learning how to use the body, give way to those bolder, more sure, and more precise. At first some actions seem to embrace chaos, such as ripping open a bag of rice and twirling it around to let the grains fall where they may. In a later sequence, we see Michel seemingly rehearsing movement she then repeats more fluidly. Still later, her movements draw on common rituals, such as kneading dough. Finally, Michel charges forward in a predictable pattern, walking upright and sure, but trapped in a loop. Any evolution comes with the loss of a previous form, and Michel’s imaginative work invites spectators to evolve alongside her.


Photo by Jocelyn Michel

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