Desert Body Creep
COIL, Performance Space New York
Desert Body Creep, choreographed and performed by Angela Goh with sound operation by Matt Cornell, is something of a post-anthropocene hallucination. As Goh literally moves through choreographies, sounds, and objects, the mundane becomes uncanny. Goh’s body turns until it becomes an object, which then comes back to life, becomes the earth, and regenerates itself. It’s a methodical yet dizzying evolution involving a giant gummy worm, a mint-hued crushed velvet tube, and shrinkwrap, underscored in cinematic turns by shredding guitar solos, pop music, and Goh’s own voice in haunting choral overtones. The result is a capitvating, unaffected disorientation posing questions of objectification inside the environment and the body.
The desert suggested by the title isn’t conjured with verisimilitude onstage; instead, what we see are swaths of neutral-colored fabric strewn about along with an array of objects and appliances. Flashes of rock and pop music come and go, objects themselves, like a strange déjà vu radio station. The landscape invokes a post-object orientation, the dystopian terror of a desertified, climate-changed earth–one of the many post-apocalyptic visions that seem to loom constantly in our collective contemporary imaginations. Goh creeps on, around, and ultimately inside this landscape, choreographic loops burrowing her body underground until she becomes that alien creature which is truly of its environment: an earthworm. In a journey that is sublimely painstaking to watch, Goh’s earthworm sucks up all she finds around her, packs it away efficiently and airlessly in plastic, and finds herself reborn.
What exists on the other side of this transformation? Of humanity? Of existence? Goh responds to these questions on her naked body, torquing it once again into the uncanny valley. Ultimately, this turns her questions on us, a theater full of human bodies living on Earth: do we control our environments, or do they control us? What lies in store for us on the other side of the anthropocene? In the uncanny valley, can anyone hear you scream?
Photo: Zan Wimberly