Artist in Residence Spotlight: Taking part in the Performance
This post is a part of a series of posts from UMS Artists in Residence. Artists come from various disciples and attend several UMS performances throughout the season as another source of inspiration for their work.
Barbara Tolzier works in photography with forays into media and video. After an engineering career that took her to Pennsylvania and the Netherlands, Barbara reconnected with photography in 2009 — she studied with Nicholas Hlobeczy in college — and in 2012 started taking photo classes at Washtenaw Community College, where she went on to earn an Associate’s Degree in May of 2016. She has exhibited at the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original and in group shows at 22 North Gallery, Washtenaw Community College, and Kerrytown Concert House. She lives and works in Ann Arbor.
Without any introduction, Igor and Moreno walk past white curtains onto a white stage. They stand there, looking at the audience. We know they can see us because the house lights are up.
They start singing. Eventually, they start bouncing. Then, while bouncing, they remove their street clothes (jackets, jeans, socks and shoes) to reveal t-shirts and gym shorts.
The two men bounce. They look at the audience. The lights dim, their song ends, and they continue to bounce, moving around the stage, occasionally hitting the place where the show’s floor is just-that-far-away from the underlying stage and making a different sound as their weight lands on it.
There is nervous laughter as the audience isn’t quite sure what is going on, except bounce bounce bounce, sometimes quieter, sometimes louder, sometimes upstage, sometimes downstage. Bounce bounce bounce. The rhythm is steady, the performers are watching us, interacting with us, bouncing through the aisles. Bounce bounce bounce.
There is no music. Only bounce. Only the interaction between the performers and the audience. The sound is reminiscent of so-called minimalist music. Bounce bounce bounce. Pattern but no pattern but exertion and bounce. And watching. They are watching us watching them.
Who are they seeing, those two men bouncing on a white stage? What do they expect from us?
They expect us to share in their experience. We do not bounce, not most of us, anyway. They bounce from backstage with stacks of red cups, those red cups that are so ubiquitous when the students return. We laugh, and we share the cups, passing them from viewer to viewer. And then comes the Vernor’s. And more laughter. And we pass bottles from viewer to viewer, each person taking a token amount, ensuring everyone can share in the boon.
And for the whole time we watch them bounce bounce bounce.
It’s hypnotic. Bounce bounce bounce. Bouncing all over the stage, single and together. Occasionally one will leave the stage, leaving the other to occupy our attention, and returns bouncing to the same rhythm when as he left.
There’s an interlude, during which the performers change costumes by removing t-shirts that they’ve picked up on one of their backstage jaunts. The lights start to change: dimmer, warmer, more intimate. They see us with their costumes, shirts with eyes printed on them, as we watch them.
Bounce bounce bounce. Slowly we become aware of a droning sound, the sound of electronic feedback. Bounce bounce bounce morphs into a pas de deux as the sound intensifies. The eye shirts are removed. They stop watching us. The rhythm remains but the dance becomes less and less bouncy. They watch each other. The sound is a heartbeat. Sound replaces bounce. The men dance with each other instead of dancing to the audience. They whirl and spin and spin and whirl. We can hear their breathing. They sing to each other. They don’t see us, even when they face us. They spin. They spin. They spin. Their breath gets faster faster faster. The heart beats faster faster faster. The sound stops.
The pair dance off of the stage. The lights come up. It is finished.
I leave the theater in the quiet cold January night, texting one word: wow.
I realize I have learned something. Minimalism can evoke story. Oddness can influence emotion. Intensity can spur contemplation. Audience and artist together make the work.
Follow this blog for more updates from Barbara throughout this season. Learn more about Renegade this season.