The Rat of Huge Proportions and Other Works by Bruce Schwartz, and: Through Cloud and Eclipse by Robert Moran, and: Sculptures and Designs from the Robert Anton Theatre by Robert Anton (review)
- Performing Arts Journal
- The MIT Press
- LIVE performance art magazine 5
- pp. 40-41
- View Citation
- Additional Information
tossing a bell into the air, checking out the "body weather" before entering busy, punctuated fits of movement. No sense of rehearsal or work-in-progress to this improvisation: dancing with his spine at a sixty degree angle to the floor, gesturing with insect precision, Tanaka's delicate, ecstatic control of weight had a primitive authenticity which was staggering . Moving to the rear of the space, he stripped down and crawled back towards us naked, on all fours, his head wiggling and bobbing, his arms reaching hesitantly under himself; Tanaka gave this familiar exercise a fresh interest. Rolling on his back into a fetal position, I had the illusion of watching someone in the process of being born. Later, as the lights darkened, the sweat glistening on his body seemed to turn it to a burnished gold. Tanaka is clearly a major solo improvisor, bearing comparison to another master of the form: Steve Paxton. The only problem was with flautist Robert Dick's accompaniment : copping phrases from Edgar Varese, honking breathily and nattering all over the keys, Dick ought to have paid more attention to his partner's cool precision. Tanaka will return from Tokyo next year; he is a presence not to be missed. Robert Coe Bruce Schwartz, The Rat of Huge Proportions and Other Works. DTW/Economy Tires Theatre (September /October). Robert Moran, Through Cloud and Eclipse . The Kitchen (October). Robert Anton, Sculptures and Designs from the Robert Anton Theatre. Bette Stoler Gallery (October). Ever since turn-of-the-century cabaret artists like the painters Henri Riviere and Caran d'Ache began experimenting with the possibilities of guignol, shadow figures and marionettes at experimental outposts like the "Chat Noir" in Paris, puppets have been a significant and stylized form of 20th-century art performance. When we look at the early performance pieces of the Dadaists, the Bauhaus, the Futurists, and Constructivists (the last displayed in a recent re-construction of Malevich and Matuishin's futurist opera Victory Over the Sun at the Hirschorn Museum in Washington, D.C.), we see clearly that the roots of these performance styles came from the mechanical and transformational idiom of the puppet stage. So much of performance , especially its wooden and manipulative presentational style, owes a great deal to the simple narrative and the sculptured elegance of puppet theatre. It's a form full of unending delight and surprise , quickly absorbed and immediately embraced. But it demands from the performer the highest degree of skill as a solo performer. Personality isn't on display, but craft is. Bruce Schwartz, a California artist making his New York debut at DTW, became an immediate hit in an otherwise uninteresting fall season. He reached back in time to the medieval puppet stage in creating his piece The Rat of Huge Proportions , a bawdy, Faust-like farce of Eleanor l'Amour who sells her soul to the devil for a piece of cheese. Full of ribald puns and simple delights, Schwartz draped himself ina portable puppet stage that made him look like a box with feet. Only his voice, music and sound effects emanated from within as he manipulated ingeniously created hand puppets on a tiny stage. Unlike most performance art, Rat was a testament to pure illusionism. Schwartz created an entirely different Schwartz mood in the second half of the evening when, this time in full view of the audience, he worked a series of elegant rod puppets, constructed by Schwartz from Victorian models, through different musical, dance and narrative turns. Schwartz's various pierrots, ballerinas, geishas, and beautiful black slaves were manipulated with the skill of a Japanese Bunraku operator, but came across as somewhat too precious in their lam e n t . However, Schwartz, for all the possible limitations in his material, is an evocative artist skilled in movement and faultless in the design and execution of his miniature world. Robert Moran's Through Cloud and Eclipse, commissioned by Berlin's DAAD in 1975, 40 is a contemporary shadow-puppet show that was just getting around to its New York premiere. With cut-out puppets designed by Donald Case, the piece draws on the tradition of the Javanese Wayang Kulit shadow-dramas, but...