This is a guest post written by Adam Lovitz about BalletX’s new René Magritte inspired performance, Bonzi. The details of the performance are here: balletx.org. The performance is showing in Philadelphia. Enter Adam:
A common example where two different types of creative mediums influence one another is when a book turns into a screenplay, and then into a movie. Within this transition, the end product (the cinematic experience) fine tunes its relationship with the original inspiration (the book). In this threshold, we (the audience) are brought to a new space of experience. The director may adopt key elements of the original art, while also making it very much their own in the medium they use and the time that the piece reflects. There is a grounding for connectivity between not only art and cultural movements, but a specific place and time on this planet. This is an exciting space to make inside of, as it presents an artistic lineage to a contemporary maker.
In BalletX’s tech-infused summer series, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa choreographs an homage to the iconic imagery of the early twentieth century surrealistic painter, René Magritte. Ochoa, who grew up in the same Belgian neighborhood as Magritte, offers a visual bridge between the fine art world of painting and the expressive physicality that the performing arts delivers. While these two forms of art making prove to be very co-habitable, its interesting to consider what has been both gained and lost in the transformation of still image to motion.
If you are even remotely familiar with Magritte’s work, you will be immediately transported into a world flavored with the artist’s surreal aesthetics. Through a playful handling of Magritte’s most recognizable visual language, Ochoa and Klip Collective, a virtual art shop who conditioned the stage with innovative projection and sound, work with the apple, bowler hats, clouds, doors, and some hauntingly perverse temptations to transport a lone man’s journey from a typical day of business to an exploration of his inner psyche. Inside the normal confines of a staged production, Ochoa celebrates the late surrealistic shockwave that challenged a pre-conditioned understanding of reality nearly one hundred years ago.
But beyond Ochoa’s nod and affinity to René Magritte, whose paintings opened an immediate portal to an inner world, I wonder if the performance served a contemporary audience a similarly bountiful plate of introspection? We are living in an age where the peculiar is not so surprising, and the depiction of human sub-conscious has been experienced again and again, so that it often comes short of revelation.
I should have began this piece with a brief background. I write this review as a painter, not as an active participant in performative arts. While I have many connections to the performing arts by way of former art programs, peers, and patronage, my relative experience and frequency in attending productions is minimal. Also, my early artistic influences as a child partly stemmed from surrealistic imagery. Yet, as a painter now, and with some years into this practice, my artistic identity is shaped by the distance from surrealism’s applicability. Contemporary conditions push me to re-evaluate how surrealism functions today as a movement that came to fruition a century ago.
Currently, especially seen in popular culture, strange is familiar. The sort of strange that surrealism cultivated is a vision we experience when looking inward. ‘Truths’ are shaking and dismantling all around us within the discourse of political and cultural angst. Is it enough, as an artist today, to retreat into a surreal world? What is the role of the artist now, who makes with the knowledge of our predecessor’s contributions?
Nevertheless, surrealism opened my inner eye, and facilitated fascination to alternative ways of experiencing the real world. The reverence to the late René Magritte that Ochoa offers us is appreciated. I embrace the aesthetic experience that she, Klip Collective, and the performers provide. A sleek and minimal design supports a crisp attentiveness to harmony between image, sound, and performance. Ochoa choreographs her dancers to collaborate with the cascading projections, even lowering the music during one sequence so that the audience may hear the sound of human vocals humming a melody dosed with a spell of witchcraft. The experience is amusing, and through a simplified translation of Magritte’s clean and brilliant sense of design, elevated by a picture that grasps at an inner cosmic wonder, one may walk away with a reflection of self.
Adam Lovitz is an artist who lives and works in Philadelphia.
From Identity without Attribute (Also part of BalletX’s Summer Series 2016):