Fascinated by boundaries, performance artist Kayla Tange pushes them, cajoles them, draws and erases them. Admissions and confessions are the foundation of her work which utilizes the voluntary expressions of her audiences as the foundation of her work. Boundaries, Tange’s most ambitious performance, debuts this weekend, Friday and Saturday, July 28 and 29, at Highways Performance Space, in Santa Monica. A multi-disciplinary piece using original music and choreography, as well as American Sign Language, Boundaries builds on Tange’s earlier performances at the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk, Coagula Curatorial and last year’s appearance during Miami Art Basel.
Born in Korea and adopted by a Japanese-American family, Tange was raised in Central California. The cross-cultural conflicts she experienced growing up are expressed in aspects of her work: She incorporates shibari, traditional Japanese rope binding, in her work to indicate restrictions she feels from that culture and its complex relationship with Korea, and how those directly and personally impacted her. Tange’s use of shibari celebrates the beauty of Japanese culture, while showing how it has crossed over it into the mainstream as a form of transgressive sexuality, boosted in part by it being fetishized as exotic, much like Asian women are fetishized by prevailing white culture. The rope in Boundaries is both restrictive and liberating, contrasting with the Jeff Davis-built illuminated cage Tange wears on her head during the performance.
As Tange reads the confessions of audience members as well as her own, cellist Ro Rowan plays compositions created specifically for Boundaries. Tango dancers Gabriel Magni and Romina Rodriguez-Crosta react to the words as they are read, and Caroline Blaike interprets them through sign language. The evening begins with Daniel Crook and Adam Ashe playing original music written by Crooke that transitions into Rowan’s cello passages. These interwoven performances of words, music, signing, and movement demonstrate identities that divide us, that create boundaries, while also expressing the relief that crossing or maintaining them can provide for the Self.
The audience’s participation also creates conflict and boundaries that play upon the desire for a moment’s fame and the fear of exposure. Should they have turned in a slip of paper? Will their confession be read? What if it is? Who wrote that and why does it sound as so familiar? Which confessions are Tange’s and which belong to the person in the next seat? Universal themes emerge as Tange reads sentences about violations subjected to and subjected by, then tosses them aside.
There is liberation in giving confessions and hearing the confessions of others (thus the enduring sacrament of confession in the Catholic Church and “sharing” in Twelve Step meetings), in hearing that others have experienced similar or worse. The catharsis of sharing secrets causes the release of oxytocin, the trust hormone, bonding us together and erasing the divisions between performer and audience, between us as humans, removing the boundaries, if only for a brief moment in a dark theater.
Boundaries, Kayla Tange and guests, at Highways Performance Space, 18th Street Art Center, 1651 18th St, Santa Monica, Ca 90404. Friday, July 28 and Saturday, July 29, 8:30pm. $20 general admission; $15 students and seniors.