Only the Shame

Just walked into Honor Fraser and I can feel it.

Brave, vulnerable - glistening with a tender edge - it hurts. This is how I discover Julie Tolentino and her Foxes - Rafa Esparza, Stephen Van Dyck, Kevin Williamson and Pigpen aka Stosh Fila.

They study each other, each others' bodies, tracing frenetically, then calmly, their bodies moving together, in unison, in counterpoint, together but separate, next to one another, but (each) alone. Graphite in hand, embracing each others' bodies, spirits, drawing the swiftly shifting shadows of each others movements. Capturing each others' bodies' being each others' beings ... This must be the real sense of the term study - studying one another's souls.

The score when I walk in is a reading of the book Shame by Robert Kelly and Birgit Kempker, a duet between writers, the one American, the other from Berlin, a dual-lingual exchange of anecdotes and thoughts such as "The terrible Shaman in made of shame, a shame man." What is Shame? Is it cultural? Or personal? Shame, it seems, is - like Julie and the Foxes' dancing- site and context specific.

"So it is said that the Shaman is made of all the shame in the world, all the resentment and humiliation that has ever been, he smells bad, he looks weird, he does what nobody does [...] he sails down your veins"

A pile lies at the end of a black sheet of paper unfurled underfoot of the writhing duet as they trace it with the memory of their movements. It's less a pile, more an orderly array of artifacts - artifacts of subcultures, an archaeology of memories, what looks like tools of healing or is it escape juxtaposed with several sparse gilded tumbleweed - ritualized, commodified, branded, like us. To me it says "Welcome back to LA".

Film Credit: Cindy Yeh

It's ok to say it's painful, it hurts. It's ok to feel my heart tightly pausing, my breath poised for tears while I watch. The dance says it's ok - this is the pain of being in this world - of choosing, of being you, whoever that is.

I feel the pulse but it's not pulsating, watch decisions, gestures made, the forms of identities congealed, like our own, curated, choreographed lifetimes, left, right, around, under, stop, breathe, tight, release, contain, fluid static, slooowly breaaak awaay but I can't. I'm me and you're you, no matter where we go, what we do.

Their movements are gentle but firm, defining, confining each other with their arms, legs, drawings, - wanting to protect, but while protecting finding themselves vulnerable and each other as well ... Mirror drawings, shadows of each others' pain and I can feel what its like - I remember what it is to live long enough to hurt.

The Foxes - Rafa Esparza, Stephen Van Dyck, Kevin Williamson - hold, crawl under, within, let float up, clusters of balloons ... "man made" "plastic", like our "human" future, while breathing, huddling Julie and Pigpen expand and contract on the "fluid" black river of paper - the words in quotes are the notes I discover later, after the performance, on the floor, scrawled in Julie and the other dancers' hand.

I leave not knowing much more, just that I am human and so are they, the dancers, and everyone in the room - and shame, that's human too. In every culture, the battle between social compliance and spiritual deviance - and its residue - an emotion.

Julie has triggered what only a good artist can ... I've looked into the looking glass and through it and thought - Who are we? What are we born as? How do we define confine ourselves and as Julie says to me before I go on my way, are we really still us when we go so so far afield of who we think we are and what we think we wouldn't do?

Its the essence of soul that Julie and the Foxes tried to but couldn't draw - and it's comforting to discover that your spark, your soul, is you, and no one can draw it shape it form it, steal it - neither with graphite nor an embrace - no one can take it away once it yours - not even God.

Thank you to the brave Julie Tolentino, to the brave Foxes and to brave MOVE IN AGAIN curators Laura Watts and Brian Getnick for producing a moment of prayer.

MOVE IN AGAIN was a week long performance art residency invitational that ran from April 2-7, 2013 at Honor Fraser Gallery in Los Angeles, CA.