words & photos by Ryan Muir
"In conjunction with the New York performance biennial Performa 09, MoMA's Performance Exhibition Series presents Between Worlds (2009), an evening-length work by New York artists Fischerspooner. Between Worlds, a pop spectacle developed in support of Fischerspooner's 2009 album Entertainment, runs continuously over the course of three hours, with no clear beginning or end, on a large central stage that allows the audience to view the piece from all sides. With source material provided by The Wooster Group and with inspirations ranging from Japanese theater to the early years of the U.S. space program, this new performance continues Fischerspooner's interest in exploring the spaces between art and entertainment, reality and fiction, intentions and mistakes." [MoMA]Toward the beginning of the evening (11/1), Casey Spooner announced that the name of the performance was "Between Worlds", a place creatively that is "hard to reach, and harder still to stay in" - a state of being that Fischerspooer performance art, one of stylistic contrasts and aesthetic extremes, strattles. It was between flamboyant and frivolous, and sophisticated and metatextual.
Amidst the sea of dancers and endless costume changes, the purpose of the show (clearer on repeated consecutive viewings) reveals itself as a performative expression that forces you to confront stylistic clashes and the artifice of the entire production (and what a production it was) while at the same time bouncing your head to the infectious electro groove.
On arriving to the show, the audience actually approaches the stage from behind where all the makeup mirrors, costume racks and stylists are visible. During the show the dancers execute ballerina precise movements and then seemingly intentional haphazard ones (rehearsal videos playing on LCD indicate they are anything but haphazard). Even the most graceful dancers occassionally collapsed to the ground in clumsy, deliberate spasms. In other cases the dancers break character (mid song) and initiate eye contact and start conversations with people standing in the front row. The process, and deconstruction of that process, is very much on display.
Several times Casey referred to the "taping" of the performance as being the ultimate. He literally said "if there is no photograph it didn't happen". Several camera men were auspiciously recording throughout the evening, and there was one number that directly involved the tour photographer on stage, all futher completing the illusion.
Numbers would be stopped mid chorus, to "get it right for the camera" - impromtu audience asides seemed to be a part of the choreography itself. In one case there appeared to be a live backstage mic as Casey asks for a "non hydrating" drink and chastises crew members. It quickly becomes clear that this is a pre-recorded put-on. We can see him again on stage talking to the audience loud enough to be heard OVER the "live mic" effectively breaking the 4th wall (5th wall) again.
Casey referred to a concert in Spain with 50,000 audience members freaking out, though as the night went on, and his detachment from truth advanced-- I realized the Spanish gig was probably fabricated as well.
The night was full of little mental puzzles like that. It was the intellectual pay off that elevated the modestly budgeted Fisherspooner show to an extravagantly budgeted Madge or Britney spectacle, thouch as the pictures attest, there was plenty to look at and listen to on stage if you wanted to turn your brain off too.
The Moma installation left me scandalized, and stimulated, in more ways than one. More pictures below...