Contemplation Piece

This is a recording of the dance portion of the performance. The original piece was composed and performed in quad. The choreography was meant to coincide with the "physical" placement and motion of the sounds.

In the mid 70s, performance art was yet to be accepted as a valid art form. Critics still had to set themselves up to the "job" of defining what was and what was not "performance art..." to categorizing and separating it away from the other dictating what elements a piece had to incorporate so that it was performance art and not theater...or dance...bla, bla, bla.

Instead, they wrote about how they experienced the pieces and they made judgments that had to do with the substance of the pieces and not perfunctory academics. There were no rules (that anyone was taking seriously) and it was all wide open. To me, this is the most fertile time for any medium. Once something starts getting officially defined, the sense of prolific growth, discovery and invention decrease proportionally.

Back then, electronic music had a sound all it's own, and was not expected to emulate "real" instruments. The Moog synthesizer was the instrument, and quad sound could immerse an audience in an auditory environment more than ever before.

With "Contemplation Piece," I was trying to make the Chinese Yin Yang symbol of unity and duality, a four dimensional experience. Using movement, circling sound, lighting, costuming, and audience involvement, the intent was to immerse the audience in this very abstract experience, and somehow come away with the essence of the symbol. My brother, Daniel was my dance partner, my mother, Corazon made the costumes, and electronic music composer, Ed Zaida and I composed the electronic music and he performed it live during the performance.

(Gallery 1134, Jan. 21, 1977)

Generally performances possess so little substance that they substitute audience intimidation for audience appeal. The aggressive monotony, repetitiveness, and unnecessary length of many pieces put viewers on the defensive. Feeling that anything that long and that boring must be intentionally so, the audience is duped into an excruciatingly strained intellectual groping in search of the artist's obscure rationale.

The Cubacubs' performance was not of this type. It lasts in the mind and emotions precisely because of its discreet duration and evocativeness.

At 7:30 sharp, the audience was confined around a 16' by 16' rectangle taped on the floor, the lights went out, the rectangle glowed fluorescent blue, the audience sighed, and the electronic music began. Two well-paced and inventive compositions by Ed Zajda created a mood for the ensuing action somewhere between science fiction and mysticism.

At the music's conclusion the sound of breathing resonantly saturated the performance area and the artist's voice requested the audience to syncopate their breathing with what they were hearing. His other entreaties were to breathe deeply, slow down your pulse rate and relax into a meditatively receptive state. These participatory procedures, prerequisites for eliciting the, kind of rapt individual attentiveness his brief performance would require were also meant to enhance the feeling of collective awareness and response.

The piece began as two male figures, clad in almost identical black and white costumes moved toward center stage. Each performer was two-faced, one being his own, and the other a moronic, malevolent mask over the back of his head. Thus each performer was endowed with a thuggish Siamese twin on his flip side. These two (four) flickering figures interacted in a ritualized combative dance indebted to oriental martial arts.

The rapidity of the strobe-light flashing incessantly plunged them in and out of darkness. This blackness also obliterated the logical movements in their "dance" sequences. Both performers seemed to glide, float, or be tossed from place, to space, to place. Attention was riveted to their actions by the mordant yet dazzling effects of the visual elements and also by the apprehension that the appearing, disappearing, reappearing figures might be completely annihilated by the obliterating "black holes" between the flashes.

The theme of duplicity, of good versus evil, or good behind evil, or evil behind good was reiterated by each of the components of this evocative and compelling performance.

- Raye Bemis Mitchell

Arturo's Room
Copyright ©1995 Arturo Cubacub