Unlike the proverbial “bull in the china shop, ” the “ 800 lb. Gorilla in the room” has problems getting attention. A gentle giant, it sits, delicately, on the sofa while the relatives talk around it. As far as truths go, it’s the most obvious thing, but it usually takes an outsider to point it out.
While many expect art to play the role of “outsider,” there are certain limitations. It’s not just that social criticism runs the risk of polarizing audiences that look to art for some escapism. In its push towards abstraction and purified form much of contemporary art has been by its very nature de-politicized.
To combat this double repression—of what we, collectively, refuse to acknowledge and what is often bracketed in artistic production—Shirley Mordine, founder of Mordine & Co. Dance Theater and doyenne of the Chicago dance scene (she founded the Dance Center at Columbia College), has curated a multi-disciplinary showcase broaching the theme of the unsaid. “The 800 lb. Gorilla in the Room…(what we’re not talking about)” opens this week at the Ruth Page Center.
Inviting six multi-disciplinary companies to present excerpts of works on culturally uncomfortable themes, Mordine “hopes not only to get us all talking, but also to push the limits of the kind of abstract expression she herself is committed to,” explains Heather Hartley, of Mordine & Co. You might think of it as a call for an artistic guerilla war of sorts.
The title of the piece leading the program—“Rupture”—refers to the panic-inducing loss of ground accompanying political and social crisis, one Mordine associates with our current historical situation. Choreographed for eight dancers, it’s performed to live-sound accompaniment by DJ mix artist Erik Roldan. Another highlight is punk-dance outfit Breakbone DanceCo. The quartet will present multimedia “datastarve”—a piece deconstructing ideals of aesthetic perfection by correlating images of women’s bodies with those of horses (think thoroughbreds and models on catwalks).
It’s not all dance, however. The showcase includes a performance by Chicago LiveWire Theatre—excerpting from its full-length “Soldiers: The Desert Stand,” “Recruitment” plays on war-department absurdities. Absurdist, yes, but, as they clarify, it’s a “serious play on war.” (Debbie Goldgaber)
“The 800 lb. Gorilla in the Room…” at Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 North Dearborn, (312)337-6543. This production is now closed.