City Sights: Finding the science-art in New York area art exhibitions
By Julia Buntaine, Editor-in-Chief
"The View from Nowhere, " an evening of dance and conversation featuring the performance "Bluemarble"
"You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty."
-Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14)
While the focus of all aspiring astronauts is up and out, one of the first things that happens after achieving orbit is looking down and seeing the Earth below. The 'overview effect' is defined as the cognitive shift in awareness of the self and of one's understanding of human nature when viewing the Earth from space. This effect was the subject of the dance performance "Bluemarble" as part of "The View From Nowhere" evening at Hunter College this September 3rd.
Gyrating, turning, circling, repeating, falling, spreading, and squeezing were all forces propelling dancers, who both fought and submitted to the movement of their narrative. A thumping, tonal, anonymous score accompanied them intermittently, often resembling a slow heartbeat. While at first the dancers appeared to not be influenced by each other's presence or movement, much of the latter half the performance was a constantly shifting counterbalance between the two, as if they had worked towards an imperfect synchrony.
In the dancer's attempt to reflect on the planet Earth from their metaphorical spacial distance, vocals entered the performance in repeating, circular patterns. "Who, who, where, who, what, when, what, what, what, who, who, why, why, why, why, where, why, why, why" were uttered by both together or separately, falling in and out of sync - the 'big questions' that define the driving forces of humanity. Next came the naming of countries in a similar repetitive manner, as if the dancers were alien catalogers trying to gain an understanding of Earth's organizational structure. All the while circling opposite one another, there were moments where each fell silent and explored more figural, gestural, and symbolic aspects of movement.
One wonderful moment came when the performers stopped still and the male dancer appeared to be struggling to breath - or talk - or breath - or talk - it was unclear at first but evolved as guttural bursts of breath, spit, and sound culminating in the appearance and throwing of a side-stage stash of beach balls which were subsequently moved around the audience's feet. Circling the beach balls left at the center the dancers became electrons in an atom, or planets around a star.
While the ability to get across deeply complex notions such as the overview effect is arguably too specific and complex an idea for the medium of dance, the performance inarguably sparked audience reflections on the Earth, what it is to be human, and how we relate to one another. And what is one of the most basic aspects of our human lives? The presence of the sun. "Bluemarble" ended in the pitch dark with the dancers repeating - almost singing in praise - "Sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, sun," and rarely have I felt so fundamentally human as I did at that moment.
The dancers: Julian Barnett & Jocelyn Tobias
The choreographer: Julian Barnett
The project director: Sara Camnasio
The creative director: Maura Donohue
The lighting, sound design, and tech: Tian Rotteveel &
Angelia Lianzo, Luis Grande, Henry Ellison & Josh Leslierandal
All photos taken by Julia Buntaine.