Water to Fish: A response by Natalia Nicholson

on    blue


by     you

created by Joshua Hoglund, Elise Cowin, Christine Shallenberg and Ryan Wright

with Evan Hill (dramaturg) and Patrick Durgin (mentor)

written by the performers additional text from Peter Sloterdijk and Silvan Tompkins

as performed at Links Hall, September 23-25, 2016 created with support from the LinkUp Residency Program

image by Anna Trier


Last night’s program brushes my wrist.  The nearest window embraces the crisp breeze of fall.  The season initiates my feet with numbness.  The Classical music station played for the cat throughout the night and continues with a waltz, oblivious to the dawn.  The waltz, in terms of dance, is marked by a progression of lines, quick twirls, and defined proximities.  You might say a waltz does what it might to disguise the ambiguities inherent within relationships.

The piece, on blue by you, performed at Link’s Hall September 25th, 2016, brought me a sense of wonderment with foreboding.  It drew its aesthetic cues from the circus or a kid’s party.  The performers balanced like tightrope artists, defying a simple description of desire.  The piece inched us closer and closer towards an oblique understanding, nonetheless.

The work was packed to the gills, stuffed with text, props, technology, movement and surprise.  Joshua Hoglund, Elise Cowin, Christine Shallenberg and Ryan Wright confronted the audience about kissing.  “Have you kissed today?”  Romantic kisses are like water to a fish, allowing her to breathe, navigate the landscape, sense movement and feel safe.  I believe that I will accept or initiate kisses whenever and wherever I can.  But I can’t open myself up to romantic kisses anymore.  I’ve been brought somehow beyond the uninhibited psychological state of 17, beyond life in the water.  I’ve become a high-heeled prop with which a clown might slug another clown.

Employing the form of a lengthy questionnaire and a series of if/then propositions, impossible perspectives upon empathy and boundary awareness were revealed.  The legendary first kiss unleashed a menagerie of situational configurations and contingent relationships within a fictionalized sexual narrative.  “If you like to be kissed, and I like to kiss you, we may enjoy each other.”  Throughout the piece, the linguistic constructions located a subject (I) within a crucial state of being, where the speaker’s desire presented the only independent pretext for an object’s (you) state of enjoyment.  “If you enjoy being dominated, and I enjoy controlling you, we may enjoy each other.”  This mode became more and more unsettling to me, and I felt pinned within my needs, experiences and emotions.

It turns out that we had entered a multi-tiered discussion.  At one level, a kiss may seem restrained, the gateway to a respectful composition.  A loop of bubbles, fun for everyone.  At another level, the work played with the connotative juxtaposition between hope and escape.  Christine sighed, “Hope can be exhausting.”  In this way, a subject appeared that didn’t crave predefined outcomes.  This mode of speaking spun out perseverant and unadorned.

The choreography closely resembled the waltz form, in so far as the dance element began from a set position upstage and proceeded diagonally down stage. Repeating gestures and actions twirled out from the tight formation.  Powerful elephants, for example, parading in wobbly lines of tail and trunk, reminded me of tentative affections and begrudgingly paces.  Finally, a trained bear, my metaphor for a forced relationship, fell hard upon the floor.  A slap shook the spine with .7 tons of furry instinct and refusal.

This work challenged my painful memories and co-dependent ideas of enjoyment, for all its clear bubbles and bright colors.  I left dislocated within myself.  It funneled me through a dozen different emotional routines in the guise of spectacle and humor.  And that’s what I respected most about it.  It wasn’t afraid of itself.  The music canters on here as the sky brightens to day.


written and painted by Natalia Nicholson

http://www. natalianicolenicholson.com/