At the Ventana 244 gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (right now I am on a visit in New York) the current show (until the fifteenth of the month) presents the video work “Sweat Tests,” in which the director and performance artist Brian Rogers has taken filmed moments from his piece “Hot Box” and rearranged them into a form suitable not for a theatre but for this intimate art space in particular – where they are projected on two separate surfaces and supplemented by a nonsynchronized sound loop.
Premiered in September of this year at the artists’ theatre The Chocolate Factory, where he serves as Artistic Director, “Hot Box” (it represents a collaboration between Rogers and Madeline Best) – which I have not seen – is comprised, according to various press materials – some of which I have consulted – of a very tumultuous and yet abstract performance in which physical states correlate to extreme bodily exertion and stress are mounted on the stage in order to furnish the material for a video sequence, shown simultaneously, that is measured in its tempo and calm and collected in its images. (Described in this way, “Hot Box” would seem to bear a family resemblance – although how close of one is a question – to the works of certain contemporary dance companies.)
The intended aim of this performance is perhaps to move its public to reflect on the general limits of the capacity of human endurance and their significance; but in the variant reduced form into which it’s been reconfigured in the art gallery, this piece could be taken as being about something that’s rather different and more specific: watching the succession of close-ups of Rogers and Best, their faces tensed and their heads bathed in sweat, with a soundtrack permeated by an audible anxiety murmuring throughout the room, one might well find the whole to be a twofold representation of what stage fright – both before but also during a theatrical or, alternately, a musical performance – actually feels like when lived through from within, on the one hand, and of the severe inner countermeasures that may be required such that no sign of it manifest itself outwardly, on the other.
What the gallery-going public, confronted by these “Sweat Tests,” might then see and hear is that the art of performance could well contain more than one paradox.