February 26, 2022
"Getting high" generally means dropping "acid" and experiencing epic sensations and colors. Well, I'm happy to say that no drugs are necessary for a mind-bending, eye-opening experience that leaves you giddy with hope for the future of the arts in America.
Assembly, the brainchild of Rashaad Newsome, is an astonishing production.
After stepping into the darkened cavernous Drill Hall at the glorious Park Avenue Armory, the sensory immersion begins. Projections of voguers strutting and squatting, smiling and smirking and passing on exhilarating messages of desire and strength ripple around the panoramic environment. These images of Black and Black Queer culture animate the the walls.
Overseeing the activities, Being, the Artificial Intelligence creation, appears as a self-assured, robot of long, agile proportions topped by a head referencing a Pho mask from the Chokwe Congolese. Being's face echoes the African art and masks that appeared in an exhibition in Paris around 1907 profoundly influencing the output of European abstract visual artists.
Behind the front installation, theater seating scales upward overlooking two platforms on either side of the dance area. One side holds the musicians playing classical, jazz and folk instruments and on the other side, stands the rousing gospel choir.
When the dancers come barreling out, the performers generates an insurmountable amount of electricity. Each dancer speaks their own kinetic truth. They exude individual points- of-view; personal perspectives embedded in entertaining movement that inverts forms and then blows them up.
Expertly choreographed by Kameron N. Saunders, Ousmane Omari Wiles and Maleek Washington, voguing struts through ballet's elegance, modern dance's openness and street dance's pride. I'm only surprised audience members didn't jump out of their seats to join the dancers on-stage. Perhaps on other nights they did?
Throughout the event, Being serves as an ancient storyteller, a griot who holds the past and opens up the present in a nonjudgemental, thoughtful space.
Generally, multi-media exhibitions falter because one form overwhelms another; the music floods the visuals; the visuals belittle the movement and so on. Assembly is one of the very few, to successfully, and seamlessly assemble visual elements, text, AI, music, and movement into one, cosmic production.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis