Inspired by histories of self-built housing in his home country of Mexico, “Autoreconstrucción” is yet another iteration in Cruzvillegas’ series of Autoconstrucciones. Composed of debris found in the surroundings of the site where the construction is going to take place, the assembled structure goes on to become a player in a completely improvised action. For this performance, choreographer Bárbara Foulkes activates the space to the music of Andrés García Nesitla. Moving anarchically through space, her body re-assembles the objects sourced from the streets by destroying Cruzvillegas’ initial structure, recalling the role of destruction in the process of reconstruction.
A pile of found objects sustained by a long horizontal ladder hangs from the ceiling, confronting visitors as they enter the black box theater of The Kitchen. A washing machine, a shopping cart, a wooden chair, and a deflated soccer ball are some of the things that made it from the streets of Chelsea to Abraham Cruzvillegas’ hovering assemblage. A few paces away, a lonely black rope hangs down to about four feet above the floor.
As the audience approaches silence, Foulkes, who had been among us the whole time, rises calmly and walks towards the assemblage of objects. She is wearing a climbing harness, circling around the hanging sculpture while holding the edge of the long ladder at its base, making it spin along. García Nesitla plays bits of metal, strings, and drums in scattered bursts as Foulkes continues circumambulating the sculpture to the escalating momentum of the spinning assemblage. Gradually, as the music begins to accelerate, Foulkes starts to run around the sculpture in order to keep up with its momentum. Soon, she lets the assemblage go and it continues to spin on its own, as she directs herself to the black rope hanging just a few feet away and quickly attaches her harness to it.
Now suspended from the rope, Foulkes hovers like the sculpture, pushing against the floor with her hands in order to make her body spin in the same direction and at the same speed. Foulkes and the pile of found objects mirror each other, while García Nesitla accompanies them with a series of sounds produced from tuning his ukulele. Foulkes’ long hair brushes against the floor.
By the time the precarious mass of found objects stops spinning, Foulkes is already attaching her harness to a purple strap that drapes down from it. Foulkes and the sculpture are now no longer mirrored, but physically connected. Their weight, movement, stability, lines of force, and sense of gravity become interdependent. García Nesitla strums with a toque reminiscent of the rhythmic energies of flamenco, as Foulkes begins a violent duet with the sculpture. In this next movement she begins by approaching closer to the assemblage and then lightly pushing it away. She is still connected to the black rope. It stretches as she gets closer to the sculpture. Gathering momentum, Foulkes lifts herself from the ground. In her state of suspension, gravity pulls her away from the sculpture, and into a perpendicular relationship to the floor. The strap that connects performer and sculpture stretches to its limit, releasing a seismic vibration that affects both suspended bodies, and results in several parts of the sculpture falling to the ground.
The actions involved in the various constructions by Cruzvillegas usually involve a certain violence with the assembled objects, yet this violence is not simply the manifestation of rage, but the necessary condition of construction. The self and the environment, co-dependent, construct each other in a radically creative violent process of mutual change and adaptation.
The crashing sounds of falling aluminum cans, slabs of wood, plastic boxes and García’s strumming fill the room as Foulkes repeats this movement, again and again, from different angles. For every action, there is a reaction. Summoning within her own body the necessary force to make the assemblage crumble, Foulkes transforms the dancer-sculpture duet into an aerial mosh pit. All the found objects crash in cacophony against each other, with the dancer’s body among them. Foulkes flings herself against the assemblage again and again, breaking it down, making it lighter; until it approaches her own weight.
García Nesitla intensifies the rhythm of strumming as chairs and stairs fall down. Foulkes pushes herself up towards what’s left of the sculpture, and gaining momentum, starts climbing the ladder moving towards its gravitational center. For about ten seconds, their hovering bodies share a center. The ropes from which they hang form an equilateral triangle, sustained by the force in Foulkes’ arms. Lightly letting go of the ropes, her body sustains a quake equal to that which the sculpture receives. A washing machine falls. Foulkes detaches her harness from the rope and the strap, and begins the coda by pushing away whatever is left of the assemblage. Each object that falls to the ground honors the subtitle of the work” “To Insist, To Insist, To Insist.”
Foulkes has been working with harnesses and strings for quite a while. A central question in her choreographic practice is the possibility of the body in suspension. This action is a collaboration of gravitational forces and bodies and objects. While mostly improvised, the action follows a very open score towards the wreckage of the massive hovering sculptural object. There is a punk quality to the body’s gesture that inserts itself in a destructive process. The anarchy of matter becomes clear as the process of seemingly pure destruction reveals itself as, actually, a reconstruction.
García Nesitla, a long time collaborator with Cruzvillegas, as well as a consistent activator of the Autoconstrucciones, played live from Mexico over Skype. His visa request had been rejected by the US government (with no stated reason), so he could not be physically present at this event. Instead, a laptop, connected to the sound system of The Kitchen, was placed on top of a pile of chairs, allowing García and Foulkes some visibility of each other’s actions. In these perilous times of reactive authoritarianism across the globe, events like these remind us of the necessity of always re-inventing how to work with the resources available to us. “Autoreconstrucción” is a testament to the fact that as long as authorities keep building walls between us, destruction is a necessary step in the process of reconstruction.
Abraham Cruzvillegas’ “Autoreconstrucción” performed by choreographer Bárbara Foulkes with a live score by Andrés García Nesitla took place at The Kitchen (512 West 19th Street, New York) from April 5 to April 7, 2018.