Flashes of red light, rolled up dollar bills and ceiling to floor curtains of plastic frame the surreal life of the inhabitants of the new experimental performance art at the Off Broadway Theater. Arriving just a few days after Halloween, the novel, brash and shocking Installation of Cruelty succeeds in creating an entirely unique performance experience.
Entering the theater, the audience waits behind an ordinary door, waiting to be allowed to enter into the kitchen that contains the first of 6 scene-lets. Yellow piles of Splenda wrappers nestle cans of Red Bull while food obsession seethes out of the two puppet-like actors performing repetitious motions with a frantic intensity.
Co-creators Patrick Hugenin ’06 and Miranda Jones ’06 along with co-director Satya Bhabha ’06, Composer/Cellist Meaghan Burke ’06 and the rest of their cast and crew have succeeded in creating a threatening alternative to traditional theatre at Yale. On Wednesday, the first night of the installation, a regular stream of students and a handful of community members arrived at the theater door to walk through the maze-like installation.
The blood and gore of haunted houses of yore still licks at the edges of this work but this museum of modern malaise cuts much deeper than the spider webs of the traditional creepy castles. Cultural commentary is fairly pervasive but doesn’t shove the message too hard, achieving some genuinely bone chilling moments.
The detail and intricacy of every scene allows for a variety of experiences by capturing the feel of an animated Madame Toussaud’s, and transforming the bodies of Yale students into works of art.
Student reactions to the interactive art were overwhelming positive. Andrew Cedar ’06 said he enjoyed its provocative nature and unique interactive quality, a feature lacking in most displays of art at Yale.
Kyle Mitchell ’07, another student who experienced the installation said he had never seen a similar performance.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, I had so many emotions at once.”
The variegated scenarios and experiences are all orchestrated into one seamless stream of sound, color and form. The inherently collaborative nature of the piece provides much of its charm, but also made it a challenge to pull together into a coherent work before the opening. After the halfway mark of the first night, Bhabha breathed a sigh of relief.
“It came together, all these disparate elements just snapped together.”
Hugenin, Jones and their team have made an extraordinary attempt to follow in the footsteps of Artaud and Brecht by pushing the accepted boundaries of performance and art. While this performance has been well received, the difficulties inherent in constructing this kind of work will make it difficult for other projects to replicate their success. More of this variety of experimentation will be a vital contribution to the Yale art scene, but the quality of this show sets a high standard for aspiring experimental artists who may wish to follow in its footsteps.