Impressions of Antonio Ramos' "Thirsty Mind, Love and Starvation sitting in a lonely tree"
By Antonio Ramos and the Gang Bangers
JACK, Brooklyn NY | June 2-5, 2016
Performed by: Luke Miller, Rebecca Wender, Darrin Wright, Alvaro Gonzalez, Sarah White Ayón, Rennie Lachlan McDougall, and Antonio Ramos
Music by: Miguel Gutierrez
Costumes by: Claire Fleury
Set Design by: Sam Gassman
Lighting Design by: Amanda Ringger
Video Installation by: Peter Richards
Imagine being caught in a jovial tornado of glitter, latex, pop music, and naked flesh. Antonio Ramos’ Thirsty Mind, Love and Starvation sitting in a lonely tree swoops you up and drops you off in a place where anything can happen, where you ask yourself ‘what just happened?’ It cobbles together vignettes that feel linear, yet somehow not to each other, forcing you to wade through the discomfort and confusion of making sense of Ramos’ world.
Sheets of clear plastic cascade from the ceiling to the floor covering every inch of aluminum foil in JACK. Strings of artificial red flowers rest on the plastic, adding to the unique ambiance. Off to the left side of the performance space, smartphone video footage of Ramos whimsically tossing his luscious salt-and-pepper curls and frolicking in different environments (hallway, stairwell, bedroom) project on three small overlapping screens. If you are Facebook friends with Ramos, then you are familiar with his short nonsensical scenes that repeat, jump-cut, and retrograde with playful indulgence.
The evening begins with a video of Ramos in the woods. The camera is set low and angled up, which makes Ramos look like a giant. He skips toward the camera until his face consumes the screen, then the footage cycles backward to begin again. Six figures slowly accumulate into the softly lit area accompanied by sounds of gurgling water and chirping birds. They are nude except for shiny latex fabric covering one arm (wrist to bicep) and opposite leg (ankle to thigh). With a gentle, meditative presence, each mover extends a right arm front and left arm side. The right arm floats upward to tap the forehead, initiating the head to tilt back. This gesture popcorns through space, in and out of unison.
The movers transition onto the floor, crawling and slithering while making guttural croaks that evolve into English phrases. They envelop us into their evolution by crawling over our feet and pouring into our laps. They don’t acknowledge us, and we transform into inanimate landscape. If you listen carefully, you may catch “Where’s Hunch” or “I smell,” carrying the ‘s’ like anthropomorphic snakes.
Sandwich bags of cherries are given to the audience. Ramos, wearing only a disco-ball helmet, invites viewers to spit cherry seeds at him while he sings karaoke in Spanish. The sound of hard seeds smacking his flesh vacillates between comical and violent. Two apprehensive volunteers follow Ramos around with desk lamp-sized lights during his serenade, caught in the spitfire. Some elect not to spit, perhaps sensing that participating in abuse, even if self-motivated, treads too closely to problematic groupthink.
The evening continues with tableaus of dancers responding to images on a tablet, laptop, or iPhone. They pass these objects around, pulling from familiar personal movement histories of modern, contemporary, ballet, and house dance. Occasionally, ideas ricochet from one body to next, creating duets.
Music, composed by Miguel Gutierrez, weaves a futuristic tapestry of synthesizer, sound, and pop music. One notable mash-up of Beyonce’s “Bootylicious” sends the four male dancers into a ridiculous fit of flailing limbs and genitalia.
Thirsty Mind, Love and Starvation sitting in a lonely tree peels back conventional performance realities to expose the naked truth of nebulous neuroses and surveillance transactions. Ramos creates a shiny microcosm of indulgence and discomfort that magically shimmers into focus, or perhaps simply floats to the dormant crevices of your consciousness. If you surrender to the work, it's worth the chaos and confusion, but once you’re in, you’re on your own.
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