It might be the beginning of a wonderful friendship. Wood Street Galleries, so perfectly situated on a triangle of its own bordered by Liberty Avenue, Seventh Street and, of course, Wood Street is always looking to expand in other ways, mostly artistic.
The building, located above the T station, houses two floors of non-profit offices at the top and two floors art galleries below it. It beautifully acknowledges that art comes in many forms and WSG has produced some of the city’s edgiest installations.
Enter Gia Cacalano.
Curator Murray Horne had been a supporter of Gia’s improvisational work for “seven or eight years” and had presented her at the space before. But when Bill Vorn’s “Hysterical Machines” exhibit came to town, he saw a real opportunity for these “machines” to interact with Gia and friends.
Because that’s what they do.
According to Murray, these robots “respond to our interactivity as ‘state of mind.’ In questioning our relations, connections or fantasies concerning robots, we may end up imagining what the robot is feeling about us.”
There were two separate installations, “Red Light” and “Hysterical Machines,” but Gia chose the latter, located on the third floor, for Gia T. presents, because the sound score and longer, thinner robots were “more subtle.”
Oddly enough, Gia just got her first computer. So the whole process, performed last Friday just before the installations closed, became “surreal. There’s a primitive aspect as well as advanced technology — that was very attractive to me,” she explained.
She loved the electronika and bright white lights, three grids that seemed to randomly blink at the audience in different formations. There were a collection of “arms” hanging from the center of the room, almost like those of a stark metallic octopus. They coiled about, sometimes in strict formation, other times acting individually with a gun-powered jerk.
Gia says she was, given her simultaneous introduction to her computer and the robots, “thrust into this world. It raises a lot of questions about how we function daily.” On the other hand, she is generally attracted to opposites that have “a thin line dividing them.”
So it all had a surreal quality for her, balancing between the technology and the primitive DNA that she contends still lies within us.
The performance was composed of four performers, David Bernabo, computer, Jordan Hill, brass, Beth Ratas, dancer, and Gia. There was a pre-performance by the grids, almost blindingly white. Then Gia entered to a periodic musical thump, sort of checking out the space at all levels.
She and Beth, dressed in hoodies, tutus and urban shoes, would creep low to the ground, almost amphibian-like, and jab their legs into the sky in arabesque. Particularly enjoyable was their use of vaguely robotic, angular movements, reminiscent of “Coppelia” dolls. But mostly there was a sense of wonderment at their surroundings.
Midway through the improvisation, the robots suddenly came on in unison. The interaction was on full force, mostly conducted by the dancers, who peered underneath and circled around the robotic tentacles. They looked, but didn’t touch. However the dancers who had several compelling interactions and a couple of urgent solos. And although the signature moves became repetitive near the end, the whole interaction had a mystical quality.
You could tell this was the start of something bigger. Evidently Wood Street and Gia T. presents have entered into a casual partnership where she will continue to interact with exhibits on a biannual (or possibly more) basis. (September is next.)
As Gia puts it, “I’m open to the openness, I guess you can say.”