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Holocene Overkill (Phase 2) @ Defibrillator

The Holocene has been the age of man. During the ten thousand years since the last big ice age, homo sapiens have dominated the earth. Our societies, civilizations, empires, and digital networks have spanned the entire globe, in the process coming to fundamentally change the the natural processes that preceded and created us. The global climate, natural resources like fossil fuels and forestation, even biological processes like evolution have been deeply altered by humankind’s dominance.

Carole McCurdy, Jose Hernandez, and Adam Rose perform Holocene Overkill (Phase 2). (photo credit: Gan Uyeda)

The Antibody Corporation contends that this era of human triumph (and perhaps humanity itself) is on the way out. The “movement arts and occult research” group presented their latest iteration of this message in the form of “Holocene Overkill (Phase 2).” Executed on November 11 and November 12, 2011 at Defibrillator, the piece featured Jose Hernandez, Carole McCurdy, and artistic director Adam Rose in a performance that questioned the boundaries of humanness and the physical and psychological contortions humans bring upon themselves.

A chain link fence ran diagonally through the gallery, separating the performance area from the audience seating. Fluorescent tubes sitting on the floor cast an eerie, clinical light, while blue-green lamps suspended high on the walls gave off a feeling of sickness and unease. This effect was only emphasized by the performers’ costumes: Hernandez in a torn and billowing silver cloth, his ample body covered in luminescent silver paint, McCurdy in high-waisted white underwear and a wrap of clear plastic, her neck leashed to the ceiling via clear plastic tube, and Rose in a white-blond wig, white leggings, blouse and bra, and a clattering metal contraption fastened around his arm. In costume, the trio was cold, futuristic, and menacing – all qualities complemented by the soundtrack of droning bass and inhumanly deep, incomprehensible voices.

Hernandez charges the audience. November 11, 2011. (photo credit: Gan Uyeda)

The trio’s activities and movements shifted slowly and enigmatically over the course of the performance. Hernandez went from corpse-like stillness on the ground to full-bodied rage, prowling and then rampaging around the gallery. I’ll admit that the chain link barrier between the performers and audience gave me some comfort when Hernandez charged us, flailing ferociously. McCurdy appeared alternately timid, purposeful, and deranged. For his part, Rose’s transitions were complex and affective, moving from grandiose self-presentation to fetal whimpering, from graceful leaping to grotesque lurking.  During the performance, McCurdy applied nine large metal clamps to the skin on Rose’s back, which proceeded to click and rattle as he spun and ambled about. The physical pain this must have induced was, for me, secondary to the pain of fear and rage and desperation that would occasionally flash across McCurdy’s and Hernandez’s faces. The performance ended unsettlingly: Rose, clamped and hunched, slinked away while Hernandez slowly carried McCurdy forward towards the audience; their faces this time were utterly, unfeelingly, inhumanly blank.

I left the gallery on Friday night and walked to the Blue Line in a bit of daze. After nearly an hour of rumbling bass, the city sounded especially hushed. The performance was anything but straightforward, but it certainly left me thinking about the pain humanity has the unending ability to inflict upon itself and the blind faith we put in technological advancement to save us. Our tools become ever more complex, and yet are they not essentially metal clamps on our backs, twisting and contorting our natural state? For that matter, how can we even understand such thing as a “natural state” when we’ve become so disconnected from a state of nature? The arc of human activity is aimed towards overkill. So what do we do about it now?

 

 

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