Verbobala at The Bowery Poetry Club

            The stage is set up with a table and computers and a screen as a background. A man with a black body suit and white mask comes onto the stage. He starts a video taken from a car going down highways, lights blurring, in fast motion. Then the room fills with smoke and other images are layered on top of the highway video, transparently so you can see all of the images simultaneously. There is an image of a cactus in a field and there’s an image of a fence with a “private road residents only no trespassing”. At the beginning of the film you can hear voices and city noise but after the smoke the room is filled with electronic ambient music. The image of the cactus becomes abstract shadows, black and moving about, until they become so abstract you can begin to make up what they are: they look like praying hands. The images shift from highway, cactus, no trespassing to something that looks sci-fi. The sci-fi images on the screen become a background for a shadow figure of a man with a megaphone in hand. The man on the screen begins speaking Spanish through the megaphone. Another man appears onstage with the same black suit and mask. Smoke follows. He is speaking English but mixing in Spanish. Even though I can’t understand the Spanish the man on the screen is speaking the sound is competing with the English the man on stage is saying. He is speaking about the Mexican border… A screen of a power plant tower in the desert appears with the sign, “Private property no trespassing” Eventually the men on stage loose there masks and reveal their faces, which have some black paint on them. His voice starts echoing and blending into the background music.
            “Racism doesn’t know what name to call you when you’re wearing a black body suit” he says. Much of their performance is difficult to understand: the mixing of things, foreign languages, actions that seem random but the speaker tries to clarify what they’re doing by making remarks like these. They don’t comment on the smoke that fills the room, but it makes people uncomfortable. I gasp for air even though the air is fine. Although part of the performance seems like mystery it omits a certain feeling without him having to explain. He breaks up his poetic words with stories of oppression. He tells a story about applying to a film festival, being rejected and asked to explain their artistic intent. Their “artistic intent” seemed obvious enough so maybe with this story he was calling them out on being racist? He also talks about the government oppressing the youth, recalling a story from ’68 that he calls the “Mexican version of Kent State.” The year the Olympics were held in Mexico City there was student protesting occurring all over, so when some students were walking down the street tanks blocked them off and killed them. Over 300 students that weren’t even protesting because they feared the media would see the students and make it out to be a protesting situation and scare people away. He says that a British journalist was there to write about it but they disposed of the bodies very quickly. The whole thing leaves the Anti-Flag song ringing in my brain, “Seattle was a riot they tried to pin on us, but we didn’t show up with gas and billy clubs.”
            Images of flags from various countries appear on the screen, flashing one to the next. The man in the bodysuit is speaking Spanish. Whatever he is saying seems powerful, he is putting a lot of his emotion into it. Afterwards he explains the other man in the bodysuit, “he’s mixing video like a DJ would mix a record, it’s called VJing.” Then they both start mixing. Images are flashing so frequently it’s hard to tell what you’re seeing. Single words are being said, “White”, “gringo”, “American”, “Spanish”, “Irish”, etc. The DJ and VJ are making the images and words occur at the same time. More smoke fills the room. Closing their performance the screen goes back to the same “private road residents only no trespassing” sign and incorporates images of clouds, trees, and exploding blooming flowers.

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