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Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Coco Fusco-The Incredible Disappearing Woman 

The Incredible Disappearing Woman was certainly the most challenging work I’ve seen during the tba festival, not because it dealt with necrophilia, but because it tediously piled theme upon theme, leaving a messy jumble of provocative themes within a package that looked, smelled, and acted like contemporary performance. Inspired by the story of an American artist who went to Mexico to rent a female corpse and committed an act of necrophilia as body art, IDW takes place in the set of a film for a live chat room that is part of a larger museum of perversions. The extended fantasy that unfolds is dictated by feedback from a virtual audience, transmitted via a red LED board displaying their messages, and an offstage director whose dictates boom like the voice of god to the two actors on stage. There is no lack of provocative themes, as IDW is endlessly expansive. On her website at http://www.thing.net/~cocofusco/disapwman.html
Fusco writes that this piece is about how we “make the actuality of political violence intelligible in an information-saturated culture dominated by simulation.” Unfortunately, the piece also contains a slew of other topics including a critique on museum curation; a critique of the potential abuses for technology; an exploration of human perversions that exposes a dangerous gap between simulation and reality; a critique of gender, race, and class relations. While the form is ostensibly light, mimicking a piece of poorly executed, amateurish impromptu theater, the content is so densely layered that the final product is muddy and no satisfactory exploration of any one of these themes is ever achieved. For example, the robot that joins the two actors on stage is a potentially crucial prop for exploring notions of the cyborg. However, this robot is not just a robot, but a non-white, female, elderly, Catholic, disabled, poor, victimized robot who is confused about human/robot identity and has a fear of death. Dialog with the robot only complicated an already complex and overlong performance. By juxtaposing one of these human attributes, say fear of death, with a robot, an interesting tension would have emerged; by juxtaposing all of these human attributes with the robot, the tension is completely lost. That said, there were still some provocative themes embedded in the performance, namely the implication of visual arts curation as a sort of necrophilia, especially in regards to performance, an art form which is “dead” when it is no longer performed, yet is revived by curators in an act of simulation, who provide props and documentation to allow the audience to “reenact” these experiences. I wanted to like Fusco’s IDW, but as the performance progressed, the contemporary form of the piece gave way and I found myself wallowing in its content.

Katherine Bovee

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