In a room painted silver, Adam Rose sips tonic water from an aluminum can painted gold. He coaches Carole McCurdy through her solo in his Holocene Overkill (Phase 2), premiering at performance-art gallery DEFIBRILLATOR on Friday 11 and Saturday 12. From an iPod dock’s speakers in the Wicker Park space, unfamiliar words emerge, garbled and echoey. The soundtrack, which Rose produced, sounds like an alien reading gate announcements over an airport PA. (It’s in fact remixed recordings of native speakers of dying languages from around the world.)
McCurdy allows Rose to “sketch” movement ideas on her: She embodies Rose’s instructions as he delivers them softly. Some are code names for movements they’ve worked on in previous rehearsals.
“Old mouth,” Rose says. McCurdy’s lips curl slightly inward, over her teeth. “Quiet. Nonthreatening. Casual,” he continues. She shuffles haltingly as if her feet are painfully arthritic. “Rummage.” McCurdy bends at the waist and claws at the space in front of her belly. “Rummage with your forearms.” She continues the action with dead hands, drained of energy. “It’s all dead. Pick through the bones and see what you can use,” Rose instructs.
They continue in this vein for quite a while before taking a break. Afterward, Rose, 28, asks McCurdy, 48, if she wants to try her entire solo from the beginning. McCurdy says, “Sure,” and sips her tea from a paper to-go cup. She’s so convincingly worn the body language of an exhausted, injured survivor of some zombie apocalypse that I’m stunned for a second when she vigorously shakes out her limbs to cleanse her physical palate.
Rose has a solo in the piece as well, as a female character named Elena, who’s appeared in other works. Elena wears a jet-black bob wig and a red-lipped rictus of horrific size. And I see some of the violent, rampaging solo the show’s third cast member, Jose Hernandez, 25, will perform.
Holocene Overkill (Phase 1) occurred in August at High Concept Laboratories. It had been announced, as most of Rose’s works are, with manifesto-like Facebook event descriptions mirrored on the site for his company, formerly Antibody Dance, now Antibody Corporation. (An excerpt: “The rational everyday world of business and entertainment generally dismisses the need for more experimental art forms, yet this is just to hide the fact that they are pressing their own epigenetic mutational program on us everyday in the form of an interlocking network of corporate cultural products.”)
More than any other dance artist in Chicago, Rose has merged the branding and Web presence of his dance company with the performed work itself, creating a consistent (and consistently dark) “face” across multiple channels—that may or may not be winking at you.
In doing business, such as coordinating interviews and studio visits, Rose is unfailingly polite, punctual and professional.
“Phase 1 was in a desert landscape, the end of the human world, this idea of saying good-bye to the Earth and animal life and humanity as it is,” Rose explains after rehearsal. “Phase 2 is a kind of technological, icy, cyborg world in which we begin in a field of corpses, with Carole meditating on top of a corpse, with this idea of transcending humanity.” He laughs.
Watch Holocene Overkill (Phase 2) at DEFIBRILLATOR on Friday 11 and Saturday 12.