Forty-five years ago, media philosopher Marshall McLuhan coined the now-famous phrase "the medium is the message," in reference to the way a medium of communication influences how a message is perceived. This concept of mediated perception is the central theme behind .event.space, Portland choreographer Tahni Holt's new performance at the Ace Hotel's Cleaners space downtown.
Employing 16 performers, animation, and a soundtrack by musician (and frequent Holt collaborator) Thomas Thorson, .event.space. confronts the familiar themes of voyeurism and technology: Audience members view the closed-off performance through the building's windows while the recorded soundtrack plays through speakers placed on the sidewalk outside.
In the past, Holt's approach to collaborative choreography has yielded sublime results. In her piece the passing out heart game, performers slam their bodies into floors, hyperventilate, and fall down stairs. Initially jarring in its gracelessness, the choreography grows beautiful over time.
While her methods of expression may vary, her approach to choreography remains firmly conceptual: "I really want my ideas to land and take place in physical form," she says. "I believe the mapping of ideas back and forth between two people is very much a form of choreography in its own right."
With .event.space., modes of technology are mocked through movement: Performers "speed up" and "slow down" in imitation of the rewind/fast-forward controls on a television remote. Holt hopes to forge a new connection with the audience through the disconnection of an unmediated performance.
"Disconnection allows you to notice a moment in a different way," she told me. "Even a simple tilting of the head alters perception. From there, the possibilities are limitless."