New Deal Studios, Marina del Rey, CA
November 17–21, 2004
Reviewed by Victoria Looseleaf
For the past 15 years, Hannah Sim and Mark Steger, known in tandem as Osseus Labyrint, have been forging new territory in movement theater. With their naked, hairless bodies and signature alien moves—crawling like caterpillars, hanging like bats, or walking on all fours like gimp canines—their performances are exotic, provocative, and somewhat disturbing.
Seen frequently in Europe and Asia, Osseus returned home to Los Angeles for its UCLA Live-commissioned world premiere, Modern Prometheus LLC. Created in collaboration with electromechanical-installation artist Barry Schwartz (known here as Dr. Pank), the 90-minute, intermission-less work was touted as “the corporate launch of a new life form, built from the atom up.”
After passing through an area where oral DNA swabs were required of some of the sold-out audience of 350, attendees were seated in a Frankensteinian laboratory. Set amid giant stainless-steel vats topped with Tesla coils framed by a long wall of electrical conductors (resembling a John Chamberlain crushed-auto sculpture) that frequently emitted random bursts of electrical sparks, the show promised something dark, strange and—well, something new. Dark, yes. Strange, certainly. But the promise of novelty, unfortunately, remained mostly unfulfilled.
’ CEO, appearing as a disembodied head via video projection, blabbed about the demise of the non-artificially selected human, after which Sim and Steger—human analogues swathed in bubble wrap—were wheeled in on a dolly by butoh-esque lab technicians. Once sprung from their plastic bondage, they lay inert, awaiting animation. Enter Pank, who zapped them with electricity, precipitating a primal pas de deux: arms flinched, legs spasmed, torsos writhed. Then, suspended from the ceiling by their ankles, the two wiggled like spaghetti before getting dunked in one of the vats. They also hung by their necks from S&M-tinged harnesses before alighting back to earth where Sim, artificially inseminated, gave birth—anticlimactically—to a silver egg.
One applauds Sim and Steger’s derring-do and astonishing movement style, but what they really need to give birth to is a better narrative and a director who can shape their ideas, not merely their bodies, into something fascinating.
For more information: www.osseuslabyrint.net