THE HOT UNIVERSE
ALLIE AVITAL TSYPIN / GABRIELLE HERBST
In “The Hot Universe,” our hybrid performance at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center, we explored the real and the fake via feminine seduction, music video culture, and the Internet. Girls opened their mouths and audio samples of Siberian throat singing came out. Live vocals and string instruments blended with lip-syncing and electronic voice loops. There were fruits and vegetables covered in rhinestones, with electronic wires connecting them in a surreal, futuristic dystopia.
I was obsessed with recreating the ephemeral and elusive quality of a woman’s image in media without losing the power of live human experience: the echo of the vocals, the raw sound of the strings, the sweat on the performers’ faces, and the audience’s breath. In rehearsals, the actors re-lived the experiences of pleasure and pain, orgasm, and desire, and then we “sampled” those sensations in a frenetic choreography. I wanted the performers to became vessels of different sounds, feelings, ideas, and sensations, but without losing that genuine power of transformation that defines traditional acting and live theater.
However, The Watermill Center had its own plan for us. In Wilson’s center, a sterile and fluorescent psycho-architectural laboratory where every corner of the space is calculated, the hundreds of coffee cups must be lined up mathematically with their handles facing left. Even the sun is designed to set in a carved-out space between two trees. The human element is meant to be plopped in like a specimen and intensified; our life there was defined by a combination of repetitive, dehumanizing rituals, and by our artistic mission.
Eventually, we began losing our minds. At communal dinners, bathed in fluorescent lighting, all ten of us artists would have uncontrollable laughing fits. We, too, became vessels of sorts, playing a part in this strange experiment. At times, we felt like robots shuffling through the giant space. At times, we resisted the architecture, our passion fired up by the icy surroundings. In an effort to make a performance about unreality, we stumbled upon an experience that was more authentic and transformative-a genuine performance in its own right.