At a panel organized by Triple Canopy, Jim and I learned we had the same birthday. Having long admired his work with Richard Maxwell and Bernadette Corporation, I took our shared birthday as a sign we should collaborate. The idea of asymmetrical twinship was irresistible. Selfishly, I wanted to discover new ways of working with and through my body from a great actor whose power, it seemed to me, derived as much from his unique physicality and speaking voice as from his writerly sense of the materiality of language, the rudiments of words. I hoped Jim would get something out of working together too.
Before MORTAL KOMBAT, Jim and I had previously written and performed a brief movement-heavy play together called LORNA, inspired by Noh theatre and Butoh. With LORNA, I went in with one goal: to generate the text together from experiments in deconstructed and slowed-down movement, rather than to pre-imagine a text whose duration, structure, and meaning would later be inflected by staging, by Jim’s and my physicality as performers.
MORTAL KOMBAT was an investigation of the structuring elements of physical aggression, by way of the popular 1992 video game. I wanted to take on and to challenge the notion of “a fair fight” and to explore how gender and size inflect questions and problems of physical dignity, active & passive resistance, and styles of enmity. I wanted to generate language via the exploration of these physical states.
Jim and I developed MORTAL KOMBAT procedurally, by deconstructing movements as we had done for LORNA, taking inspiration from Kathakali, krumping, judo grappling and basic jeet kun do along the way. Our rehearsals walked a strange and very fine line between martial arts sparring practice, double dutch, patty cake, improvisational dance, youtube miming and a mirroring exercise we called “fake t’ai chi.”
We presented a third iteration of MORTAL KOMBAT at the Whitney Museum’s historic Breuer building before the museum moved to its new downtown location. For the Whitney performance, I wanted to add a sonic element to make the building itself, the very architecture, come alive. Drummer Edley O’Dowd of Psychic TV and Toilet Boys fame was the perfect third prong to the project, for at least twenty reasons, not the least of which being he too shared Jim’s and my birthday.