A Bicycle is Loved and Lost, Orgasm Foundby Mike Stinavage and Michael Parmelee
Amy Chavasse, Sarah Konner, and Austin Selden
Triskelion Arts | February 25 – 26, 2017
While the Oscars took center stage on laptops and TV screens across Brooklyn, Emi, Amy and Mimi, the Celebrated Love Partners, and their Bicycle Emi Nomo commanded the intimate space of Triskelion Arts. This dance work is a rambunctious collaboration of Amy Chavasse, a ceaselessly imaginative choreographer based in Michigan, and Brooklyn-based artists Austin Selden and Sarah Konner, who share a rich collaborative history of their own.
The artists created this work in three different states: New York, Michigan, and Montana. With distance as a challenge, one might have expected Chavasse’s experience or the Konner-Selden connection to take precedence. In actuality this bona fide triumvirate successfully avoids any expected hierarchy in the execution of this performance. They have created the charming mountain personas Emi, Amy, and Mimi in love with the Bicycle Emi Nomo to urge audiences to reconsider what’s known about objectivity and humanity—and the relationship between the two.
Who and what is Emi Nomo are the guiding questions of the work. In their pursuit to find an answer, the “Celebrated Love Partners” tiptoe through an outer ring of branches carefully strewn over a silver, sheening, hazmat-like material. (Chavasse had planned to send branches all the way from Michigan, but, opting for a more economic collection, Konner and Selden gathered branches from the Hudson Valley.) Once through the forest, they arrive in an enclave and begin to declare the mysticism of Emi Nomo.
The humming of a sweet tune is in harmony with the bucolic entrance. Rising stage lights reveal each performer in the silhouette of 19th-century garb: each torso, tightly bound in patterned fabric, gives way to a dress cage that echoes their every step and sway. The performers slap ankles together and toes tap the floor, developing a hypnotic polyrhythm. They press their hands into their own bellies. The movement is organized and sarcastically prim and proper, leaning toward adventure and spontaneity. With a closer look, the garb nods to transgression; the costumes are actually divided into crop-top and skirt, and Chavasse’s costume is covered with tiger faces staring out into the audience. Their attire references the conservatism of an era gone by, simultaneously subverting those social restrictions and decencies. The combination of set and costume design reflects the northern landscapes in which this work was developed. The bare branches, vocal cadence, and alpine costuming align to summon the visuals of Julie Andrews running through the hills. The cleverest touch is the small bell dangling from each dancer’s crotch. Sexuality jingles throughout the performance.
Before the show, bells were placed beneath audience seats, and in a common but satisfying disruption of the fourth wall, Chavasse further highlights the pastoral by inviting watchers to ring these bells in participation with the performers. The performance reveals Emi, Amy, and Mimi’s growing understanding of the fantastic Emi Nomo, a bicycle of curious existence. In this mystical quest for understanding, the performance investigates the humanization of objecthood and effectively conflates the difference and status of the human and the object. Emi Nomo seems to be everything: many feelings, many bodies, many ideas. Emi Nomo is the passionate sexual encounter that so tenaciously clings to the body’s memory. Emi Nomo represents all things that have been lost and the disassociation encouraged by purposelessness. Emi Nomo is the impulsivity and ecstasy that unleashes the consciousness.
This bicycle is referred to with female pronouns; she induces orgasm, possesses the ability to bleed, carries a collection of trinkets, and needs oil instead of water to survive. Emi Nomo is a nonexistent totality, a being of contradiction, comprised of object and human characteristics.
This bicycle is the ultimate matchmaker. Emi Nomo is produced through collective ideal, experience, and desire. When many feel the sting of sexual censorship, of fascist politics, of radically ignorant phobias, Emi Nomo is born to build connections between people and their experiences. Emi Nomo is the product and commerce of the artist, and Emi Nomo is what brings this whimsical, sensual, intrepid trio to the stage.
Mike Stinavage is a writer and reader of arts, politics, and modern Germanic history.Michael Parmelee