Rachel Echenberg: Nine, Five and Three (2)

Posted on September 21st, 2015

Rachel Echenberg - photo by Luciana D’Anunciação

Rachel Echenberg – photo by Luciana D’Anunciação

Rachel sits alone. She breathes into a latex structure. She’s on the steps of the legislature building, her balloon already the size of a basketball by the time I arrive. She’s halfway up the steps and halfway through inflating the balloon which blocks her face from my approach, like a hot pink, gargantuan sphere of bubblegum. It’s overcast, and the day is remarkably sombre despite the joyful architecture of the space: there’s square-cut pools of overlapping geometry, round stepping stones, and two rows of trees shedding autumn’s fireworks in the esplanade before the great granite steps of the seat of legislature. There is no reprieve for her while the latex expands, instead it is one sustained breath pushing itself through her body, her rigid form like a fountainhead, embracing the bladder like a child or a sheaf of wheat, it’s almost cradled in her lap and so softly held between her lips as she continues to bear down on the expanding pink space and I walk to the far side. She turns her head away, pressing her face nearer to the latex structure and towards the legislature building and its imposing wooden doors of structure and government, so I step back to adjust my orientation to the performance and absorb the space, given that it provides such a strong emotional current to the action and while my mind distends several unaffiliated individuals pass by, despite the overcast and the grey, people saunter through the space, intervening on the piece as it embraces them, then, as time seems to hold with the immutable latex sphere, several minutes pass which feel like hours, or years, under the stark and unyielding sky, and I realize, belatedly, that she’s let go of the spout.

Canada, Edmonton. Sept/20/2015. Latitude 53 Visualeyez 2015. Rachel Echenberg performance - 'Five'.

Rachel Echenberg – photo by Owen Murray

So gradual it is barely apparent at first, the latex structure loses its air, it’s lifeblood, and Rachel softly places it upon the granite steps of the legislature building, and descends, looking into the audience, casting forth her attention into the crowd, and gesturing to four individuals with an open hand. This is the five, and they walk towards the geometry of the promenade, while I watch the latex lose half its volume and hold — from a fold in the spout — a shape like an igloo. Wrinkles lace its surface like lines of latitude, and even though I know that eventually it shall shrivel and fall, it almost looks like it could maintain it’s shape indefinitely.

Rachel Echenberg - photo by Owen Murray

Rachel Echenberg – photo by Owen Murray

The five stand on a bridge. Water surrounds them, reflecting the steel sky and the edges of architecture, bodies, and form. The five place their mouths upon the spout, the conjoined structure between them, and share their spirit with the burgeoning shape. It balloons, they shuffle from side to side, pink cheeks puff and red lips purse, while observers shift and dance from shape to shape upon the water to take in the action whole. They breathe, and it swells, slowly at first but the structure soon becomes a large, lopsided mass where, surprisingly, Rachel’s chamber overwhelms the rest, as though they are but appendages to her breath’s will, the participant’s air less authoritative than the artist’s. Plus, unlike the nine who came before, the five establish and maintain a balance in the communal lung, shuffling back and forth for comfort, spreading legs wide, and even pulling their mouths off the spouts and pinching it with fingers to take a breather from the breathing, and attempt equilibrium. Even this conscious maintenance can but last a little while, as the day rolls on and the world turns, the sky presents a field unpunctuated, and the breath of five merges with the wind. They release their hold upon the spouts, and lower the structure to the pebbled concrete, gently as a summer breeze; soft, so soft. As the latex structure deflates, democracy returns to the structure’s chambers and pink puddles form on the ground. Like cataracts, coronas, or a pile of contact lenses. The five slowly step away. Alone in themselves.

Canada, Edmonton. Sept/20/2015. Latitude 53 Visualeyez 2015. Rachel Echenberg performance - 'Five'.

Rachel Echenberg – photo by Owen Murray