Rachel Echenberg: Nine, Five and Three (3)

Posted on September 23rd, 2015

Rachel Echenberg's "Three" - photo by Todd Janes

Rachel Echenberg’s “Three” – photo by Todd Janes

There’s something new in the air. After Nine and Five, Three is something of a shock. Today the latex structure acts as a greater intervention on the street. At the corner of Jasper Ave and 101st, Rachel Echenberg and two participants stand between the marble benches in front of the CIBC. At first you can’t even see the balloon unless you get close, it appears to be nothing more than some hot pink multi-user bagpipe, but then it grows, and Rachel steps back into the communal space.

Breathe.

Some people watch. There’s a busy bus stop just down the street. A few even dare to get close, and not just to snap a quick pic before darting away into the sun. I mean they actually watch the performance, lingering in order to interact with the action, which is new, and neat; some smile, others point, but few ask what it means. Rachel takes another step back, because the latex structure is now veritably bounding into the street, a huge and imposing pink kiwi bird, because the far chamber has inflated beyond all reason. I walk around the performance, and see one of the participant’s cheeks bursting beet red as her lungs pump and pump the lopsided latex structure, in response Rachel steps back again, now there is under a metre of space for people to pass by on the sidewalk.

Breathe.

The structure holds. The three maintain its shape. They seem to have an easier time coordinating than the other groups. The wind knocks the structure around like a busted kite, but they hold, and it kicks, but they hold. The shadow of a nearby tree paints the latex a mottled paisley that warps and stretches around the dangerously large structure and, when I really look and think about it, I’ve never seen the seam between two chambers stand out so starkly. The dark division between conjoined airspace stands amidst the buses and the cars, the smiles and the selfies, the shadows, the crowd, and the busy, rush-hour street; nobody flinches, nobody balks, and with a quiet signal to the participants, Rachel decides that the time has come to put this great pink beast to bed. They lower the structure to the ground and gently squeeze the life out of it by placing two flat hands upon the dome, and leaning into it, like pressing the poison out from a water buffalo. After a while, it ceases to look quite so alive, and I wonder what prompted that reverie. They’ve put the great beast out of it’s misery. It withers on its own. And it’s done.