Off Human: Marcela Lucatelli + Mocrep

by Jen Hill
photos by Jeff Kimmel and Tim Porter

photo by Jeff Kimmel

i want to start by making a point about off-human’s politics. one didn't have to guess how this performance fit (or rather didn’t fit) into the hyper-serious social resistance compounded by the events of the past several weeks, not to mention years. thousands, if not millions, of lives are placed in danger, a danger that continues to grow with each day of this presidency. how can anyone create art that thrives in this climate?

off-human makes no explicit rejection of this reality but still lands far outside of its realm, presupposing nonsense and bullshit as order.

marcela lucatelli and mocrep are at the frontline of this destabilization by asserting their validity as humans, particularly if it may be slightly off-color.

it's here, in a concurrent performance of resistance, that off-human leaves its mark. the ethics at play are of sensuality and divinity, but there is no god -- only respect and accountability. this is what's at stake within the temporal and spatial bounds of off-human: vulnerability in the hands of a mob, prostration at the foot of the observer. the present indulgence is in celebration of sociality -- this is the case for the participants as well as the audience.

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photo by Jeff Kimmel

photo by Tim Porter

the piece opened with a raucous chorus of unintelligible mantra: CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart)  a primary validation of human existence - fragments of nonsense, projected onto the wall in an almost indecipherable font, emerging from marcela's baton (a synthetic pine branch, which seems worth noting)  through swollen plastic lips, brought to a boil in a duet with the screeching water heater from the back of the venue, but never overflowing.

in an ongoing act of emasculation, the performers disassemble and reconfigure the values at play in off-human. hyper-focused, unproductive tasks occupy the stage and attention shifts from one person to another to the projected images (of skin, flesh, fruit, teeth, fingers, fruit) to marcela to the images to nick (deeply and vigorously committed to grinding down a bit of plastic) to lia (wrapping tentacles around her cello) to ryan (dragging his hammer on a leash) to every performer to bethany (silently lying prostrate on the floor) to zach (investigating samples of plastic fruit) to marcela (not quite giving us the finger) to the images again, dripping with saccharine sweat.

photo by Tim Porter

photo by Tim Porter

a sharp thematic shift follows; lia's periodic returns to the cello splinter off from other scenes, forcing a rupture in the nature of the collaboration wherein the cello becomes a distraction from the absurd beauty of every other object on stage. a duet in which lia’s illuminated hands fly across the face of her cello while marcela sits closely behind her to manually trigger color patterns specifically relies upon symbolic choreography that is absent and unnecessary in the surrounding activities. while thoroughly interesting, these moments were fragmented and disjointed, perhaps better elaborated as a standalone piece.

far more convincing were the plateaus of directional energy that drove the closing scenes of the performance. moments of near-breakdown threatened to undermine each behavior preceding them. one had the impression of being a voyeur of some private experiment. mysterious rubber gloves, of a decidedly sexual nature, augmented the performers’ already contorted human flesh. each glove dictated action to the hand inside, caressing bodies, walls, floors -- before becoming bodies themselves -- organisms, striking the wall, embodying kinetic lust. marcela is the glove and mocrep are the fingers inside; the glove is the obvious instigator. projected imagery of fruit and flesh continues to add depth to a narrative of interiority and permeation while mocrep becomes the fruit of marcela’s flesh.

photo by Tim Porter

off-human is packed with delicious imagery and sensation. the audience was close enough to bask in this, but depended on a mediated experience of context; subtextual motivation unknown to the bystander. being at the performance was like watching a reality television show as if it were playing out on a studio production set, both staged and authentic. i only absorbed as much of the setting as i was given, never sure if i wanted or needed more -- or if i might be “in on the joke” to begin with.  the performance is convincing and the narrative is within reach, but never quite close enough to satisfy...

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off-human is a collaboration between members of mocrep and composer and performance artist marcela lucatelli. previous collaboration includes this is a piece not a WHOL from 2016. performers in off-human were lia kohl, marcela lucatelli, nick meryhew, zach moore, bethany younge, and ryan zerna.

photo by Jeff Kimmel