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Gabriella Lopez

Mimi Garrard Shows Us the Money
at New York Live Arts

Mimi Garrard and Friends in "Live Dance and Video: Mimi Garrard and Austin Selden"
October 17, 2021, at 7:30 PM
New York Live Arts, 219 West 19 Street, NYC
Director/Editor/Choreographer: Mimi Garrard
Dancer: Austin Selden
Reviewed by: Gabriella Lopez

At New York Live Arts (NYLA) on October 17, Mimi Garrard Dance Company premiered "Money" and "Junk Journey" and completed the program with her 2019 "Cosmic Man." Ms. Garrard's finesse in film making and choreography, paired with a masterful performance by Austin Selden, provided a delightful and different evening.

Garrard’s work has been widely praised for pushing the limits of combining dance with videographic material. She collaborated with dancer Austin Selden on all three pieces in this program, which were set to music by Jonathan Melville Pratt.

Austin Selden and the loot.

A solid black briefcase stands upright on the downstage right corner of the set. Apart from that, the stage remains clear. The projection screen backdrop displays vivid hues of reds and blues. The house lights dim as a guttural bass sound grows louder in intensity and a singular rectangle spotlight descends upon Selden. Arranged in a primitive squat, he moves at an excruciatingly slow pace to stand upright and languidly advances towards the briefcase. His dark oversized trousers, along with his black and white striped top, resembles that of a robber. By recognizing this caricature, we can acknowledge that Selden’s movements depict that of a burglar stealing a briefcase. The projection screen in the background transitions through various aspects of different dollar bills- close ups on the eye of the great seal, zoomed in images of Abraham Lincoln’s face, etc. As soon as Selden acquires the briefcase (that we assume is full of cash), his gestures become abstract, active, and dynamic. The case seems to dictate his movements: its momentum throws him off balance or completely gyrates his torso around awkwardly. As he becomes a prisoner to the whims of the briefcase, the piece cleverly comments on society’s obsession with needing more money. The incentive to want a little more money leads to an endless cycle of isolation and powerlessness, which Selden portrays exquisitely.

The video interlude "Money Part 3" shows Selden’s body duplicate and conduct repetitive movements that retrograde in a collage-like manner. Despite his actions, the audience’s eye darts towards the background images of dollar bills that transfigure into unique shapes and sizes. These icons move in a circular motion to conduct a globe made of cash. This symbolic image reiterates Garrard’s criticism of the societal obsession with money.

Junk Journey

"Junk Journey" moves the perspective away from the screen and towards the stage again. Selden emerges from the wings wearing an oversized brown trench coat. When he travels across the set, several images of a landfill materialize onto the projection screen. The garbage permeates the audience’s line of sight, the same way the trench coat permeates the clarity of his appearance. Descending to a primitive squat position, he maintains his leveled posture. He raises himself up slightly, vigorously shakes his head left and right, and then settles back into his squatting position. He repeats this action over and over again, occasionally rolling onto his back and changing his facing. At one point, he remains on the ground and starts rolling around on the floor. This evolves into rolling with mild tremors that escalate into violent thrashing of his entire body across the expanse of the stage. Ultimately, this convulsion ceases and he slowly curls himself into the fetal position in the middle of the stage. The material from this piece reflects on how the accumulation of junk impacts humanity.

"Junk 2021," another video interlude replicates images of Seldon’s body in the foreground consuming space, as trash pervades the edited space behind him.

The projection screen widens in preparation for "Cosmic Man." The screen erupts into an explosion of miniature light particles as clouds of smoke saturate the stage. String instruments occupy the musical space and Selden emerges from the curtains wearing a white full coverage workout attire. The quick pace of his lower body juxtaposes the rigidity of his upper body. Repeatedly, he pauses at an arbitrary corner of the stage to stare longingly into the distance. A contraction forces his torso to hunch over as he shuffles backward and then stops to undulate the movement into a backbend. The utilization of spatial form is fluid in comparison to the flagrant nature of "Money" and "Junk Journey," yet it leaves audience members with a distinct sense for the universal position of man.

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