Hands clasp open and closed…
Bouncing feet drum on a tongue that flicks in and out of a mouth…
Fingers reach between toes and palms slap down on hairy thighs. ..
These are just some of the images packed into Ryan McNamara’s three-minute long dance performance video, FLESHCORE, which was choreographed via FaceTime and filmed by nine performers scattered across the globe.
Translucent moving body parts layer on top of each other, so as humans touch themselves—by running their tongue against the inside of their cheek, or grabbing their shin, or groping their face—the video gives the illusion that they also touch each other. Hands pile one on top of another, and their combined see-through flesh turns a soft red color. Limbs overlay like venn diagrams. A thumping background music, building and layering just like the footage, sets us on edge. Arms and legs and mouths transform into unrecognizable shapes and masses.
In the caption for the piece, McNamara writes, "Every morning I take a blue oblong pill. It’s an antiviral medication that protects me from a virus I have feared my whole life. The virus has a taste for intravenous penetration. Now I am separated from my people because of a new virus that thrives on surfaces and floats across the air we breathe... I have a touch anxiety."
You too may agree that it is how McNamara expertly blends the unease of touch with the beauty of it that makes this short film so compelling.
FLESHCORE’s meditation on what it means for touch to be vital yet forbidden will likely especially resonate with many, who like this reviewer, find newfound relevance of this exploration during the pandemic. Fans of dance and video performance, or anyone who might also have conflicted feelings about touch right now, this video might be a highly enjoyable and beautiful viewing experience for you.
FLESHCORE is part of an ongoing series of video performances funded by the Guggenheim’s Works & Process Artists (WPA) Virtual Commission established as a way to financially aid artists during this pandemic. Every week, the WPA commissions grants to artists to produce new video works while social distancing.
Image courtesy of the Guggenheim's Works & Process Artists Virtual Commission.
About the Author: Nell Beck
Nell Beck is a rising senior at Oberlin College, where she is pursuing a BA in English. At school, she is co-editor of the literary nonfiction magazine and eats in a dining co-op. Raised in Montclair, New Jersey, she is passionate about books, art, and writing. Looking ahead, she hopes to pursue an arts-related career, travel a lot, and become a better baker.