Whimsical takes on human connection, separation and interdependence connect new works by artists in residence at CounterPULSE, one of The City’s primary incubators for provocative performance art.
The program, opening Thursday, includes “Twindependent” — a piece exploring the concept of “twinship” — by Rowena Richie and Jennifer Chien, who collaborate under the name richien.
Developed over two years, the piece also examines the pair’s own unlikely “twinship,” formed despite their different ethnicities and ages.
“Jen and I have our own take on the desires to meld with another yet establish individuality,” Richie says.
Chien adds: “We have what I’d call a cerebral-dorky orientation. We love research and learning, puns and wordplay — we’re not afraid to act or look foolish.”
Sporting identical wigs and costumes, they perform original music on ukulele, guitar and accordion backed by a live, looping video of themselves — effectively blurring the boundaries between their live and projected characters.
Individually, each has earned accolades and awards for prodigious creative output.
Richie’s “Lost and Found” received Best of Fringe honors from the San Francisco Fringe Festival. Chien’s work spans disciplines from choreography, theater, songwriting and poetry to digital video and audio production.
The CouterPULSE program also features Miriam Wolodarski’s company, Sense Object, performing “Of Limb and Language.”
In the piece, Wolodarski poses questions about how people process horrific news, which then gets filtered through sanitized language.
She describes the work as “a communicational tragicomedy — a brutal love affair between somatics and semantics.”
Wolodarski, who holds degrees in political science and performance art, chose to translate those events somatically.
“The body never lies,” she says.
“My political science thesis was about what is a civil society,” she says, “but was looking for a way to engage with and still be in the world in a way that felt embodied.”
Audience participation is also part of the CounterPULSE festivities. Audience members will be invited to join richien in a movement and song improvisation exploring human connections from the physical to the psychic.
Wolodarski will also facilitate a brief improvisation in dance, voice or writing.
“Improvisation allows you to move forward without having to pretend you have answers,” Wolodarski says. “You have to rely on your reflexes and your ability to survive in a very immediate sense: When you’re falling you have to catch yourself. You don’t have time to question. I think we use cognition in a different way when we’re moving our bodies through space.”