Physical theater artist, Ivo Dimchev (1976, BG), is a master performer – undeniably confident, inventive, operatic, charismatic, controversial and erotic. Dimchev incorporates props in his work, sings, wears wigs and arranges the material in a transformative manner, like a radio tuning in and out of frequencies. In his latest work, “X-On”, he creates a vortex that fumbles with the mind of the audience, shouldering potential outrage as it entertains. Each segment of this evening-length work is the birth of a new idea, a thread of thought that is frayed, curious and undecided when it flips to the next scene. Despite the non-literal fashion of his material, the work shows continuity and thematic consistency.
“X-On” is the second piece that Dimchev has created in collaboration with “Adaptives” sculptures by artist Franz West (1947, AT). Three performers execute this work with Dimchev who emerges as persona Lili Handel. The piece opens as a museum tour guide leads a couple through an exhibition of “Adaptives,” The tourists snap digital flash photos, while the guide encourages them to interact with the sculptures. The “Adaptives” sculptures are intended to foster a physical relationship with their audience. Here, in Dimchev’s work, this intention is successfully realized using the performative body as that audience. West believes that, “It doesn’t matter what the art looks like, but it is how it is used.” Despite this, he hoped the sculptures could remain abstract and not be assigned a particular function. Consequently, Dimchev remarked his objective was to “find a vocabulary and a quality that were as open as possible to different interpretations while at the same time being very clear and precise.” One of his choices was to perform the piece as Lili Handel– a choice that effectively launched “X-On” into outer space.
Lili Handel, is one whose raison d’être is difficult to adequately describe. She comes in the form of an aging, alabaster whore; her poetry, song, explicit movements and freshly drawn blood are her mediums. In “X-On,” Handel graces the stage after the remaining three performers are pantomimically shot down with a “bang bang” from their gallery staging. Later, the performers change from their pedestrian clothing into the matching pearl thongs and black, peep-toe pumps worn by Handel. The theme of repetition is thus revealed– both as it relates to Lili Handel and as it relates to the replications of West’s sculptures of which multiples were commissioned.
The score of “X-On” is charged with action and movement. Copycatting, as a dramaturgical theme, is clearly illustrated during a dance section mid-way through the work. Here, the three supporting performers repeat Dimchev/Handel’s showgirl routine like back-up dancers. They sing chorus lines “holding,” “bringing,” “watching,” “leaving me with care” as they step out grapevines in their heels. Music plays a heavy role in Dimchev’s work, which is evident in this segment when the abstract piece snaps into a musical format.
Unlike Dimchev’s other solo works― succinctly power-packed – “X-On” drags on a bit, therefore becoming diluted over time. Unfortunately, the piece missed a befitting opportunity to close near the 60-minute mark when Handel began a rhythmic gymnastic ribbon dance. For this, and other reasons, “X-On” is not Dimchev’s strongest piece. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see that he has invited people to the party in this group work when he is clearly a star soloist performer. His honoring of Franz West’s desire that the interactive abstract sculptures remain non-representational also deserves strong credit. Every bill under which Dimchev appears will attract faithful fans of experimental work, those that will feel probed and vexed and everything in between. Go see his next performance and see where you fall.