A New York Live Arts off-site event, Jen Rosenblit's Clap Hands is a poetic and daring exploration of containment, the body, and performance. In collaboration with Effie Bowen and Admanda Koblika, and with supportive performance from alexia welch, Rosenblit questions the lines that encase, connect, and separate, as The Invisible Dog Art Center in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn is transformed by a sculptural mass of shapeshifting, fuchsia-colored felt.
Sitting at a bright yellow table that is covered in audio equipment, Rosenblit, in black boxing shorts, a black crop top, and black boots, speaks poetry into a long, fuzzy, grey microphone, held by welch. Taking on the tone of storyteller and setting the mood, Rosenblit closes her eyes, shifts her elbows on the table, and looks out at the audience, saying things like, “I'd like to know where we are if we are not together” and “I just barely recall you, any of you.”
The structure of the performance space is formed by a large rectangle of metal, bleacher-like benches where the audience sits. Rosenblit plays with this seemingly stationary parameter when Koblika, in a yellow wrestler's unitard, steps beyond the bounds of the audience, opens a window, and walks around in a yard adjacent to the building. Movement is ambling as Bowen, in an all-white fencing ensemble, simultaneously begins distributing a giant stack of folded, fuchsia felt around the performance space. Paired with Rosenblit's words on departure, a feeling of change, loss, and what is left behind permeates.
As Rosenblit's lines shift to memory, they become more erotic: “it's in this spot where she would have washed their hands, it would have taken time, it would be sensual and a bit rude”; “but before all of this there would be a feeding. opening and closing mouths on each other”. The felt is scattered and becomes a disjointed, sculptural unit that connects the space and the dancers. Rosenblit and Bowen stand over a pile of it, examining it, feeling it, slipping their hands into its folds—exposing a thread of fetishization.
Further speeding up the tempo, Rosenblit finishes her text, as rippling movement is introduced, along with imaginary ping-pong, paddling, and spray bottles emulating steam rooms, a mix that touches on the parallels she draws between sports and dance, intersecting with desire. From here, Rosenblit, Koblika, and Bowen form an erotic huddle, eagerly gathering up the felt with their feet, legs, and arms. Diving for stray pieces in any attempt to keep it all together, eventually all the performers are devoured by it.
From the mountain of fuchsia felt, Rosenblit emerges completely naked save for her black boots. Positioning the yellow table at a diagonal, she lays on it, performs a rendition of the reclining nude, along with a variety of other poses, playing with exhibitionism and pushing at the lines where the body is examined in a performance. From her earlier text: “she would be without clothes. Next to nude. Just so you could see the subtle shifts, the unnoticed.”
As the piece comes to a close, the performers begin wrapping all of the props in the fuchsia felt. The mic gets wrapped in the fuchsia; a beach ball gets wrapped in the fuchsia. Rosenblit casually sits on one of the benches, still naked, alongside the audience, and nonchalantly wraps a yellow mouthguard in the fuchsia. As this movement is displayed as almost routine, we are left to consider that which forms, connects, and separates all things—ourselves, others, matter. A piece that successfully balances humor, eroticism, and reflection, Clap Hands is an extraordinary study on the body, movement, and the fabrication of experience.