In Megan V. Sprengers
within us., the view cant rest in the role of voyeur.
Megan Sprengers new work puts the audience within
By Brian McCormick
When audiences walk into the space at PS122 to see Megan Sprengers new work
within us., they will find nowhere to sit. Dancers, who may or may not enter along with viewers, may not be immediately identifiable. Inside, theyll find set designer Brad Kisickis natural wood cubes 60 of them decorated with black stencil and arranged in clusters as well as suspended from the ceiling. Guides will lead people to their seats by reconfiguring the set to allot one block to a customer.
Set in a 360-degree environment with audience members integrated among the performers,
within us. subverts the convention of viewer as voyeur by breaking spatial boundaries and invading personal space. Drawing on the archetypes of aggressor, inflicted, watcher, and fighter, the work examines the physical and emotional instincts that lay at the core of human conflict.
For her first commission from PS122 in 2006, Sprenger created No Where, a trio that brought the mystery, tension, and beauty of Gregory Crewdsons photographic imagery to life. For this second commission, she drew inspiration from the images of violence in Jacob Landaus visual artwork, but not in the same literal way. Here, she likened the materiality of Landaus images to a color in a painters landscape; world events and her own experiences also drove the works objectives.
I wasnt going to protests, Sprenger said in a recent interview. I wasnt involved in the body count, or any of the other activities that were going on. I was aware of things, but also of my own apathy. There was a real disconnect to be so conveniently watching from my couch. Im not interested in being overtly political, but because of humanity, I became interested in exploring these characters, these roles.
Recently, one of her collaborators got jumped, a real-life, frightening experience that underscored Sprengers understanding of the deeply entrenched, almost hard-wired behavioral characteristics humans manifest, especially in the face of extreme or intense situations. People watched and did nothing, Sprenger said. There was no fighter. It was a one-on-one real example of how people behave according to pre-defined social rules. The characters in
within us. interchange among the performers, but each archetype can be identified through behavior and body movement. The inflicted is weighted and boneless, explained Sprenger, the aggressor, sharp and agitated; the watcher is watching and disconnected.
Sprengers team includes performers Tara OCon, Maria Parshina, Alli Ruszkowski, and Richert Schnorr, with costumes by Mary McKenzie. Jason Sebastians spatially dispersed score alternates between metallic, industrial noise, and natural, melodic sonority. Electric god Joe Levasseur contributes his lightning.