In A USER’S MANUAL, the human body is used as a medium to archive architectural spaces past, present, and future. Introspective and interactive, Thomas Choinacky’s most recent work is his most ambitious yet.
Performance venue The Beard Cave is tucked away beneath St. Mary’s Church on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. The piece begins the moment we descended the stairs into the Cave’s tunnel-like hallway, with Choinacky’s personal history, movement maps, and memories displayed in a multitude of media. Group by group, the audience members are escorted into the space by Choinacky; each is greeted with the same welcoming phrase.
We are guided to create our own movement map—for our group, a two-dimensional expression of an impactful or memorable moment from the day. Maps of moments are placed atop one another, accumulating as the audience grows to create a sea of intertwined personal moments.
Choinacky grabs our seats and asks our preference of seating: alley style, along one wall, or along the opposite. He places our seats and thanks us for attending. Only after the formal introductions, does the staged “performance” begin.
Choinacky moves through the space, recreating vague portraits of former versions of the work. Introducing each interpretation verbally, Choinacky’s easy tone offeres brief and sometimes abrupt reflections as he moves in abstract improvisational structures.
What the performance seems to lack is context and research. Without this intent and information, demonstrations feel lackluster in focus and presentation. The movement in Choinacky’s own movement maps is unsteady, as if he is testing the waters. A piece that has been performed multiple times through this process should be thoroughly studied and richer in subject.
The work left me aching with questions: what does this spacial or architectural acknowledgement yield?
[The Beard Cave @ St. Mary’s Church, 3916 Locust Walk] February 9-18, 2017; thomaschoinacky.com