"The ancient Egyptians believed that a work of art, a building, even a chanted phrase had power and utility in the afterlife in direct proportion to its uselessness in the real world." These words open Kathy Rose's "Kleopat'Ra," a performance work featuring 11 scenes of figures who travel to the world of dream and myth. In it Rose blends highly stylized movement, projected video imagery, music, written word and costume, creating a landscape usually only visited during sleep.
Rose was trained in both dance and the visual arts namely film and animation.She has spent five years developing "Kleopat'Ra," and she says the process has transformed her habits of work and perception. "It's made me more awake and open to following my instincts and invisible worlds," she says. "I'm learning to be aware of accidents and be a little looser and less controlled."
Inspiration for this work came, in part, when Rose's mother died several years ago. Her mother's last breaths, and the increasingly longer spaces between them, offered Rose an unforgettable moment. "You're in between the spaces and then finally having it just be space," she reflects. "Kleopat'Ra" explores those spaces and is informed by Egyptian ritual and tradition and Rose's close study of The Egyptian Book of the Dead.
An ongoing love of "all things Japanese" also came into play while she was developing the work. The Eastern aesthetic is apparent everywhere in the work: in movements derived from Japanese Noh theater which are slow and carefully executed, a slight shift of her torso, the rise of her hand, or turn of her face; in her use of costume; and in words written with a sumi brush. Rose's work conveys ideas not through huge sweeping gestures or bold statements but through subtle, inward-pointing evolutions.
Videotaped images such as colored liquid or a landscape are projected both onto her body and onto a wide screen behind her. The effect is surreal, stunning and eerie. She calls it her "alternate vision." She is trying to make the invisible world visible.
She calls the dreamlike imagery "archeological metaphors," borrowing the idea from filmmaker Jean Cocteau. "I'm very much in agreement with him that when you're working on an art, you're uncovering layers of things from within yourself or from the collective unconscious," she says. "You are, in a sense, not only just an artist creating something, but revealing something that already ... exists in some other stratosphere."
Rose does not dictate what effect she wants her work to have on an audience. "This entire piece is a ritual for me and is meant to be, in essence, a ritual for the audience as well," she says. "... I want the audience to be discovering as they go along."
Rose's "alternate vision," with floating imagery and mythic figures, steps away from familiar realms into a unique, poetic fusion of media. Her vision allows an additional step as well, into a dream state that may be hers, but may also be ours.
Rose will talk about her work and show video clips at a free Meet the Artist program Saturday, Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. in the Reynolds Lecture Hall.
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