While many are busy bemoaning the stable review shows that are up for this summer, one shouldn’t get the impression that interesting art in Chicago takes the same vacation as the universities do. This weekend, crush in the heart of the West Loop’s 119 N. Peoria building (home to many local faves), the Spoke gallery hosted an epic performance by Karolina Gnatowski entitled In Memory Of…A Love Story.
A crowd of over thirty were packed into the front of the Spoke space, and when the lights went down Gnatowski’s show began. While best described as a puppet show, In Memory of… brought together all elements of a good show: music (including a full play-through of Stairway to Heaven and a full-piped rendition of Harry Nilson’s Without You), high-proof whiskey (passed around the audience in the real and shot on stage in the fake), and weed (a legit spliff shared with a puppet), all laid over the most personality-driven artistic struts imaginable. The show was at parts endearing, painfully geeky, and erotically bizzare as anything Dutes could dream up a floor below.
If you’re waiting for me to get to what the performance was about, don’t hold your breath. The narrative itself, while perfectly appropriate as a vehicle for the performance, never really moved beyond that. It wasn’t a bad story, its just that the quality and content of the show was far more present in Gnatowski’s telling of the story than in the story she was telling. The craft and trick and gimmick and humor were the point.
But if you must know: it began with a horizontal gill flex, went to sea, fucked in hell, ended in heaven, and taught the moral that there is no loss so great that it can’t be danced off.
One side to this performance I appreciated, especially in light of those aformentioned summer stable shows that are dominating the west loop this summer, was the complete one-offness of the show. Her backdrops, which were very cool watercolor on paper paintings, were torn, folded, and pitched out the roof of her puppet-house for each scene change. Her puppets were declothed in an apparently irreversible way. It was advertised as a one-time performance, it really was, and in the dark with thirty other people and a bottle of whiskey I couldn’t stop thinking of how lucky I was to be there for it.
I give it a: