20.08.2010 Neon Marshmallow Festival, ViaDuct Theatre, Chicago, USA.
(Day Two) Dave Phillips, playing the second of his three shows at the festival, gave us the set tonight that I had expected last night. A video screen was pulled down, and for those who hadn’t seen this set before, it must have been an unforgettable experience, for good or ill. I’ve seen Dave do this set at least three other times, and it’s always impressive, painful, heartfelt and difficult. Inter-cutting brutal, unflinching footage of animal test, animal slaughter, bullfighting, wholesale whale killing, animals struggling in steel traps, and other assorted human-initiated maiming and mutilating of animals with terse statements of modern life (“AS LONG AS THE VICTIMS MAY BE QUIETLY BURIED,” “DESPAIRING AT A NUMBNESS HANDED DOWN FROM A SOCIETY THAT IS TRAPPED IN FRACTURE AND BETRAYAL, DENIAL AND AVOIDANCE,” etc.) flash in between. For his part, Phillips constructs a dense, violent, horrifying audio mix of human and animal hyperventilating, dogs howling in pain, slaughterhouse noises, piercing wails, and sublimated classical music swells, building to a frenzy over 20 unbearable minutes. Adding his own screams to the mix via a headset mic, Dave also ventures into the audience, blowing up balloons behind the crowd, building more tension (when will it break? Will he be right behind me when it does?). “HUMANS ARE FASCINATING FOR THEIR ABILITY TO CHANGE” is one of the last title cards as the images start to fade out, following by a subliminal flashing of the word “CHANGE” over and over before the sound dies, and the DVD player reverts back to the static dp logo. Regardless of your views on Phillips’ view of the world, the gestalt effect of the performance is bracing, the type of visceral art that noise claims to embrace, but seldom achieves. I’d never say “it’s a pleasure” to see this piece, but I’m always glad I didn’t head for the door (as many did…I counted at least 12 walkouts).(Chris Sienko)