Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Assember Dilator

In principle, X-ray vision may be a neat fantasy for hormonal teens, but in practice, you'd be seeing bones, not breasts, and as your eyes grew more advanced, you'd be seeing through those, too, to a point at which you wouldn't actually be seeing--well, registering--anything at all. Such is the case with 31 Down's The Assember Dilator.

The show opens simply enough: a throbbing hum, a flickering light, and the sight of a nurse (Caitlin McDonough). Occasionally, the disembodied voice of a narrator explains that this nurse and her doctor (Ryan Holsopple), are performing a clinical test of X-ray eye-drops. Side effects, says the voice, include euphoria and also paranoia. The doctor, after his carefully choreographed treatment, sits there, a Faustian glow about his head, staring fixedly across the stage at his slowly undressing nurse. The voice explains that he can't stop looking at her panties: to wit, the stage will soon be flooded with over a hundred simple white pairs. In one of the more giddily disturbing images--the only thing The Assember Dilator has going for it--the doctor kneels beneath the nurse, pulling down her panties, kicking his legs and silently squealing like an infant before a mobile.

31 Down seems to want to physically represent vision, using a uniquely synthetic self-controlled lighting design to produce a sense of synesthesia. However, their experiment--which has a lot of lights flickering on and off--only causes physical headaches (epileptics beware) and mental migraines. It's already hard enough to see what's going on in The Assember Dilator: hazarding a guess as to what a rain of gel-cap pills represents shouldn't actually feel hazardous to the viewer.

To 31 Down's credit, they successfully distress the audience's visual perceptions, and their use of ambient sound and styled motion has a neat atmospheric effect, one with echoes of Kubrick. But ultimately, no matter how wide these images may manage to make someone's eyes, they leave us with nothing to focus on and even less to care for.

No comments: