Frivolous superfluity turns into bizarre erotic images
Elke Van Campenhout - DE STANDAARD (17 October 2005)

In Chunking, Grace Ellen Barkey gives pornography a sly wink. Anyone for whom cheerful flowery wallpaper and human-sized vases mean harmonious interior decoration and a family life to match has certainly not yet been to see Chunking. At first sight, this surreal nightmare by the choreographer Grace Ellen Barkey looks purely decorative. Like a cake-slice. Every household has one, though no one knows how. (And), Barkey's previous piece, balanced between musical, visual theatre and choreography, and this latest piece is very visual and musical too. Sonic Youth blares out from the loudspeakers. In the final part the characters are dressed up in clumsily knitted costumes and masks. They look like the plastic figures by the artist Paul McCarthy, which enter into the most grotesque relationships in his animated films. His Barbies, daubed with ketchup and chocolate paste, are transformed from models of beauty into perverse sex creatures. They fuck like animals in Chunking too, but here it's all considerably more subtle. The piece starts like a variety show or a circus comedy act. One actor twists himself into the craziest shapes, while trying to prepare for the show. A girl in a festive negligée sings a song in the microphone. The other characters crawl over one another, sniffing and mounting each other like dogs, and as a group forming suggestive sex chains. This whole erotic display is more childish than realistic. It makes reference more to the embarrassing situation comedy of mating pets than to 'adult' pornography. The fact that their attempts are not specifically directed very gradually eroticises the whole set. The innocent flowery wallpaper suddenly seems like nothing other than a misleading screen. The enormous vases are bulges on the body, openings where there should not be any. The possibilities to be imagined multiply infinitely, until you lose any firm footing you might have had. In fact at some points this also applies to the performance itself. As far as the first part is concerned, one might question the quality of the way the players move, the abundance of images and the need for the scenes performed. Sometimes it all seems quite gratuitous, and a little superfluous. But when the colour of the piece darkens, and the anecdote dissolves into the horror of these indeterminate knitted creatures, Chunking gains in expressiveness. A vague disquiet creeps into the audience from under this woolly security. In spite of all the decorativeness.

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