Without a sound, Chilean-born artist Francisca Benitez transforms a public space into a theater with her High Line Performance As you lean on me and I lean on you, we move forward on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday of this week. Commissioned and produced by High Line Art, the performance features the artist and a cast of performers with backgrounds in ASL jamming and deaf poetry circles captivating their audiences with a silent exhibition of choreographed gestures and signs.
While Benitez's choreographed performance is absent of sound, it is rich with meaning. Much of Benitez's work can be understood as a delineation and exploration of borders, whether they be social or spatial. A convergence of sign language and contact improvisation, her High Line Performance seeks to illustrate the friction caused by linguistic barriers while creating new modes of communication through the body. The performance is meant to push the boundaries of language and to emphasize the physicality of communication. With As you lean on me and I lean on you, we move forward, only through movement can the audience find meaning, and solely through gesture do we appreciate expression.
The three chapters of Benitez's performance occur at different locations along the High Line, each performance interacting with its surroundings and responding to its site. The first two performances have already taken place in the Water Feature at West 14th Street and on the Lawn at West 22nd Street; the final installation will unfold on Friday, July 17, at 7:00 PM on the High Line starting at West 34th Street. Situated in a park sustained by contradiction and enveloped in urban and natural borders, Benitez's High Line Performance provides a unique visual experience that feeds off its environment, exploring those physical boundaries that often go unnoticed.
Photos by Liz Ligon