The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight, a sensory journey by leading disability activist and artist Claire Cunningham and award-winning choreographer Jess Curtis that explores the way society perceives people and the world. The two performers dance, sing and tell stories within a collage of original music and video, prompting introspective moments and self-reflection. As the performers examine their own ways of seeing each other -- as a man and woman of different ages, physical abilities and backgrounds -- so the audience members are asked to look at themselves and their ways of looking as well. The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight is presented in association with Bodies of Work—a consortium to advance the disability arts and culture movement—and takes place Thursday to Sunday, February 8-11, at the MCA Stage.
The performance is a duet between Cunningham and Curtis, both of whom identify as disabled artists: Cunningham uses crutches, and Curtis dances through chronic arthritis pain. For this new work, they explore their mutual interest in the ideas of author and philosopher Dr. Alva Noë, who investigates the impact of movement on perception and identity, and how we relate to one another.
Cunningham and Curtis begin the performance by moving among the seated audience avoiding direct eye contact, an allusion to how people may look away from disabled bodies. As the audience encounters one another and the performers with their own gaze, they are asked to consider how they see and are seen.
Accompanied by live music by Matthias Hermann, Cunningham and Curtis weave elements of dance and song into an ongoing conversation about the ways their physical limitations and appearances shape the paths they take, including opening up new possibilities for engaging with the world. At one point, Cunningham demonstrates a swooping dance movement using her crutches that Curtis tries—and fails—to duplicate. Their conversation is punctuated with videos compiled by media artist Yoann Trellu of Dr. Noë, who responds to questions about perception raised by the performers.
The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight runs 95 minutes and takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday-Saturday, February 8-10, with an additional 2 p.m. show on Sunday, February 11. Tickets for the performances are $30 and are available at the MCA Box Office at 312.397.4010 or www.mcachicago.org.
Disability activist Claire Cunningham and choreographer Jess Curtis' The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight, a sensory journey at The Museum of Contemporary Art this winter (photo courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago).
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts