By Jenn Snider
Aidana Maria Rico Chavez enters the room whistling a happy tune. Hands clasped behind her back, she casts her eyes across the crowd. All facing toward the center scene where a blue gingham picnic blanket, a few mason jars, a skipping rope, and some cardboard lie waiting, the audience sits, smiling back at her.
Her mood is light, and her energy is special. Homing in on one audience member seated on the floor, Aidana drops to all fours and caresses this stranger’s face as if it belongs to a lover. Pressing her lips to skin, she begins kissing. Forehead, neck, chin, nose, cheeks, Aidana’s lips leave red lipstick smears as she goes, moving on to the person seated next. Kissing her way across arms and up shoulders, laughter ripples through the crowd as people jostle to get a spot in Aidana ’s intimate trajectory. Pausing only to reapply generous coats of red lipstick, Aidana kisses her way around the circle—down arms, across laps, up necks and across foreheads, loving noses of all shapes and sizes, eye lids, and ears. Making squelching smacking sounds every so often she kicks up her leg to indicate titillation and hints at a sort of reciprocation. No matter what, the sense is that these are uncommon intimacies, and Aidana has not just broken the ice she has melted it into a little festival puddle. This sensuous beginning has filled the room with an uncertain desire and eager people excited to see what else she has planned.
Aidana Maria Rico Chavez’s performance consists of a series of actions involving interrelation with human subjects as objects, and the poetics of objects as subjects. Serving as the connecting agent to aid in these relationships being uncovered, Aidana tries to remove the boundaries we place between our minds/bodies and those of the outside world. Her performance is titled De la serie variaciones sobre el vuelo. El cielo [From the series on flight. The sky] and with that in mind it seems that in some ways she has set no limits.
After finishing the circle of lipstick smeared greetings, and movements made with a spirit of innocence like that of an eager cat or dog, she stops to observe the crowd again. Asking for a member of the audience to stand, she bends and wraps her arms around him and levers him up onto her shoulder and walks around the circle with this human being on her back. As though this particular burden represents the artist’s capacity, her actions playfully traverse the space between audience and artist, like that of a clown or ringmaster who invites a child to join them in the center ring.
Returning him to his seat, she points to a pair of large boots on the feet of a member of the audience as her way of asking that they be removed and shared. Putting them on, they are comically too big yet Aidana wears them instead of her own. Next, pointing to a man standing in the back she gestures to his legs. “You want my pants?” he asks. Aidana nods, “please”. After the laughter dies down and the much-too-big pants are on, a belt is borrowed and she continues round the circle gathering a shirt here and a jacket there. Wearing these new borrowed skins and whistling, she pulls someone else from the audience for a short graceful slow dance just before she takes to the blackboard to write:
Yo no hablo ingles ella no habla ingles el no habla ingles ella no habla ingles no sotros no habla ingles yo no hablo ingles
I do not speak English she does not speak English does not speak English she does not speak English we speak no other English I do not speak English
These words provide an opportunity for us to understand Aidana’s actions as feats of connection. Without a common language in this context (she speaks Spanish), perhaps it is a matter of associating through symbolic action that gives Aidana her method of relationality. Redressing into her own clothes, Aidana places a string looped through a blank piece of cardboard around her neck. Picking up the skipped rope, she jumps and skips while the sign around her neck bounces, dances, and flaps. With each skipping sequence, she adds another blank sign. Four are added in total, all blank, and all label Aidana as a performer without access to a common language who nevertheless is using her body and her actions to work very hard to reach us.
Crouching down she retrieves a small plastic bird, and when she blows into it we realize it’s a bird whistle, and she is making it sweetly sing. Aidana hands the bird to an audience member and stoops again, this time to pick up a mason jar filled with corn syrup. Moving around the space and into the crowd, the jar is tipped and the liquid pours out onto the floor. Aidana leaves a sticky sweet trail. Pouring syrup into the hands of audience members, she licks their fingers. Giving the jar to another audience member, she points suggestively. “Just pour wherever?” the woman asks. Nodding, Aidana breaks out into a smile as the syrup continues to be dribbled and snaked across the floor.
Retrieving a second mason jar filled with syrup she gives it away too, and gestures for the same action to be followed. Standing back with the rest of us, Aidana watches the two women with the jars snake their way through the audience and around the objects on the floor leaving a trail of sugar syrup as they go. Despite the language differences, she has generated a resonant connective power, and it is mesmerizing: watching these two people express aspects of themselves in the particular ways they take to this impromptu task. So mesmerizing in fact that a minute later we all seem to collectively realize that she has gone.
Aidana had easily slipped away.