If it were veteran choreographer Yvonne Meier stranded at The Shining’s creepy Overlook Hotel, she would be busy in the industrial-sized kitchen concocting her own gore from the massive supply of hamburgers and pancake syrup long before the blood began to spill. In an ongoing declaration of independence from her tidy Swiss roots, this longtime New Yorker is the maven of calculated mess.
The excess in her affecting 1993 performance piece The Shining – revived through the National Endowment for the Arts’s American Masterpieces initiative – is more orderly than usual, though. Meier has jigsawed 350 refrigerator boxes into a maze like the one by which the movie’s young Danny eludes his axe-wielding father. But here it is only innocuous civilians and dancers who bump around in the dark. The terror that horror movies invoke has somersaulted into equally equally primal delight.
The Shining began with the lights up. A lady sashayed into New York Live Arts in Chelsea with nothing on but rouge around her nipples and escorted us into the sort of van people get abducted in. With irregular eruptions from her Germanic sidekick Nurse Baby Asparagus K-Starr, the naked lady (East Village icon Annie Iobst) free-associated all the way to Brooklyn while serving tea and whisky in thimble-sized teacups that invariably capsized into our laps. Edgy performance art tends to congratulate its tiny audience for being in on the joke. Iobst, however, approaches the absurdity she traffics in so matter-of-factly that no winkiness is needed to make us feel included. We arrive at the Brooklyn warehouse giddy.
The labyrinth was pitch dark when we entered, one by one. You had to feel your way along the narrow cardboard passageways and take the hand or, if you liked, the waist of your invisible guide. The dancers passed us among themselves so gently that when the flashlights shone on them flinging each other around, I – who normally wince when a dancer risks so much as a bruise – recognised the wrestling as simply a high-voltage version of the contact we had just enjoyed.
This Shining is like having your fortune told. By the time the spooky lady has traced her finger along your palm, you have forgotten about the future. All you want is for her to do it again.
Until December 22, www.newyorklivearts.org