Outside the old church doors you could hear a thumping sound. The kind of sound a hunk of wood makes when an axe has pierced it and won’t let go. The kind of sound when the arm holding that axe continually bashes the wood against floorboards trying to pry the tool free. I’d never heard the sound of chopping wood indoors before, but some things you can just sense.
The stained glass doors swung open, The Sanctuary for Independent Media was fuller than a church on Sunday. Behind the old altar a screen broadcast the scraggily branches of naked trees. The audio wind howled and groaned. Sara Worden and Ryder Cooley were already in motion, Sara moved in perfect rhythm with Ryder’s axe chops.
Roots, Nests & Limbs, a series of three performances put on at The Sanctuary on the 23rd of March included, along with Sara and Ryder’s Hoofprints of a Spooked Game, two other multi-media performance pieces conceived by Aryn Zev and Melle Dragon. It was my first time at The Sanctuary and already I was hooked.
I watched on eagerly as Sara disappeared behind yet more stained glass, relics of the former life of the building The Sanctuary for Independent Media is now housed in. She reappeared behind a backlit sheet, part human, part deer, as her title so foreshadowed. At the same time Ryder exchanged her hatchet for a saw, but instead of putting it to wood she made it sing while still clad in her lumberjack gear.
So mesmerized was I by Sara’s undulations intermingling with the shadows of antlers that I didn’t see Ryder leave, picking up her accordion en route, until she appeared like Pan’s shadow behind the curtain. Babies and children gurgled and cooed while the silhouette of this fairy evoked all of my childhood fantasies. The human form outlined on that sheer cloth, simultaneous with the melancholic poignancy of the instrument strapped around her, caused each eye in the house to twinkle with the same glory as all the babies’ who struggled to be free from their parents’ grasp. At show’s end parents hung their heads, lost in their own childhood memories, inadvertently loosening their grip on the straps of their children’s overalls, allowing them to dart to the stage and be close, if only for a moment, to the pixies.
None of my review has even included their “shadow dance of the game”, or Ryder’s haunting accordion lament sung to the deer head while the audience, like eavesdroppers at a cemetery, listened on secretively, or even the moment when Sara emerged on stilts and proceeded to take up the hatchet one last time in order to free herself from them.
Nor did it discuss Melle Dragon (who organized the show) and her orange faced insect buzzing around her three dimensional hive lairs, or the final performance, Recapitated by Aryn Zev and friends, which followed the life of a woman (mannequin) through the stages of womanly life as she literally loses her head to the expectations of society, perfectly in counterpoint with man’s anticipated obligations of construction and deconstruction. The captivating performance included actual flying saucers, top hats, and a head toss, all fully accompanied by live improvised electronica music.
If I thought the talent on the stage was impressive, it wasn’t until intermission that I realized how incredibly saturated with gifted artists the Capital Region is when I looked around and found myself sandwiched between band members of local acts zahnarzt, Evolution Revolution, and Scientific Maps, as well as members of The Federation of Ideas, and scads of other artists of all mediums that I as a novice to the place certainly didn’t recognize. All were out that evening to support the independent art scene we are very much a part of.
Growing up as I did in Albany, I always itched to leave this place in order to find the artists that at one time were lacking. I am seeing ever so clearly that the artists have come back to roost.
The Sanctuary for Independent Media: