ATP Stage Nudity
ATP is an hour long performance piece for two men and one woman created in 2008 by the very talented Uruguayan choreographer Tamara Cubas. An excellent video is available in three parts on Vimeo. The elements could hardly be more simple. A set of white walls, as in in a prison cell or clinic, three microphones, and three performers (Mariana Marchesano, Miguel Jaime and Santiago Turenne.)
Trapped in this all-enclosing space, the three performers subject each other to what seems like a wordless and enigmatic interrogation. The tension is heightened by a live soundtrack of feedback and industrial bleeps and whirs by Francisco Lapentina.
At regular intervals the performance is punctuated by the performers moving to the sides of the stage and, referring for instructions to pieces of A4 glued to the walls, methodically dressing and undressing. These constantly changing combinations of full and semi nudity work on several levels. They reflect power shifts in the trio as the clothed forge alliances against the unclothed. They also deny us the comfort of seeing the three performers as nudes in the classical sense, aspects of humanity's eternal nature. Instead they seem very real and very contemporary.
The intrusion of a claustrophobic kind of modernity is embodied in the microphones, which morph in the performers' hands from live cables pumping out enough power to make them scurry around like crabs to strange probes for sounding each other out. One of the most memorable moments in ATP is when Jaime and Marchesano unscrew the caps off two of the microphones and apply the sensitive ends to Turenne's naked body. Scraping them along the hair of his calves, applying them to his throat and nostrils, the effect is of a pair obtuse and sinister physicians doing everything other than ask the patient a straight question.
The matinee idol good looks of the three principles perversely underscores the clinical nature of the proceedings. Clothed, Mariana Marchesano exudes a stunning neutrality in the eyes and face, but what surprises is that she can be just as monumentally taciturn in the nude, somehow muting the effect of her ravishing curves and making them seem hardly inhabited by a human being at all.
Called upon only to be topless in one crucial nude scene, Marchesano could perhaps have been given more to do in exploring the potential of her body. For Cubas, the focus of fascination is the sheer physicality of the male nude. When Turenne crouches on top of Marchesano, the hang of his testicles seems to goad her and to assert a primitive need for dominance.
The interactions between the nudes are strong and deliberate. In the microphone probe already mentioned, Jaime crinkles Turenne's pubic hair between his fingers in order to record the sound, while in another moment of extremely physical interaction Marchesoni has to support the weight of Turenne upon her bare breasts.
Throughout the course of the piece, these obscure explorations never once lose their tension. This is a work of stark seriousness, like Harold Pinter's 'Mountain Language', or Ariel Dorfman's 'Death and the Maiden', only without the need for a single word – apart from those obscure instructions stuck to the walls. It works just as well as a metaphor for political brutality as it does for personal lack of affect. Deeply committed performances from Jaime, Turenne and Marchesano also make it gravely beautiful to behold.
Since ATP Tamara Cubas has continued to create a series of highly distinctive and serious pieces - the most recent being Actos de Amor Perdidos – which all deserve the widest attention. Lovers of the artistic nude will hope that she returns to that theme again in future work.