Shotgun Review

Sitting In A Circle

By Joshua Kim November 15, 2011

For Intersection for the Arts resident Erika Chong Shuch, time and place have resonated with our global feelings of unrest; there must be something in the water. It’s too important to label and too grave to let slide. Sitting In A Circle, a new work by the Erika Chong Shuch Performance Project (ESP Project), is on the verge of revealing a common emotionality stirring in and around us.

Within a spartan black box theater and with minimal props, the ESP Project invites viewers to blur the boundaries between audience and performer. The performers act partial narratives loaded with emotional baggage. The audience works through these emotions with the performers by participating in group therapy, crafts, and role-play charged scenes. However, before there is a final emotional resolution, Shuch suspends time with blossoming moments of choreography. Conceptually, Sitting In A Circle is a loosely structured exploration of the spaces occupied by isolation and fellowship. The performance is in a constant state of becoming. It jams or seamlessly territorializes the reality of performance boundaries, by co-locating motivational speaking, mantra chanting, musical theater, life coaching, dance ensembles, operatic outbursts, and monologues. It enables the performed moment to be shared between the participants, both audience and performers.

Shuch, a San Francisco-based artist, is fluent in the language of performance. The transparency with which she directs her projects offers insight into her collaborative process. The audience’s absorption into the performance takes root from


Erika Chong Shuch Performance Project, Sitting In A Circle, 2011 (still); performance. Photo: Pak Han, San Francisco.

the self-conscious media references that the cast brings to the content. Shuch’s skillful method of contrasting visceral moments makes certain the audience doesn’t get lost in the maze of references. Through the duration of two scenes, a performer is coached through stages of sustained agony. At first it’s playful, but the performance quickly elevates into a full-fledged breakdown. The next moment, participants are invited to enact a protest exercise by repeating the phrase, “I am mad as hell, and I am not going to take it anymore.” The artist samples the language of cinema and organically lets the participants follow an alternate cultural context, suggesting a more valuable experience of media and time. Sitting In A Circle provokes an array of emotions and sustains a cathartic release reminiscent of the current Occupy movement. We shall continue to see how Shuch converses about time and place, ultimately exposing us to our own emotional experiences.



Sitting In A Circle is being performed on various dates at Intersection for the Arts, in San Francisco, through November 19, 2011.



Joshua Kim is an artist and independent curator. He is currently working on publications to support his touring collective ONTOLOGUE, exhibiting in Seattle and Detroit in 2012. He is a finalist for the ACAC Writing Fellowship.

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