In Performance: Robert Metrick's dark obsession | Calendar | Chicago Reader

In Performance: Robert Metrick's dark obsession 

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

Five or six years ago Chicago-based performance artist Robert Metrick became obsessed with the Dark Ages after reading Barbara Tuchman's history of medieval Europe, A Distant Mirror.

"The whole era, the sense of fatality, the continuous resurgence of black plague, fascinated me," Metrick explains.

At the same time Metrick--best known for large-cast postmodern performance extravaganzas with wry titles like Cockroaches at Dawn, The Martha (A Possible Opera), and O Klahoma or the Farmer in the Astral Plains--found he was "burned out" on human relationships, both personal and professional.

He retreated, Glenn Gould-like, into the recording studio and created a witty solo piece for the Experimental Sound Studio called The Minstrel's Tale, about a lonely, hapless organization man--he sometimes sounds like a medieval monk, sometimes like a 20th-century office temp--who goes on a long quest through the wastelands surrounding Mount Prospect.

Metrick has long since returned from his self-imposed hermitage, and The Minstrel's Tale now serves as one of two strands that Metrick weaves through his latest large-ensemble work: The Enunciation (What the Oxen Said).

The other strand, The Hazards of Birth and Regeneration, is adapted from Hildegard of Bingen's 12th-century religious drama, Ordo Virtutum, an allegory about the battle between the Virtues and the Devil for a character named Anima (or the Soul). In Metrick's version Hildegard's medieval virtues--faith, hope, chastity, humility, discipline--are replaced by more modern ones: sleep, guilt, labor, perseverance, reproach, fate.

"At first I was thinking like marketability, user friendliness, proactivity, but then I thought I didn't really want to do a broad parody of Hildegard of Bingen.

"Still, I do have a natural, surrealist bent. My work just unavoidably comes out dreamlike and absurdist."

The Enunciation (What the Oxen Said) opens June 8 and runs Thursdays through Saturdays through June 24 at 8 PM at Chicago Filmmakers' Kino-Eye Cinema, 1543 W. Division. Admission is $10. Call 554-0671 for reservations.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Armando Villa.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Give $35/month →  
  Give $10/month →  
  Give  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
October 02
Galleries & Museums
August 20

Popular Stories