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Transplants

Catherine Annie Hollingsworth

The "Transplants" performance apart of Grass Stains a site specific project by the Pioneer Winter Collective, performed at the Kampong in Coconut Grove on Dec. 17, 2016. (Photo by MagicalPhotos / Mitchell Zachs)
Conceived, choreography and direction by Ana Mendez. Performers, Amanda Fisher, Jenna Balfe, Jennifer Martin Bermudez, Marcela Loayza, Monica Lopez de Victoria, Monica Uszerowicz, Rachel Carroll, Richard Vergez and Rick Diaz 
About TRANSPLANTS Performance
In its centennial anniversary, The Kampong, home of David and Marian Fairchild will be the setting for Ana Mendez’s performance TRANSPLANTS. The performance is based on Fairchild’s introduction of over 200,000 varieties of plants to the United States. The performance has been developed as a collage, mimicking the physical and delicate act of transplantation. It will also draw on the subliminal storylines found in the home’s physical characteristics and rich history. The home served as a gateway into the world outside of South Florida, represented in its many exotic trees and the Southeast Asian-inspired architecture. The performance brings together elemental properties of the home, and Fairchild’s unique relationship with nature for a daytrip into the dwelling space of one of Miami’s most influential inhabitants.
About ANA MENDEZ
Ana Mendez is a professional dancer, performance artist and Bodytalk practitioner from Miami. She has been commissioned by the Adrienne Arsht Center through Miami Light Projects’ Here and Now Festival, the de la Cruz Collection, Miami Art Museum, ArtCenter/South Florida, the Bass Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami and Bas Fisher Invitational. She is an artist fellow for the Artist in Residence in the Everglades program. Last summer, Mendez performed Liminal Being for the group show, Auto Body, in Buenos Aires at the Faena art space. Most recently, she is one of six inaugural artists commissioned for the Pioneer Winter Collective's site specific fellowship Grass Stains. Mendez has also performed for Dara Freidman, Natasha Tsakos, Octavio Campos, Miami Contemporary Dance Company, Circ X, Miami Theater Center, and Rosie Herrera Dance Theater.
Grass Stains
Grass Stains is a site-specific initiative created by Pioneer Winter Collective and funded by the John and James L. Knight Foundation and the State of FL Division of Cultural Affairs that focuses on the mentoring and commissioning of six original premieres by South Florida-based performance artists. This inaugural year features the work of six women artists: Agustina Woodgate, Niurca Marquez, Marissa Nick, Ana Mendez, and Jenny Larsson, with mentoring by renowned LA-based site choreographer Stephan Koplowitz.
The Pioneer Winter Collective
Pioneer Winter Collective is invested in physical theatre, contemporary dance, interdisciplinary collaboration, and transmedia. The Collective provides a platform for risk-taking, progressive, and experimental arts initiatives: unexpected bodies in unexpected places, producing unexpected leadership and change. Ana Mendez, Transplants, The Kampong. Rachel Carroll, Rick Diaz, Marcela Loayza, Jenna Balfe, and Monica Uszerowicz. Photo: Mitchell Zachs
THE KAMPONG
DECEMBER 17, 2016

Moving through grass, trees, and tropical flora, choreographer Ana Mendez’s Transplants is a creepy-cool meditation on the nature of belonging. Her performers are human, yet the characters they portray operate on an alternate frequency. Transplants was conceived as a story about the lives of plants.
The project was created for the Pioneer Winter Collective’s 2016 Grass Stains program, in which four choreographers were commissioned to compose site-specific performance pieces. Mendez chose the Kampong, one of Miami’s lesser-known curiosities. The Coconut Grove property was purchased in 1916 by horticulturist and explorer David Fairchild. He made it a home for his family and his growing collection of rare tropical flora brought back from his expeditions, searching throughout the world for plants that could be successfully introduced to South Florida.

Fairchild would make for a compelling main character in a site-specific work, but Mendez’s Transplants focuses more on the experience of the plants themselves, which are represented as conscious beings with feelings. Her performers are the alien exotics that had been brought by ship—she imagines—to a place where they did not at first belong. And as plants do, the characters sense the environment around them, and adjust in order to survive. In concept, this has much to do with the experience of immigrants who are compelled first to survive their journey and then to adapt to the cultures and circumstances of their new home.

The dancers’ bodies are made strange by distortions. Their faces are featureless, covered in various shades of sheer hosiery that obscure the details of eyes, noses, mouths, and ears, leaving only silhouettes of faces framed by wigs. The dancers wear oversized shirts and their arms are elongated with mannequin hands, making for unsettling proportions and a sense that they could not fully touch one another or the objects in the spaces around them. A guardian, the only human character, lingers in the background with a walking stick and a lawn chair. He seems to be orchestrating the scenario. Fairchild, maybe.

Through awkward movements and the droning noise that follows them through the gardens, the plant-beings appear to be both disembodied from themselves and disconnected from their surroundings. They walk, sit, reach, stumble, and fall. They feel for things around them, and gaze toward one another. Mendez’s choreographic style here is less dance, more pedestrian physicality. Her performers exhibit a range of formal training—the dancers in the bunch move with more controlled movements, while the others move in less familiar ways, producing genuinely strange gestures and gaits. Over the course of the performance, they begin to shed their clothes and artificial parts, becoming more human in appearance, regaining restrained access to their abilities to touch, see and feel. Even in this transformation, isolation resonates in Transplants. But it isn’t an intellectual experience—it is instead an engagement with a surreal feeling of disembodiment and a fantasy of a deeper understanding of life forms whose struggle may be just as complicated as our own.

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