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Former Richmonder Ami Garmon presents a highly personal version of art during a performance at Artspace.

A Unique "Situation"

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Faster than a speeding bullet and able to cross oceans with a single tap of a key, e-mail has revolutionized communication. This past year, performance artist Ami Garmon took advantage of this medium, sending Richmond musician Paul Watson a few of her songs from her home in Europe. "I wrote five of them and he hacked them to pieces," Garmon says. Those five recombined songs form the basis of "Lack of North — Situation 4: I Never Have Any Fun," a dance and music collaboration the two will perform at Artspace Nov. 18.

A driven performer who doesn't like to spend more than 15 days in any one city, Garmon's impetus for this show is language, its composition and recomposition. A Richmond native, Garmon has lived in Paris since 1988, and more recently, in Berlin.

Garmon migrated to France because "there it's easier to be an artist. I don't have to waitress or do word processing." And unlike the United States, in France she can collect artist unemployment between gigs. "The value of art here is that it is yet another thing to consume," she says. "There, it's about how we relate to things, a rubbing together of both the intellectual and the sensual."

A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University's dance department, her aesthetic is rooted in the visual arts. Claiming former VCU art history professor Richard Carlyon as a long-time inspiration, she explains, "Point of view is essential, not content. Straightforward dance doesn't relate to what's in my brain. ... Art, like religion, is highly personal."

Garmon says "Lack of North" is an "evolving choreographic installation project" which uses soundscapes, video, and what she calls "situations." "Situation 4" looks at pop music, the culture surrounding it, and the use of a microphone. Garmon may dance, but her concern rests more with her relationship to cultural icons and creating odd juxtapositions. "I've been called the dancer who never stands and the incredible lying woman," she says, referring to previous "situations" in which she remains upside down on the floor throughout the performance.

Garmon brings quirky, abrupt energy to her dancing and, in this "situation," to pop music, using elements of cabaret. Musician Coby Batty will assist Watson in performing scored and improvisational compositions.

Garmon's artistic choices are based on an ongoing interest in culture and behavior. "Why do we drink a certain drink rather than another?" she asks. "We adopt culture through objects, like a bagel. What does someone in, say, Malaysia know about a bagel? It has a very definite context. These objects are like filtered codes transmitting beliefs."

In previous "situations," she's shifted meaning away from expectation. "I like to separate motive from action. I see everything as a Rubik's Cube. What is its function? I like to look at things from the back door." Although she claims "Situation 4" will minimize her usual tendency to distort meaning, with her rare perspective, Garmon is sure to add an unusual twist to

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