Peter Rose
the circular heavens

logo of Peter Rose
active culture

home > performance history > the circular heavens - intro > critique 1

Peter Rose, "the circular heavens"
The Kitchen (April, 1979) New York City
Bonnie Marranca, Performing Arts Journal


By the time the audience enters the seating area the performing space has been completely fixed with props in a kind of surreal situation: hotplate, basketball, fan, toilet, shopping cart,
tape recorder-and dangling from the ceiling a plastic leg, trash can lid, toys. These are some of the "found" objects in Peter Rose's personal landscape. I say "personal" because it seems certain that "the circular heavens" expresses Rose's own vision of life and art, and that the objects and how he uses them have "meaning" for him in an autobiographical sense. The piece manifests the conceptualized self in performance.

Yet, one of the commendable features about his "performance activity" as he calls it, is that it is not self-indulgently personal-there is very little language, for one thing-but evolves instead in carefully thought out structures of continuous imagery. Most of these images and activities have to do with water, dressing and undressing, construction and deconstruction, identity and non-identity, and they develop in several different areas within the performing space as a whole.

A kind of anarchic fantasy, "the circular heavens" begins with a videotape in which a young man/mental patient talks about a physical disorder and ends with that person (now performing) running an electric saw through a sheet of paper from a music stand. With its heavy rock music (Eno, Fripp and others play throughout the piece) as aural accompaniment the image is a startling gesture of violence and aggression that reinforces the "new wave" aesthetics of the work.

True, Rose's piece has a hard edge to it-more so as it progresses-but the overriding feeling of "the circular heavens" is of a certain delicacy of emotion. (Often the music's lush emotive quality makes it sound like a Philip Glass score played on a calliope. What makes this such a forceful work-there were actually bravos at the end!-is the intensity and conviction Rose projects as a performer in a scenario built on the spontaneous outbursts of raw energy.

Rose demonstrates an astute dramatic intelligence by building his piece around the idea of character, however much that character changes in performance, and by structuring scenes with a specific rhythm. In his eccentric use of props Rose in a way reminds me of Stuart Sherman but Sherman is more a formalist while Rose seems to follow mythopoeic interests. In this respect he shares a kinship with Spalding Gray and Elizabeth Le Compte's work, particularly "Nayatt School" which has the same kind of uncontrollable rage, and interests in personal imagery.

Rose is a very young man. As someone remarked to me upon reading his bio note in The Kitchen program, "Is it possible to have been born in 1955?" I look forward to follow Peter Rose's development as a performer and thinker.

prayer boat


oval vision


top of page


the circular heavens - intro

test-traveler homepage

the circular heavens - critic 2

© 2004 Peter Rose + contact + sitemap +