In the pioneering days of performance art, a fellow named Chris Burden would shoot off his own body parts to make a weighty statement. Nowadays the pastime is a tad less grisly and -- if Jacki Apple is any measure -- much more sophisticated.
The statement, though, can be just as weighty: Apple's work, "The Garden Planet Revisited (Siting No. 1)," treats such timeworn topics as technological alienation and nuclear apocalypse -- but in ways that are cleverly absorbing.
Last night's presentation of it, at the Washington Project for the Arts, was performance art, hi-tech style. In the black-walled theater, as dancers whirled slowly through a landscape of bricks and cinderblocks (and even a stuffed goose), screens lit up with images (mostly photos of the Earth from space), spotlights flashed colors and the sound system blared an eerie eight-track tape.
All this made for a thickly layered, fast-paced and occasionally riveting performance, especially when one in the troupe, Akim Nowak, shouted in German at the audience as he stomped his feet, left the room for a spell and then returned to threaten everybody with an M16.
Apple, who describes herself as a New York artist living in Los Angeles, also appeared -- as a petite blond in a red jumpsuit; and Maida Withers, who contributed much of the work's stately, fluid choreography, danced with Jeffrey Strum.