ROD FORCE, a k a visual and performance artist Sherman Fleming, is a man possessed of a wild imagination and a truly stunning stage presence. His "Axvapor," presented last night at the Washington Project for the Arts, went beyond mere performance into the realm of mystical experience. Only 30 minutes in length, the evening began in an empty space decorated with an oriental rug. A bright beam of light hit the center of this rug, and a taped collage of garbled words and what sounded like sitar music droned on and on.
Into this world strode ROD FORCE, a long, reed-thin figure with a model's features and hair elaborately braided and festooned with scores of feathers and shells. He wore baggy orange pants, a tight black T-shirt, and, most important, a pair of Army boots onto whose soles were tacked wooden boards and small bowling balls. ROD FORCE spun around upon these rounded pedal constructions; he seemed almost in a trance. After about 10 minutes, he departed.
Later, garbed in tuxedo and bowling balls, he came back to partner Josephine Nicholson, a vision in long white gown, beribboned braids, and identical footwear. To live saxophone music, the pair executed an elegant ballroom dance. The bowling balls looked like tiny black unobtrusive bombs. How absurd. How formal. How bizarre.