Soap on a Rope

Her/She Senses, a collaboration of performance artists Angela Ellsworth (co-founder of the local nonprofit Live Art Platform) and Tina Takemoto, brings its brand of cleanliness to the Valley this weekend for the first time since 1996, when the two women, along with 900 pounds of carrots, took on the Icehouse in a work about illness and health.

The inspiration for this piece, titled Squeak & Clean, grew out of a conversation between the two about soap and sweat. In it, Takemoto will don rock-climbing gear, climb the walls and create "time-based nonobjective drawings" by swinging her feet up and down and back and forth as she traces the actions her body makes.

Ellsworth will be separated from Takemoto by a wall and perched on a cross-country skiing machine. She'll exercise (nonstop for two hours!) with her body (encased in a plastic facial-steamer-like bubble) generating sweat that will mist the gallery's front window. Soap will be involved in all its bubbly mystery. And Ellsworth and Takemoto, connected through the wall by ropes, will affect each other's actions as viewers wander around the space, taking in the show from all angles.

The ongoing two-hour performance includes an installation of sculptural objects, many of them '50s beauty-culture contraptions like hand-held massagers that Ellsworth describes as "really loud toys."

This installation, including Takemoto's fancy footwork, will be exhibited through Sunday, October 10, at the Barlow & Straker gallery.

Besides soap and beauty, Ellsworth and Takemoto are interested in elements of labor -- mundane, exhausting actions. "We're performing everyday tasks," says Ellsworth, "but out of context and obsessively repeated to an absurd extreme, we imply new meaning from the mundane."

She stresses the word "absurd" to point out humor's role in the performance. Then she laughs, sensing how strange it all must sound when reduced to words.

Ellsworth and Takemoto will graciously oblige the wondering masses when they field questions and comments about Squeak & Clean from 9 to 10 p.m. following each night's performance. Intrigued? Go -- but don't forget to wash behind your ears.

Her/She Senses presents Squeak & Clean on Friday, October 1; and Saturday, October 2. Showtime is 7 to 9 p.m., with a Q&A session following both nights. Viewers are invited to arrive at any point during the ongoing show, which is held at Barlow & Straker, 1319 East McDowell. Tickets are $5 at the door. Call 602-957-8499 (Live Art Platform) or 602-271-4570 (Barlow & Straker) for information.