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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

How to Keep Desire Under Wraps

The Communists who used to meet here probably never witnessed this sort of event: near-naked dancers bound in plastic wrap, squirting each other with blue, green and red paint from spray bottles and writhing on the floor in various patterns of mock coupling, all to the rhythmic droning of techno-trance music.

But such was the scene recently at the Oval Theater on Plyushchikha. In the intimate, three-tier hall, its ceiling graced by peasants proudly bringing forth sheaves of wheat, painter and performance artist Lauren Unger and choreographer Edward Truitt presented "Medium of Desire," an "evolutive performance painting series" exploring the interior motivations and desires of characters danced by Americans Unger, Truitt and two female Russian dancers.

Those who missed the performance at Plyushchikha need not despair. Wednesday night they can catch Unger's last Moscow performance at the Bely Medved night club. Unger will dance with an all-female contingent at 10 p.m. in a variation on "Medium of Desire," a collage of danced desires, tender and enraged, loving and malevolent, generous and selfish.

At the Plyushchikha performance, attended by about 100 viewers, no overt explanation of the program's meaning prepared the audience for the 30-minute performance. American Neil Glick, 26, an independent business consultant and art collector, said, "It was interesting. But I wish there had been an explanation beforehand ... I know that the meaning is determined by the viewer, but what were they trying to convey?"

After the performance, Unger explained her vision. "There are all kinds of conflicting urges inside. Most of them come from desire ... They are intuited but not believed, not given life." In the Plyushchikha "Medium," the female dancers, playing models to Unger's central character of artist, jumped off the canvas and interacted with their creator, who painted them into life on the canvas while fending off the destructive urges of Truitt, who demanded the artist's full attention. When he couldn't get it, he finally vented his rage at Unger's neglect of him by violating her and liberating the models from the canvas she had so lovingly created.

And the function of the plastic wrap? Unger has used strippers before in nude performances, but she uses the sheer plastic to represent "transparent vestiges of social comportment." Though her pieces feature dancers clothed in little other than G-strings and the briefest of bras, she stresses that "physicality does not have to have an erotic aesthetic; it does not mean pornography."

"Medium of Desire" is not the only medium in which Unger's aesthetic can be viewed in Moscow. She has a Web site, through which she met Truitt. And the Ramenki gallery is exhibiting 20 of her paintings, many of which present desire in a haunting, eye-soothing idiom. She said her paintings have sold well in France, but Unger added that art critics have accused her of creating works that are "too beautiful," explaining that "beautiful things are not a risk culturally."

But Unger does not appear averse to risk, as evidenced by her bringing her paintings -- which cost from $2,000 to $3,000 -- to Russia and encountering the ever-maddening risk that is Russian customs. After paying to ship the paintings by air from France for the Ramenki exhibit, Unger said she spent an "entire day of complicated nonsense" in freeing the works from the avaricious clutches of the Russian customs personnel.

After this, her first trip to Russia, Unger may return to Moscow to work with a Russian performance artist. "If it works out, it might be very interesting -- much more outrageous, more shocking," she said.

After her sojourn here, Unger may take her show to Japan and Germany. As an American based in Paris and traveling around the world, she said, "You get different inspirations in different places. One is more free to create oneself in a place other than where one comes from."

But of the cultures she has experienced, Unger finds the French the most artistically satisfying.

"In France, I've created myself and my own environment."

Bely Medved is located at 116A Prospekt Mira and admission is 150,000 rubles. The Ramenki art gallery is located at Ulitsa Ramenki, building 6, block 2. Tel. 287-2551. Nearest metro: Alekseyevskaya. Unger's Web site is