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Open: 04/26/12- Close: 05/13/12 Borrowed Prey
Reviewed for By: Joseph Samuel Wright

Julie Lemberger ©2019  Carrie Ahern

“Miss Scarlett, get the smelling salts! The performance art is too much for him!

Borrowed Prey, a 60-minute performance art dance piece exploring the relationship between humans and the animals we eat, brought me to my knees. Literally.  Maybe it was the overwhelming smell of meat in the room, maybe it was the skinned lamb carcass swaddled in cloth, or maybe it was just standing on hard cement for an hour, but something about the experience made me nearly faint. Whatever the cause, though, I can honestly say that the work elicited a visceral reaction. And the staff were very kind about my attack of the vapors.

Borrowed Prey is an engaging, boundary-pushing, and highly personal work conceived, researched, choreographed, and performed by Carrie Ahern. Derived from four areas of research including butchering, deer-hunting, a working cow farm, and Dr. Temple Grandin’s research in animal behavior, the work “seeks to unveil spaces of connection/disconnection around death in our culture.” To this end, the soundscape features text by Temple Grandin and by Carrie Ahern.

The performance is accompanied by a haunting, dynamic, exciting score by Anne Hege and “Knife Dance” by musical duo New Prosthetics. The close collaboration between Ahern and the musicians is undeniable--the  tone, style, and heart of the sound is tightly tied to the rhythm and emotion of Ahern’s action.

Julie Lemberger ©2019  Scene from the Production

Ahern is a clever, engaging, and highly emotive performer. Her confidence, kind calm, and earthiness fortify the inherent authority that enables her to guide the audience through the unexpected, invasive, and sometimes unpleasant elements of her show. In fact, it is only after an initial, internal interlude, when Ahern begins to engage directly with the audience that her work in Borrowed Prey begins to soar.

Jay Ryan lends a dramatic and stark lighting design  over a set that’s centerpiece is a butcher table on wheels which is moved throughout the performance to functionally change both the playing space and the audience’s area. Naoko Nagata’s costume design features a knit hoodcap, a bloodied butcher’s apron, and a shabby faux-fur jacket that looks like someone skinned a white-tail deer mascot. Much like the charged subject matter and ardent nature of the performance, the same costume that would be used for the spoof version of Borrowed Prey, but it is through this same inherent authority Ahern carries that she pulls off the look.

In addition to its charged nature and invasive presentation, Borrowed Prey makes use of sensory and emotional explorations by Ahern. To an extent, these can be a tease, as the audience watches a sensitive artist explore source material that isn’t shared, but  the information is revealed as the performance goes along, so observers are eventually invited in to the experience. The whole piece culminates with its most striking moment—the final image of Ahern cradling the skinned lamb carcass.

Borrowed Preyis an ambitious, thoughtful, site-specific performance art experience. It’s a must-see for those who see such things, but is not for the faint of heart--pun intended!

Borrowed Prey is performed after hours at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in the Chelsea Market Thursdays and Fridays at 9 PM, Saturdays and Sundays at 8 PM through May 13th. Tickets are $35 for general admission or $60 for VIP seating and can be purchased at or at the door. There is no late seating. 

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Dickson's Farmstand Meats : Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Avenue bet