Tuesday, May 14, 2013

As uneasy as 1,2,3: A review of three per4mances

As uneasy as 1, 2, 3: A review of three per4mances
Project Arts Centre and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin
11 – 12 April 2013
By Darren Caffrey


May I Draw Your Eyes
by Fergus Byrne as part of Between You Me and The Four Walls

May I Draw Your Eyes, the first work of this series hosted by The Project Arts Centre, saw Byrne seated in a wooden construct similar to that from which the devil plays his best chess. In this respect, the allotted two-hour duration was like a marker of presence. Providing room for the lure of uncertainty to draw the viewer closer.

This immediate tension left the one empty seat to appear as though a proposition. An impression which crystalised quickly beneath the heat of a bright stage light hanging overhead. The stage was set, it was theatre, but theatre beyond a prescribed drama or narrative construct. Simply put, one man seated with a scribe in his hand diligently retraced the eyes of those who would sit with him.

The proposal appears to occur naturally, as though the result of an organic and wholesome urge to fulfil the promise of open space.

The public setting limits this somewhat, but in any case the action was expected to follow the course of a simple subjection. Each participant, who serves also as audience/viewer, themselves conjures up a pride associated with being seen openly. The performer, staring deeply into your eyes, casts a hard hand over a shining metal plate and marks forever something close to what he sees and what you are showing him.

Surrounded by darkness he draws blind and recites as mantra a piece which revolves as if a poetic turn. While the act is itself a propellant to the performance, the performers voice remains intimately personal to his individuality, consciously naked against the light of what is present.


Image linked from Múscailt, NUIG

Spectral (lake of eggs)
by Áine Phillips as part of Between You Me and The Four Walls

The second performance of the series, held in the same space the following night, saw Phillips in a Barbie-blonde wig, all tied up. Arms and legs apparently restricted by lengths of white fabric which led high into the rafters and fell back down to the floor, surrounding the performer where she sat. Before this spider-like phantom lay a gathering of upturned eggshells, neatly placed on the floor so as to further illustrate the full title of this performance, Spectral (lake of eggs).

This landscape is simply a narrative tool, from which the performer’s action necessarily follows, in order that the story be told. Beginning with actions only, the performer works her way loose of each hanging as it extends from her. Pulling, shifting and working against the ground and against the restraints imposed, she tears free the first and finally the last white stream of fabric. Despite each one falling in a manner of unceremonious happening, nonetheless there is created a moment of delicate emotional appeal. All eyes watching as these single white flags tumble through an otherwise darkened space. Intermittently and somewhat without reason, the performer is accompanied by noises and lighting effects which do not overly detract, nor do they add to that which the action elicits.

Having discarded with the restraints of the spectre, the performer stands for the first time. Putting on shoes reminiscent of those worn by girls for Confirmation, she makes up, wiping white over her face as though a gesture of adolescent mockery for the women of the world. It could be said that the discord between sound and lighting, and there again between action and quiet, was in fact a strategic concept, the thought being that complimentary tones would soften the performer’s activities. However, the story unravels as the performer commits her voice to the presentation, and real life bangs hard with the echo of past mistakes, each word spoken as though it were severely felt. Quickly it becomes clear that the delivery of this, at times gender-crossing, coming-of-age-tale is bound not to effects of technique, or accompaniment of any sort, but rather it all hangs on a passionate plea.

Between each telling, the lone performer enacts a sequence wherein eggshells are repaired with plasters and handed out to a largely receptive audience. In the closing scene, Tim Burton’s Batman, famed of comic-book heroism, appears to call out through the in-house speakers for one last repose before death, the performer’s actions resolved as though cast of an icon. As broken eggshells crack beneath her living body, the lighting dissolves away from the audience and in toward this reclining female spread out across a lake of eggs, the story complete.


This Situation
by Tino Sehgal

Dublin is also currently host to a work by the internationally acclaimed artist and Turner Prize nominee Tino Sehgal. Occupying a single room in IMMA’s temporary home next to the Iveagh Gardens, no distance at all from St. Stephen’s Green, a number of people perform work as devised by the artist in for his work, This Situation.

Essentially, the alternately paced actions of those performers present are guided by what appears to be a set of stock remarks about a certain text and the development of resulting lines of thought. It is unknown what exactly starts this whole thing off, but the work plays out everyday for a few weeks. The thing about a performance is that it cannot be found outside of its own setting. In this way, where it happens is also what it is. In the nearby park where people move at their own speed, nothing is considered so special of discussion between friends that it becomes a draw for others to watch and listen. Indeed privacy is valued so much that engaging in life as were it art might see you being chased out of the park altogether.

This Situation is played out by people who perform according to a set of precepts, each one a conspirator of the instructions which they have been given to fulfill. So without being strictly choreographed, activity may be shaped nonetheless. So it seems, as persons picked for their respective qualities and characteristics, dressed broadly typical and as such generic, weave in and out of action and speech. Each time divested of what is their own person, what is their own motivation, above and beyond work. The speeches made by the various performers in This Situation err on the side of deliberate contention. Each expression appearing to derive of a self-substantiation that defies legitimisation outside of the gallery setting, but which appeals to the relationship between the individual and the other as being one where the corridors of perception open for each of us.

Indeed references made to style, speech, and perception all evoke a world from which the park is sought as refuge. While present at the performance, the veil is transparently visible; in leaving, the work becomes but a ghost of something else, something of which perhaps others may seek. Little of its claims are themselves present, but none the less, its occurrence is identified as real.

Upon entry of each new patron, the group as one resound with the logo-centric “Wwwwwwelcome to this Situation!”. It is as though Tino Sehgal has hung a bell over the doorway for the purposes of alerting his performers, perhaps using it to serve also as a reminder that the audience merely reflect an obligation of the performance-cast to their work that is his. By employing the very same charm and disarming approach as the friendly salesman, the audience is assumed in the role of customer, thereby validating the contract and the product.

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