United Kingdom Various composers, Dance and Moving Image Collaborations 2015: London Contemporary Dance School/Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, The Place, London, 02.12.2015. (J.OD)
Figure and Ground
A film by Sarina Pornminta, Nicolee Tsin, Leanne Vincent
Performers: Emma Farnell-Watson, Fern Moutrie, Georgia Redgrave
A film by Chiara Broggi, Bradley Smail
Performers: Susie Browning, Rebecca Friedman, Oriane Paras, Ellen Slatkin
Music: l Signor Bruschino Overture by Gioachino Rossini
A film by Sara Augieras, Dang Taka Hata, Amy Yuemeng
Performers: Susannah Browning, Oriane Paras, Ellen Slatkin
Sound: Jehro Cooke
A film by Ajatshatru, Alexandra Pholien, Selin Tanner
Performers: Emma Farnell-Watson, Rebecca Freidman, Fern Moutrie, Georgia Redgrave, Elena Zubeldia
Music: Selin Tamer
Choreography/Performers: Chloe Abbott, Chan Sze-Wei, Kataryna Witek
Lighting Design: Mickie Mannion
Costume Consultant: Frances Morris
Mentorship: Sara Wookey, Sue MacLennan
Four films and one live performance make up this programme of collaborative work between students from the London Contemporary Dance School and the BA Graphic Design: Moving Image course at Central Saint Martins. With rapid-fire editing, poetic imagery and a fissure between what is seen and what is heard, the films flash before the eyes. Each one lasts three minutes at most. The live performance, in contrast, seems deliberately to resist what the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk refers to as ‘the kinetic impulse of modernity’.
The setting for Figure and Foreground, the first film to be shown, is an underground carpark. But there is no sound of engines, or voices, or the slamming of car doors. The grey and white pillars and white markings on the ground have a pearly softness. To pulsing music on the soundtrack, three women in loose trousers and spaghetti-strap tops dance in this unreal space. Cutting between long shot and close up, overhead and tracking shot, the film is like a Cubist painting. It does not allow the spectator to settle into any easy relationship with what it shows.
Yellow, which has something of Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou about it, contains hardly any dance at all. Its young women are glimpsed at moments of apparent crisis and obvious excess in a witty and bravura display of montage that shows a crystalline London of leafy squares and stucco terraces on a sunny day after rain.
L’équilibre is more cerebral. To what is mostly the noise of humming, three, semi-naked women in a narrow attic pull on a blue rope that hangs through the skylight above them. Shots of them doing this are intercut with close-ups of an egg on a pale blue background. The cracking of the egg is a climax. The film ends with the three women seated on the floor, one of them reaching her hand towards the broken shell.
London after the rain features again in Fragment. The exteriors, this time, are the open spaces of council estate (or what was built as a council estate) and a zebra crossing on a main road. The sky is grey; there are puddles on the ground. The music throbs. The dancing young women wear anoraks and leggings. Their feet and legs are also filmed, in close up, dancing on the carpet of a pub.
The title of the live performance piece, WYSIWYG, is an acronym for ‘What You See Is What You Get’. What the audience sees and gets, first of all, is the image of itself. A digital camera facing out from the stage projects this on to the screen used for the films. One of the two, bewigged, female performers who have made their appearance stands looking at this image as if the audience were performers and she audience.
After a while, this woman moves to stand in front of the camera. Slowly, she examines her own appearance. Her eye, seen in close-up, could be a reference to Kim Novak’s in the credit sequence to Vertigo. When she removes the wig to reveal wigs of other colours underneath, she is like Tippi Hedren at the start of Marnie. After that, though, references become more difficult to find. Seated on a stool, plaiting and unplaiting strands of her real hair, the woman speaks: ‘Do you remember the last time we were here?’ Her on-screen lips are out of sync with the sound of the words as she says them. The other woman, whose wig is pink, makes noises from the trumpet she holds.
When there is movement, it involves the first woman lying on the floor so that her face appears upside down on the screen. In this position she holds up first the palms of her hands, then the sole of one foot, to the camera. Again one thinks of André Lepecki’s book, Exhausting Dance, and the reference in it to ‘decelerating the blind and totalitarian impetus of the kinetic-representational machine’.
Perhaps to make this point, if that is its point, WYSIWYG needs to be thirty-five minutes long. Yet after the two women have distributed their wigs among the audience, the piece seems to lose its way. The trumpet player begins a monologue about needing to fill her lungs with air. The other woman competes by continuing the monologue she began earlier about wild horses seen in a forest. Then she fills her own lungs with air and sinks to the floor as she breathes out.
The piece closes on a weak note. One of the women says: ‘We’re going to show you a party trick.’ It is to do with cupping your hands and producing a sound by blowing across a gap left at the top. Just before the end, the audience again appears on the screen. Its image is quickly replaced by that of two hands with wrists together but with fingers outstretched in the shape of flower. On this image the light fades, leaving the audience well disposed towards a work that, as it is performed, asks a lot in proportion to what it gives.