Full moon in Leo apparently, drizzle, misty windows. The room is small, harsh unforgiving light, lit like an office, packed with curious visitors, some armed with cameras, waiting for the moment. But no sooner does the performer begin than a strange phenomenon takes place. Space dilates, background details dilute, time dissipates and atmosphere almost materialises. This effect is not unknown to me owing to the performer, Alexandra Baybutt accompanied by sound designer David Somlo on this occasion.
I recall the long painful ascent of a mythological beast, some leviathan creature had escaped out of the pervasive imagination of the fantastical horror fiction writer HP Lovecraft. She, wrapped in white layers as if prepared for burial, dragged a cacophony of metal debris behind her, the wake of a decaying civilisation, but also perhaps the by-product of a banal miscalculation. This was in Lisbon on steps worn down by centuries of feet walking up and down day after day above the city that once had vanished in only a few minutes (Part of a Mnemonic City event at Roundabout art space). Had it not been so well recorded, this story would have become another Atlantean legend.
The sense of presence stretching beyond the application of physical laws yet embodying a state of being closer to the idea of a chthonic god and a telluric force pushing against the grain of digital fatal perfection are intrinsic to the manner in which this performer engages with her narrative. I cannot tell whether this is a representation of human emotion or an expression of cultural theory. It is neither in fact, rather more. Yes, there is thought inside this motion, but the motion itself is the substance though which thought emerges and oscillates between consciousness and unconsciousness. We are witnessing a deeply private search, a journey inside the mind of the performer as she marries the sonic waves of an unmelodious tune to the fabric of space. The eeriness of the music takes shape in the intricate manipulation of movement as she evolves and regresses within the confines she dictates by virtue of her entanglement with the musical strings. This music is not there to tell a story. It merges with the air yet leaves a lingering sensation of a past hinged on the tip of a tongue about to utter the name of something that continues to evade us. She, the estranged automaton, the mythical somnambulist, leads our gaze to places that are not of this world, invisible walls, doors, windows, corridors, stairways, ceilings, invisible objects, a world that exists only when we are not really looking, when the eye turns inwards, locked in reverie. Yet it is not ‘virtual’, it is real. It is the reality of psychic chemistry.
Before us, an event took place, it invoked the high drama of Greek tragedy, the Dionysian joy of dance, the numinous melancholia of the soul as it enters the valley where shadows gain mass, but also the sensual allegories portrayed by Hindu gods, Kali, Shiva, Ganesh, Brahma, Shakti, all of whom compete for the supremacy over the stage of the great theatre of existence. Can a single human form contain the human condition without falling into the sentimental clichés so dear to contemporary drama and choreography? Yes, if the act derives from the abandonment of morality, conventional dualism or institutional dogma. An act that is almost a sacrifice of ego whereby the wholeness we seek in the other is integrated into the moment where inspiration and expiration fuse into one element. Everyone followed her trajectory. She reached the pane of glass, seeming to enter into a mimetic dialogue with her reflection while faces drew closer from the other side. Such is the frontier separating us from ourselves. And there ended her course as silence enveloped us.
The performance was part of John in a cage
23-24 January 2016-Chalton Gallery, London
with Alexandra Baybutt & David Somlo, Patrick Coyle, Richard Melkonian, David Price, Sara Rodrigues and Himali Singh Soin
John Cage (1912-1992) was a composer, philosopher, musical theorist as well as a great collector and eater of mushrooms. Pioneer of aleatory and electronic music, master of randomness, poet par excellence and inventor of nothing, Cage
John is not dead. Silence (we don’t want to say anything about Cage).
The exhibition introduces a series of performances, the display of works, and the reading of oblique strategies in the spirit of Brian Eno. Sauteed mushrooms will be served alongside a soundscape created by the interaction of the audience with radios located throughout the gallery.
Further details of the exhibition schedule will be provided, though chance will be present. Curated by Helena Lugo and Cristina Ramos.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2016