—4bid gallery – Critical Writing in Performance from the audience of Highs & Lows – Critical Writing in Performance at 4bid
Review : Highs & Lows #13
28.10.2015 OT301, 4bid gallery
Keren Rosenberg, Pavel Spasovski, Giacomo della Marina (NL)
Fernando Oliveira (BR)
Liwia Bargiel and Marta Mielcarek (PL)
How does H&L work? As a visitor of the event you are welcomed at the door of the OT301 Srudios and explained that the evening will evolve in different spaces and that you will be taken (almost by hand, or this is the impression I got) to each place the performance are going to happen. Then one gets a program, and sits for a while at the bar waiting for everything to begin.
The crowd grows slowly, not too big but with a good vibe, and the evening soon begins.
I would like to focus for a moment on the 1st piece, a collaboration between dance artist Keren Rosenberg, and sound artist Pavel Spasovski with the support of Giacomo della Marina performed in the gallery of the OT301, run by the curating group 4bid. The audience is seated in a semicircle, the space lit with dim warm light, the performers take their time beginning, sensing the space. Keren and Pavel ease into the performance and begin: the first strong image is that of Pavel sitting on what seems to be a stool covered by a white sheet, which we discover being Keren’s body compactly organized to support the weight of her collaborator. He positions himself at a well composed sound station where he will manipulate sounds live during the performance. As this happens, on the wall we see a round projection with soft edges. One image to remember: people crossing in straight lines what seems to be the very busy centre of a square. Keren begins to move, subtly, very precisely, under the white sheet. Gestures and small but determined movements make shapes and shadows strong and tickles the viewers imagination, until we see a foot peeping out, then a leg dresses in bright red leggins, then Keren reveals herself, until then concealed by the baggy shape of the sheet, to the public and carries on exploring the possibilities of her body moving in space. She seduces the public, she comes close, she surprises herself on the ground, she looks intensively as the quality of her movement changes and evolves.
-38.83c was not necessarily about something. The artists tried to find a point of connection between the mediums, exploring in a work that is still in progress what is this language in between them.
The movement vocabulary used by Keren was intricate, as she alternated moments of surrender to the presence of the public, and complete control of her body.
The sounds used were a direct response to the movement and a trigger for the movement to happen, though there was no evident communication between the two performers. It was clear that the material was fresh and that the work has far to go beyond the performative skills of both artists.
I must admit that the choice of costumes left me a little puzzled. They were not aesthetically pleasing, nor they seemed to add to the performance. I’d like to ask a question in these regards..or I might get the answer that ‘it is in the end still a work in progress’ therefore this should be forgiven.
What however interested me in the performance was the concept that seems to be particularly popular these days: dance in gallery spaces. I seem to understand that the choice of showing the work in the gallery was deliberate and that the artists wanted to explore on the relationship between viewer and performer. Surely this can work in such a way, but I find it also not particularly daring or challenging for either parties. Is it only because it is a collaboration between three different mediums, that a performance “deserves” to be re-contextualised in a “visual-art” space? It is a curious question, as I see this happening a lot. Galleries that lend themselves to performance purposes and show work that is often not responsive to the specificities of the location, by doing this behaving exactly as they would do in the black box (the theatre space that no matter where it is, will provide more or less with the same frame) not implying any difference from stage to stage.
When performance is in a gallery or museum, I would like it to be there because it needs to be there, not because it is just unusual (which it is not in anyways, as we have been seeing it since the 60s).
Some food for thought.
On this topic I would like to briefly mention how refreshing it was to come to the theatre for the last piece and be invited to experience the stage the way one would experience a gallery. I found this simply great and cheerfully surprising. The space was set up with pictures on the theatre walls, lit with stage lights from above. Silently the visitors of H&L evening of performance were invited to look at the photography exhibition by Marta Mielcarek in collaboration with Liwia Bargiel, and take their time to visit each photo. Shortly after to the surprise of people in the space a screen that was scrolled down animates with a dance film that clearly resonates of the pictures being shot in the same environment. Everyone stops from chatting and sipping beer. Such was the ‘disruption’ of the exhibition opening atmosphere. Not only, but at the end of the film the sound of a Skype call bombs in and we hear some giggling in the public (I liked the sense of humour in this, that should never be missing): Liwia the artist is there, big face on the screen, talking about her research in a dialogue with one of the tech crew behind the desk. It takes a few minutes till the virtual performance finds an organic ending and she salutes leaving an odd silence and a few perplex faces/smiled around the OT301 Studioz.
The program was overall varied -as I expected it to be from an event named Highs & Lows-. The works presented had all an intensity of their own in them being very different from each other. A pleasant night that shows what performance can be, without the pressure of it needing to fit in according to specific parameters. It is an interesting platform for changing your mind on what you may have preconceptions on, especially in Amsterdam.