Martin del Amo with Gail Priest: Self-generating entities

Ruth Holdsworth

Martin del Amo with Gail Priest, Under Attack

Martin del Amo with Gail Priest, Under Attack

Martin del Amo with Gail Priest, Under Attack

To Gail Priest’s computer-generated and violin scores, Martin del Amo’s Under Attack alternates between movement and narrative. No element is interpretive of another but orbits the performance as an abstract and self-generating entity. The performers seem to share a deep and intuitive understanding of each other, allowing for some improvisation.

In Under Attack it’s as if, unbeknownst to the audience, there’s a director in the wings blasting out “CUT!” through a huge megaphone to the performer, and “Do it again!” Schizophrenically, del Amo plays to full pitch, putting everything he’s got into the roles of storyteller and dancer.

He’s like a Buster Keaton imitating the motions of an old-fashioned typewriter carriage and using some of the techniques of movie slapstick (jump cuts and undercranking—the speeding up of movement) which Howard Matthew referred to in his lecture, A Working History of Slapstick. Were these involuntary actions, the drunk’s body thrusting into space and erasing its own hard pencil lines? Both the limbs and the Biblical narrative del Amo offered to the audience ran away from him.

Behind this chaos and the frenzied occupation of multiple personalities and states lies a coherent structure. Narrative and movement motifs are repeated—constitutive elements dispersed like spores which then alight on others throughout. Body (choreographic) and mind (narrative) memories multiply, divide and form new sequences that jerkily refer forward and back throughout the performance. A movement we have encountered is repeated but then cut short…a story we have heard playfully messes with its morphological structure.

The work opens with del Amo in the sharpest, most tailored of white suits, the perfect–fitting garments then removed item by item. It didn’t seem right that at the end of the performance that this sweating body should be re-clothed…the shoe no longer fitted and the pure white silk sock refused to adorn the foot that had worn it so perfectly before.

The corporeality of the performer’s body is challenged by the sound artist’s virtual compositions, but is not disconnected from it. Physicality and technique forge a fresh relationship with sound, featuring both violin and computer played live. Under Attack recovers our embodied relation to the things we have produced, teasing out the flaws in postmodern theories, such as Baudrillard’s vision of humankind’s alienated relation to the technological era, and the machines we have created.

2 February 2006