Showing the workshopping

Erin Brannigan: Antistatic 99

The workshop showings were an appropriately informal affair and gave non-workshoppers an insight into the work of the 3 imported practitioners—Nelson, Monson and Ishmael Houston-Jones—who we had seen in performance and had been the focus of much discussion. The showings unfolded for the audience like a game of charades we were invited to view but not participate in; each artist had developed tasks, methods and rules that the viewer could attempt to decipher or merely watch the results of. The similarities and differences became striking.

Nelson was the first up and the ‘video’ commands she had used in her performance, Dance Light Sound, were employed here en masse, dancers either participating in the “stop”, “reverse”, “play”, “replace” commands or waiting and watching. The choice to participate or not became as interesting as the choices about moving, and the role of the ‘commander’ began to slide around the group. The dancers often had to move with their eyes shut becoming instantly tentative, exploring the space around themselves anew. The participants kept to the back of the performance space engrossed in the details of their tasks.

Monson’s group made more of a spectacle of themselves in the exciting way Monson can in her performances. The display of energy and contrasting dynamics were relentless and the participants completely engrossed. It was difficult not to follow Monson here whose self-confessed attraction to the comic had her flitting about the space in pseudo-balletic hysteria. There was an energy-engagement between the dancers and an awareness of the observers that sparkled with possibilities.

Houston-Jones’ group showing was an “almost-performance-piece” made up of a succession of ideas. Music was introduced to the proceedings (Ishmael giggled as he DJ’d behind us) and the dancers moved closer to the audience. Language was also introduced as something more than functional, introducing narrative and emotional registers, and was interrupted through yet another system of spoken commands (“shut-up”). Movements became correspondingly more gestural and scenarios appeared; the group posed for a camera, revolving slowly as they changed positions, drawing out the moment of ‘presentation’; a line-up of apparently expert botanists described their favourite flowers over the top of each other and the line began to sway organically.

Atlas: Workshop Showings, The Performance Space, April 10

RealTime issue #31 June-July 1999 pg. 12

© Erin Brannigan; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 June 1999