When worlds collide

Elizabeth Drake, DW98, Dance Works, forum

The three short works in DW98 —Waiting, Live Opera Situation and Stung—involved three different choreographers and three different composers. Works by two of these composers were played two weeks before, as part of somewhere nowhere, an evening of sonic experimentation, at the gallery space at 200 Gertrude Street.

At somewhere nowhere I arrive late and am preoccupied with the number of chairs, 40 for an audience of 200. A space provided. A space where the audience is the event. A gallery space filled to overflowing, four speakers, one in each corner surrounding the audience who sit or stand in the centre. The chairs are in 2 or 3 rows. You can lean against the wall. I speak to strangers. I find them interesting.

We are invited into a space somewhere between our own living room and a public space, between our own living room and a dance club. This ambiguous middle ground. The crossover from popular culture into acoustic art. Pop music sensibility in an art music context. An impure art. Two of the works do not involve a performer. We are there in their place. We talk, our voices mingling audibly with the voice(s) in the speakers. Later on I listen to the same works on CD in my studio.

The LP record can be seen as an archive, accompanied by extraneous noises which we have trained ourselves to ignore. In the work of Darrin Verhagen these artefacts (as he calls them) have been separated from the music recording and given musical focus. Artefacts, glitches, crackles, little clicks and pops, hiss, scratches, distortion, overloads, these have been used as musical content. In the work 3ppp there is a long delicate section made up almost entirely of clicks and pops. In another section distort is at assault levels.

From one event to another there is a displacement.

In DW98, the composers Franc Tétaz and Darrin Verhagen, whose works we heard at 200 Gertrude Street, have composed music for the dance works by Shelley Lasica and Sue Healey. Here the space produced by the (absent) performer is occupied by the dancers and the audience is seated in a block or clump in heavily raked seating. The music is played through speakers high in the church roof. It charts the space for us, causing us to move into the height and the width of this large hall.

The dancers are on the floor. I feel too high looking down on them. This feels like an unintended dislocation. A rift, a separation. I expect the dancers to become airborne. To swing in the space with the music. To cross over into the trajectory of the music. To play in the air. The dancers focus towards our block. I wish they would leave by another door, look somewhere else. We are in a clump. They have the whole floor, the whole space, all the other walls, and yet they turn towards us.

In the program notes for Lasica’s Live Opera Situation we are told that there is an unheard (of) opera, The Haunted Manor by Stanislaw Moniuszko, which has informed the choreography. It is interesting that there is no reference to this opera in the music composition, given that such quotation would be well within the genre of computer processed music. Instead a series of small fragments have been recorded on different instruments, a piano, a Fender Rhodes electric piano and various percussion instruments, and processed electronically. The dancers have not rehearsed to this music. They maintain their rhythm and tempos from the rhythm and tempos of the opera. There is no attempt to mirror this musical information in the composition. We see movements that seem unaccounted for. We become curious. We puzzle over these inconsistencies. “There is a sense of worlds colliding. The different elements do not always sit comfortably together. It is necessary that a slender thread of light search out not other symbols, but the very fissure of the symbolic.” (Barthes) A fissure, a narrow opening. At these moments something within me is activated. I feel a shift of perception. I feel there is an exchange. No longer a showing but an exchange.

I write this as a process of memory, surprised by what I remember. Like an involuntary memory I have returned to these events uninvited, to invoke a voluntary memory from which to begin. Memory issues strict instructions. To be true to the memory, to the recollection, less so to the actual event. It is to the memory that we pay our respects. To our own desire to see ourselves, our desire for the impossible.

DW98, Dance Works, forum, Wesleyan Hall, Albert Park, July 24

RealTime issue #27 Oct-Nov 1998 pg. 6

© Elizabeth Drake; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 1998