Dance review: sh i f t i n g s a n d s //\\ s a n d s s h i f t i n g video installation, May 2021
|s h i f t i n g s a n d s //\\ s a n d s s h i f t i n g- immersive video installation |
Artistic team: Louise Coetzer and Oscar O’Ryan of Darkroom Contemporary – dance by Darkroom Contemporary Dancers Where: Art Bureau Collective/Act of Brutal Curation in Woodstock (Side Street Studios) When: April 29 to May 15, 2021 Tickets: No charge
Last Thursday night (April 29, 2021), I attended the opening of s h i f t i n g s a n d s //\\ s a n d s h i f t i n g at Art Bureau Collective/Act of Brutal Curation in Woodstock (Side Street Studios). The installation is up, until May 15, 2021. It is an opportunity to pause and reflect on the shifting sands of this liminal time that we are dangling in, year two of the pandemic, lockdown 1, amended. It is a freaky time. Almost everything is open but there is the threat of the dreaded third wave. I use the word ‘liminal’ as it is a time of transition but one which is largely unfathomable; unknowable. We are no longer in hard lockdown of a year ago [May 2020]. In the UK, USA and Australia, things are normalising. In SA and I imagine how it must feel for those in India, we are out of synch with the vaccinated bubbles. However, we move to our own rhythm; as we must. We can connect but must keep our distance and s h i f t i n g s a n d s //\\ s a n d s s h i f t i n g addresses that pivot; the fragile hinge of this moment, together but apart. We are going at our own pace but within that pace; we share commonalties.
For this incarnation of s h i f t i n g s a n d s //\\ s a n d s s h i f t i n g, at the ABC Gallery (Art of Brutal Curation), there is a TV monitor on the floor, screening the main film on a loop: Darkroom dancers moving through a ruin in a field with a fence. The main monitor is accompanied by other monitors, in the room, spooling out scenes from the film; non-sequentially. The main film is about seven minutes in duration. The ‘ruin’ is a space, flanked by stairs. There is no roof. This is a set or set-up at Inyoni Location Farm, Philadelphia/Atlantis (about 33km from Malmesbury) which is used for films and photo shoots. In the film, the dancers move in pairs but they refrain from touching. They don’t use the stairs. They mirror each other but they don’t actually connect – physically. I asked Darkroom’s Louise Coetzer to comment on my observations: “Yes, I think the idea had to do with being isolated – physically distanced and in one space, while others go through the same in another space. We’ve mirrored the same experiences as individuals I think. .. What I liked about that space, is that it’s seemingly confined (by walls) even though actually completely open (no roof). Two dancers go through each film alone, but in the end frame we reveal the other set of dancers are actually in the space with them; just on the other side of the wall. There is something about the connections we’ve discovered during this time, even if we couldn’t connect physically we were still able to connect.”
It pings me for me as a surrealist landscape. Coetzer: “The stairs lead to nowhere, the walls don’t connect to anything and the surrealist nature of the location echoes the surrealist feeling of going through the past year.” The figures in the space and the elongated shadows remind me of paintings by George de Chirico. The film evokes a stylised alienation – precisely choreographed and composed. Coetzer says: “Yes so similar! The columns and long shadows. I love the description of his [De Chirico’s] work as including ‘illogical perspective’.” De Chirico was Italian but born in Greece and he influenced the surrealist movement, with his ‘Metaphysical Painting’. For me, his paintings drum up a sense of enigma and mystery – but not in a good way. I feel on edge looking at them and yet I get drawn into the beauty of his forms and lyricism. There is seduction in the dark and uneasy. This is the sense I got, standing in the gallery, gazing at s h i f t i n g s a n d s //\\ s a n d s s h i f t i n g. It is disquieting to see the figures in the roofless location but the sheer beauty of the dance, makes me focus on limbs and engages me in puzzling out how each dancer mirrors the other and how the dancers trace and duplicate actions, gestures, sequences. It is like a brainteaser – watching the play between individuals and couples – cuing each other into the next move.
Being in the gallery, one can walk around the monitors and choose where to look – at the main monitor or the satellite films. We got to the gallery at 6pm, when it was still light outside. By 6.45pm when we left, it was dark and that changed the lighting in the room and the images flickering on the screen. This is very different to watching work on the digital stage. Standing in a gallery, with natural light filtering through, the experience is shifted by that changing light conditions. I had a moment of – ‘oh, it’s dark outside. Oh, it is winter and it is already dark’. It was a moment of awareness of context of place and a sense that we were physically present in this gallery, The Art of Brutal Curation. Everything feels that it has been brutally curated, right now. And yet, within that, one can stand in the gallery and become immersed in watching figures moving through a landscape and for a moment the beauty and grace of the figures in motion – takes one out of the pandemic and the worries and the fears. One gets swept up in dance, music and light- shifting continuously.
In addition to the installation in Woodstock, s h i f t i n g s a n d s //\\ s a n d s s h i f t i n g is being presented at (Un)Infecting the City and will be screened on a loop, on a monitor, in the window of a shop in Long Street, on May 11 and 12 from 6.30pm-7.30pm [161 Long Street]. The shop is vacant. From what I can gather, other films will be screened from windows on this strip of vacant street level shops. This is a different iteration of the video as it will be viewed from outside. People will not be able to interact with it as they can in Woodstock at ABC Gallery. Coetzer: “The idea is that people walk down Long Street and take in the variety of video installations on display in the many disused buildings in Long Street. Then they can gather at the next stop (see website for details http://www.ica.uct.ac.za/).” There will be films on a loop in the vicinity. It brings on a different take to the concept of “window shopping”.
Related coverage: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/video-installation-s-h-i-f-t-i-n-g-s-a-n-d-s-s-a-n-d-s-s-h-i-f-t-i-n-g-cape-town-2021/ and https://thecaperobyn.co.za/interview-s-h-i-f-t-i-n-g-s-a-n-d-s-s-a-n-d-s-s-h-i-f-t-i-n-g-premieres-in-cape-town-april-may-2021/