Monday, October 16, 2006

Beautiful City

Rob Appierdo (camera) Larsen (leather jacket)2005 There was a show called Beautiful City which was the brainchild of multimedia artist and project director Rob Appierdo. Its initial manifestation was as a film idea shot in a Wellington car park the night of the London Underground bombings last year. As a result of this work Rob sought to develop it into a live performance format. It went to Interdigitate, the Dunedin Fringe Festival, Wellingtons 'Dance Your Sox Off' festival, and returned to Auckland for Tempo dance festival. At each venue there was a different configuration of performers. At the Tempo festival Beautiful City was a real time collaboration between artists Eden Mulholland (music) Rob Appierdo (projected visuals), Paul Young, Julia Milsom, and yours truly (dance). This work was at one level an attempt to drive a dance/theater work with VJ style multimedia and a solitary theme;urbanization and its effects on the human psyche, or something like that. Ultimately I was never able to fully grasp the point of view or commentary that Rob was trying to communicate. This weakened the creative relationship and subsequently the work itself. In attempting to deal with a situation where dance did not lead the project,it was integral and subservient to other sentiments I came up against the limits of my own practice, and at times my own ego. After spending years working to understand space, time, form, trajectory, vocabulary, meaning, theatrical conventions, dance techniques / practices, and composition in this context I can say that all I am doing is making dance, essentially I have the same outcomes as set choreography. Its simply different in that the processes occur in real time; building structure whilst performing that structure to an audience. But this is only where my practice currently lives, I have not addressed narrative, text, sub text, moving image directly...yet. Nor have I grasped the apparent 'crush' that we seem to have on technology, its benefits for theatrical dance, and I have deep suspicions that it is something that is moving us still further from our bodies and reality. The performance space had challenging attributes for dance. There was a screen behind the dancers, set a meter or so off the floor, the galley like space of Galatos with its cabaret style table and chair set up for the audience, and clutter that distracted the eye. Then there was the conflicting natures of two of the media; dance and projected image. Projected light onto a flat screen is media that exists in 2D or planar space. And the images by themselves exist on their own terms. They don't need to reference the situation as it exists ie: there is an audience in a space with dancers etc. Digital light flickers and draws the audiences eye. By itself it can seduce audiences brains into forgetting the immediacy of their surroundings. This seduction gets interfered with when performers are placed in front of the projection. Dancers exist in 3D space and deal with the actuality of the architecture they are in, and the implications of the events and pathways they creating in real time. They are responsible to their own actions. There is no fiction when a body goes to the floor, or when a hand accidentally strikes a face. But projected digital image has no such responsibility, it can do whatever it pleases without having to justify its actions in the material world. This work provoked critical analysis and frustration for me, partly because its sentiments were admirable and honorable. It's important that work gets made, that people can engage with performance, that practitioners get to put their thinking out there. The other edge to this is when a project feels impotent, when it doesn't manage to transform beyond its individual elements, there is a sense of dissatisfaction that distorts the perceived value of the experience. Beautiful City provided an arena for provocation at a personal level, helped me to consider what to keep and what to let go of.