Art of the Living the Experiment was a show of four very different performances, which had connecting themes and strands that produced an interesting and diverse whole. Review by Cate Jacobs.
The evening was superbly MC’d and woven together, by the inimitable Laurence Clark, who distracts us from the set changes behind him by regaling us with hilarious tales of disastrous and embarrassing moments of MC-ing previous DaDaFests!
Ailís Ní Ríain’s Unlimited R&D commission The Drawing Rooms was a multi-dimensional piece combining music, movement, projected imagery and live drawing. With music composed by Ríain the piece draws inspiration from characters from Bosch’s Triptych of The Temptation of St Anthony. We briefly see images of the painting before a series of texts are screened to introduce the piece.
The music is played live on stage and is very modern in style and is, at times, quite difficult to listen to, but also brilliantly reflects the overall theme of the painting, which depicts the mental and spiritual torments of St Anthony.
It is a very layered piece and it is often hard to know where to look between the action of the performer, the visual imagery and the artist creating it as the show progresses. Ríain’s work aims to challenge, provoke and engage and she certainly achieves that in The Drawing Rooms.
Colin Hambook read poems from his collection Knitting Time, interspersed with stories of his childhood experiences in a household of religious fanaticism and psychosis. He tells these tales with tenderness and aching honesty, which reaches beyond any stereotypical preconceptions you may hold about mental illness, making a direct connection with our own humanity through his vulnerability.
His is a powerful and deeply moving performance enhanced by projections of his stunning and intricate artwork that illustrates the book. He has a ‘bedtime story’ voice that gently takes you on a journey into deeper understanding.
Rachel Gadsden’s Shamal (????, north wind) draws from her experience in the Middle East exploring the complex emotions that individuals and communities face when going through a cultural shift. It is a masterpiece of music, art, digital-film and performance created with Claire McCue (composer), Abigail Norris (filmmaker) and Lesley Shrigley Jones (cellist).
It is a beautifully choreographed piece and the connection between artist, cellist and film is fluid and effecting. Rachel dances a painting into being on a huge black canvas at the side of the stage. The dance/painting is visceral and passionate, both in the movement, and the artwork that is created through it.
Each element of the piece echoes and reflects an aspect of other elements, creating a multi-dimensional effect that stimulates all your senses. The overall effect is beautiful and haunting.
The final performance of the night was from Epic Arts, Cambodia including disabled and deaf dancers. It is an exquisite dance piece with a film backdrop that takes us on a journey through the history of Cambodia before, during and after the oppressive totalitarian Khymer Rouge regime introduced Year Zero in 1975. The film consists of distressing and horrific archive footage that sets the tone for the piece.
The dancers perform with exceptional precision and perfect timing, managing to convey freedom, oppression, and emergence with exacting grace. The choreography is stunningly inclusive; the dancer in the wheel chair is not always the one dancing in the wheelchair, as he seamlessly swaps places with other members of the cast. It is a slick and thought-provoking performance.