a performance dialogue

Friday, April 18, 2008

response to 9th April performance

from Simon Ellis

My experience was wonderfully dominated by the sonic. I felt part of - or immersed in - some huge rumbling organism, struggling for breath, reverberant, and inhabited by sibilant half sounds. This experience was quite different from any theoretical notion of the'finite but unbounded' ... the bounds of the conventional black box, its traditions of 'removal' from reality seemed at odds with an unbounded finity.

The mix of pre-recorded and live audio was deeply engaging.

I was often drawn to a notion of 'the unfinished' - of letters devoid of words, of partially completed sounds ... about mid way through the materials this sense of the 'incomplete' within the work felt quietly ecstatic.

Within the more formal conventions of the work - its location, use of light, crafted entrances and exits - I was excited by the presence of the 'unmanaged' ... when books fell, when one of the dancers dropped a book in the standing sequence, in the misshapen and subtly warped blackboards struggling to be aligned by the performers, in Marcus dealing with compass, ruler and ladder against a mobile blackboard.
The intrusion of these moments seemed to infect what was described as an oscillation between 'order and chaos' - as if I was occasionally reminded of just how much potential for the unplanned, the disordered there is in the act(s) of performance. These infections seemed to roughen the edges of the formal characteristics of the work (right down to their waistcoats etc).

This next thought is a little more uncertain - or incomplete. It has to do with embodiment, and with my memory of the act of solving mathematical equations at high school and university level, and now similar experiences in writing code. It represents a sort of collision between how 'mindful' those activities are, in which I
often approach a strong sense of the 'disembodied' ... they are experiences in which I find it hard to reconcile the dissolution of a mind-body split. And yet, seeing Marcus 'release' a solution onto the blackboard was extraordinary (his sense of embodiment was strongly contrasted with seeing the performer engage in that 'solving'conversation - she was so clearly writing something 'learned', not something 'experienced'). This tension - between states of (dis)embodiment - seems a difficult line to tread ... how much of the processes and conversations so clearly present in the development ought to be made transparent to viewers? (an old question I know but it seems to assume greate importance in a work 'about' mathematical concepts). At the same time, seeing Marcus write the solution disconcertingly reminded me of how Hollywood has portrayed the
'mathematical genius' (inevitably flawed) ... Good Will Hunting, A Beautiful Mind ... it's as if there is a kind of romance in the depiction/representation of this activity that is utterly opaque to us mathematical mortals!

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