Commissioned and produced as part of Corpus, international network for performance practice. Corpus is co-founded by If I Can’t Dance, Amsterdam, Playground (STUK & M), Leuven and Tate Modern, London, and is supported by the Culture Programme of the European Union.
Premiere: Playground festival, STUK, Leuven. Tour: If I Can’t Dance, Het Veem, Amsterdam. Bozar Brussels, Performatiek festival, Kaaitheater Brussels, The South London Gallery and the Projects Arts Center, Dublin.
Language shapes our structured world, but in fact every sentence we utter is an improvisation. That is the starting point for Orla Barry’s new performance & sound installation. She has used 57 words, an actor, a dancer and a musician to devise a work in which chance, fate, and a little witchcraft play equal roles in a performance that is never the same on any night. It is a show of shows, set in a décor of language objects. These objects are used to generate the script for the performance.
The performers spin the wheel; with each word a scene is constructed. The order is random and the performers are at the mercy of the wheel and therefore of fate. Preparation and rehearsal can only go so far. There can be no dramaturgy. There is no possibility of building tension or controlling the narrative and the performance could extend endlessly. It is a particular work that plays with different forms of text production such as speech, monologue, interview, poem and song to create a series of intentionally unplanned crossovers between text, object, meaning and performance.
The stage set is made not of props but of art works. The felt text pieces that appear at the end of the performance are handmade from the wool of her own black rare breed Zwartbles sheep and all the other elements are hand painted.
The performers jump from one character to another, from one atmosphere to another in arbitary sucession. In this collaborative work performance becomes a kind of mimesis. It arouses and purges each association nearly as soon as it has been constructed, leaving an ellipsis.
Ludwig Wittgenstein calls it "the inner visual room" in his philosophical investigations: "399-400: one could say: surely the owner of the visual room has to be the same nature as it; but he isn’t inside it and there is no outside. The visual room seemed like a discovery as it were; but what its discoverer really found was a new way of speaking, a new comparison, and, one could say, a new experience."
For the installation version what is left is a like a scene without figures. Only the memory of their presence & actions exist through sound. Like the floating the voice-overs of her early video works the performance transforms itself into a tableau made of words. Ghost voices on an unplanned loop like broken language in space.