Blog #2 by Platform dramaturg-in-residence Jenn Joy
October 4, 2010
DARIA FAÏN, Working with Stockhausen’s Stimmung 1968 (2010)
AITANA CORDERO, Solo…? (2008)
“…with you or alone no languages only grunts moans murmurs chattering teeth shuffling
only sounds no languages with meanings no words or signifying gestures…”
—DD Dorvillier, Choreography, a Prologue for the Apocalypse of Understanding, Get Ready!
Daria Faïn moves slowly, so slowly that I notice the bottoms of her feet as she lifts and lowers each one. She waits surrounded by six performers standing along the edges of the black floor covering of St. Mark’s Church. A low drone fills the space, sung by Robert Osborne, Peter Sciscioli responds with a vibratory overtone of sound. The two men watch each other, it seems as if they are speaking yet instead of words their overlapping articulation produces less recognizable tonalities that Faïn takes in and moves. The performers walk around the space and pause, creating a polyphonic tonality that shifts and repeats.
The rhythm structure and direction is passed from one performer to another occasionally interrupted by “magic names” or phrases. These fragments of language rise from the sonic matrix: “komm mit”… “nemesis… artemis…” acting as ciphers of recognition drawn from Stockhausen’s original score of Stimmung (1968). The linguistic interruptions call attention to the question of translation and the desire to make sense of what I cannot quite understand. Komm mit, komm mit…repeated as imperative.
Against the verticality of the vocalists, Faïn bends over with fingers spread and the angularity of her arm gestures describes a volume in space as if attempting to gather in the sonic density that crescendos around her. She spins and her hair comes undone, a more chaotic shaking or jumping ensues as if the intensity of the vocal structure is too much and must be dispersed through her movements. Her gestures measure the space between her heart and navel as if calling attention to the interior impulses of these movements as transcriptions of sound. How to compose a body in space? How to compose a body in sound? Perhaps the sonic invites an amplification of anatomy, a reveal of the never to be seen internal workings.
It is a piece that invites closing your eyes. Yet then you would miss the exquisite hesitation as Faïn leans over balancing on one leg with the other extended out behind her and her arm reaches for the ground. Her fingers never touch. She hovers here for what feels like a long time and it is in this moment of subtle vibration, that her solo moves beyond an echo of the vibrating surround through its own tremulous physicality.
As the piece ends the performers bow to each other and then to the audience and the sanctuary feels saturated even in the brief silence before the applause. A kind of sonic afterimage that leaves me in that “maybe” space that Harrell writes of in his opening comments for the Platform. It is a space that contains traces of pleasure, and yet it feels heavy, weighted by the flat minor chords sustained against the rhythmic patterns of the vocalists’ steps.
This affective suspension reminds me of the opening video-text of DD Dorvillier’s recent performance Choreography, a Prologue for the Apocalypse of Understanding, Get Ready! (2009). A series of words running across a video screen that render a paradoxical dramaturgy along the peripheries of language—as murmuring and shuffling words push language toward its debilitating point. The voice desires desire, desires to use language to speak of this desire, and yet resists, staggers, stumbles against the strictures of syntax. The linguistic aspects of language fail to deliver and so Dorvillier must search for a more material, corporeal counterpoint. In Working with Stockhausen’s Stimmung (1968) (2010) it is not only the fragments of language that fail to deliver, but that they are working toward something quite different. An invitation offered up in their virtuosic trembling, an invisible yet material gesture.
But then I am still left with the question of desire.
At this moment, Aitana Cordero’s opening video-text appears projected in a too high corner of the church. It is almost as if I am not supposed to see it, or perhaps to read only from a very far distance. Here are some transcriptions from the moving script:
A list of reasons why she should fall in love with you soon
A list of the three worst things you have done in your life
A list of words to explain to your little sister why your papa is crying
A list of the statements you make about yourself that are not true
A list of all those details that would prevent you from falling in love with someone
A list of all the things you cannot remember…
At this point the stage is still empty except for the black covering on the floor.
A list of all the desire you have repressed
A list of all the fears
A list of the questions you would ask someone you just met
A list of love songs
A list of places where you would kill yourself in revenge to the person that just left you
A list of the last words you would say before leaving a country you will never see again…
Someone climbs a tall unstable squeaky ladder to turn off the projector.
Cordero walks into the space and stretches a black cord on the ground. She exits and returns with another black cord that she extends in a shaky parallel next to the first cord. She exits and returns with two coiled orange cords that she places in the far corners of the plastic. She exits and returns with a broom that leans against the steps of the chancel. She exits and returns with a short pipe that rolls a short distance on the plastic and then comes to rest. She exits and returns with 2 old stage lights. She exits and returns with 2 broom mops that balance on their handles. She exits and returns—this is to be the movement refrain of the piece. She exits and returns with a stereo, a large speaker, a basket of plastic clips, a large office water bottle with tap, a gray matt, an empty opened cardboard box placed on its side, a DSP trash can on wheels, a dowel, a white unisuit, an advertising poster from the film Persuasion, a book, a “Quiet please performance is in progress” sign perhaps stolen from the lobby.
If the opening video-text projects a speculative list of ways in which we might deal with love, loss, grief, or desire, then these objects image a concrete inventory of the things that we might use to deal with these emotions. She exits and returns with a keyboard, swinging it above her head from its cord and then smashing it onto the floor. Repeat. The white plastic keys explode. She selects two keys and carefully places them on the floor next to a column. She exits and returns with an Apple computer monitor that she drops on top of a partially eaten apple. (She had turned the stem and pulled it off before taking her bite. Was she playing that adolescent game of finding a letter to attach to a lover’s name? What letter/lover did she name?) The crushed apple is almost unrecognizable.
The inventory and assemblage of the objects, calls to mind the final scene of Anne Collard’s Parades & Changes, replays (2009), a reinvention of Anna Halprin’s Parades and Changes (1965) in which the performers line the stage with objects that they must then put on, take off, or assemble. Yet the playful organization of this communal moment creates a very different mood. Cordero’s placement of the objects is carefully composed, creating an environment of cast-offs, obsolete technologies, and the occasional (shudder) video camera that is almost crushed, yet is only turned to stand on its lens. Her misé en scene set off by the black protective floor covering, holds a much more destructive potential. Perhaps Mike Kelley’s Test Room is a more apt comparison.
And yet this Solo…? is doing something different, proposing sculpture as itself a choreographic move. And here her work takes on a critical function in relation to the seduction with assemblage crossing much of contemporary sculptural practice under the auspices of the unmonumental. If the unmonumental aesthetic, a mix-up of various sculptural strategies that mine contemporary culture for artifacts and objects that can be reconfigured into piles or structures or installations, points to the excessive presence of objects or commodities within contemporary life, or acts a kind of metonymic presence to the oversaturation and seduction with global stuff, Cordero’s work is more specific, more promiscuous, and perhaps more compelling.
Her inventory revels in obsolescence and nostalgic. Her dramaturgy is mostly matter of fact, except in the moments when she runs, speeding up as if trying to finish more quickly. Solo…? is emotional and violent. I jump when the monitor crushes the apple, when the large white pvc tube crashes to the floor, when she throws the VCR so hard that it lands on its corner. Yet her aggression is calculated and after each explosion she carefully gathers a small piece and places it gently somewhere else on the stage. As if to say I still love you even though I wanted to destroy you. These are transitional objects that act as cathartic processors of emotional and psychological abstractions. And like the opening video-text, the objects work within a the structure that provides a limit, a container for any overly excessive emotion…until the final moments.
Then Cordero constructs a precarious tower of objects that shift and slide against each other coming to a momentary stillness as she lays down a piece of tape. Standing at the end of the tape, she stares at her obscure creation. She pauses and crawls into the pile. The unstable sculpture collapses on top of her. But like all empowered love stories (and solos) she eventually climbs out, turns back as if Eurydice calls on last time, and walks off stage.