Review

SMASH LAB XIII

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Screen Tests – Antje Hildebrandt

Block colours and smiling faces, comical tooth-brushing and big shade-wearing – I wondered about the amount of direction, instruction, Antje had given her subjects. The faces of many of my friends and colleagues smiled and posed in an un-posing way. Shot in pairs, the complexity of their presences did not have time to unfold.

Polaroids of a peer group.

Andy Warhol’s 60s Screen Tests, the inspiration for Hildebrant’s own, I find sinister; they are a bit deranged and difficult, the penetrating of a surface as unstable as the flickering glint of moving sequins. Here, I enjoyed what felt like innocence, the subjects being without targeted agenda or particular aspiration. Two screens opposite one another playing different sets of screen tests against brick walls of The Book Club’s downstairs arch, I spent a lot of time watching the other watchers framing their faces and imagining their own screen tests.

Mir(ror)(r)age – Manou Koreman, Sebastian Hinds (video) & Eugene Feygelson (soundscape)
I was puzzled by Mir(ror)(r)age. Perhaps because I anticipate some kind of expression of trauma, distress or defiance in any work that is exploring how a woman sees her own body. I realise that this is unconsidered and totally wrong.

Manou Koreman is tall, slender, blonde and athletic. In bra and pants and sneakers she moves comfortably in front of and beside a projected film of herself. I look for what she is trying to show me, for the reason she is there with her body on display – close up on camera, then two others filming her live from different angles on iPhones, the images projected onto the walls (nifty technology). I don’t know what I am supposed to see but I think about objectification and how used to looking at women’s bodies we are and I wonder how this fits into an experimental night of performance because I associate the experimental with criticality. But perhaps I am wrong again.

Pajaro Piedra – Francesco Pedraglio
Francesco has three women in the performance space, posing on top of, leaning onto or standing beside white plinths like you might have in a gallery for displaying an art object. They move, manipulating some clay-like substance, putting their feet in and out of Italian-looking shoes, falling onto the floor to illustrate Pedraglio’s narrative. But they remain silent. I have no idea why they are they other than as decoration or set for him.This is a bit problematic and remains unaddressed. I am uncomfortable with their comfort at being his silent accessories, as though he is not pretty enough for us to look at; I feel patronised. It reminds me of Robin Palmer’s video for Addicted To Love in which he is surrounded by ladies in pencil skirts, looking sharp and pretending to play the guitar. We (women) make men look better. Apparently.

I would have given Pedraglio’s storytelling more of a chance, and a little less scorn, if these women had not been strewn around the place as he paced, talking. Instead I thought about the cliche of the slick Italian man, smooth, fancy-shoed, melodramatic about matters of the heart, and a bit too traditional to avoid hinting at the misogynist.

He started his story by telling us about the morning after the night before. Lively and full of small digressions and quirky details, I felt very aware of this text having been written down and honed. It had a writerly cleverness about it that, as he told us his story from different angles, revealed what at first had appeared colloquial and off the cuff as tightly scripted and virtuosic – I thought of the virtuosity of something like Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveller, grating slightly. 

Just (happening) – Luisa Amorim
There was something old school and stiff about Amorim’s performance. Why was she wearing a wetsuit and a gold masquerade mask? Why were there stilettos hanging from the ceiling? I suspected some profound symbolism but I didn’t really care to uncover it.

Amorim had the audience participate by following sets of instructions that she would articulate several times. People stood up and read out questions asking about time and life and feeling. Big questions, a bit poetic.

The piece ended with Amorim in another space, her projected image recorded showing her doing a mad dance of abandon (I think?). Scratching the surface.

Chorus for One – Lea Collet & Marios Stamatis
Chorus for One didn’t really interest me. I remember neon projection and long blonde hair and a centre parting, a cute French accent and a woman talking about her boyfriend. A smoke machine? I felt as though I was watching the performance version of a trendy teen magazine.


CREDITS

Antje Hildebrandt
Screen Tests

Manou Koreman, Sebastian Hinds (video) & Eugene Feygelson (soundscape)
Mir(ror)(r)age

Francesco Pedraglio
Pajaro Piedra

Luisa Amorim
Just (happening)

Lea Collet & Marios Stamatis
Chorus for One

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