by Ramsay Burt
October 22-25, 2003
Images by Armin Linke
For me the most
immediate and exciting things about “Kammer/Kammer” were, first, the performances
by Dana Caspersen and Anthony Rizzi, and second, the sheer craftsmanship
with which this otherwise highly fragmented multimedia production was
put together. On the one hand the dancing, acting, filming, and broadcast
of live edited video seemed to relate to one another in an open ended,
almost indeterminate way; but at the same time everything was evidently
planned tightly and executed with extraordinary precision.
San Martin was the
only figure who both danced and had a significant speaking part. I heard
some people complaining afterwards that there wasn't enough dancing; I
think they were mistaken. It was just that the dancing almost never became
the primary focus of attention. For all the dancers' energy and inventiveness,
the audience were continually distracted from it by either the seductive
power of the video or the equally seductive narratives of unfulfilled
gay and lesbian desire.
Cunningham has written about his realization that there are no fixed points in stage space. Forsythe's deliberate fragmentation of stage space takes Cunningham's idea to a hyperbolic extreme. It does this by exploiting spatial disjunctions. A sense of frontality was created when Caspersen or Rizzi performed to the video camera rather than towards the audience and their image was transmitted to the big video screens on stage and hanging throughout the auditorium. Because this clashed with the 'front' of the proscenium, which the audience themselves faced, one became aware that not only are points not fixed but that they can be disturbingly multiple, belonging simultaneously to irreconcilable time spaces.
The relationship between all these elements, and with less obvious ones like the movement of flats to create temporary new spaces or to reveal previously hidden ones, defied rationalisation. It continually evaded any expectations of conventional closure, despite the personable qualities of the narrators and the hook of their narratives. The piece montaged together these various elements and experiences. At their most interesting, these produced startling and disturbing juxtapositions. But despite this openness, one could not but marvel at the meticulousness and the hard work with which everything come together: I might almost say, to fall back on an old cliché, with Germanic efficiency.
One of the things some critics have attacked are the philosophical quotes Forsythe often places in his programmes. In most of Europe, philosophy is a central part of the educational curriculum in a way that is not the case in England and the United States. The programme for “Kammer/Kammer” comes with two quotations. The first is from Feuerbach (1804-72), a Hegelian philosopher of history whose ideas were severely criticised by Karl Marx. The passage Forsythe has found sounds curiously like Jean Baudrillard, and discusses the way modern people are only interested in artificial copies of reality and attribute an almost sacred quality to these. This is clearly connected with elements like Caspersen's strong resemblance to Deneuve, and the trompe l'oeil painting on the stage flats.
The other quote comes from Giles Deleuze (1925-95), and discusses the relationship between seeing and saying. Running through “Kammer/Kammer” is a split between what the audience see, and whether we choose to see it directly or on video, and what we hear: music, sound effects, and, of course, spoken words. (The person with a megaphone in Forsythe's “Artefact” also talked about this gap, when he welcomed the audience to 'what you think you see', etc.). Deleuze suggests that this kind of gap can only be bridged outside these forms and in another dimension.
Maybe it sounds pretentious
to say that it is towards another dimension that is neither just spoken
nor seen that “Kammer/Kammer” invites audiences to focus their attention.
But the performance is nevertheless an invitation to go beyond the good
old, familiar ways of looking at dance in order to try and find something
else. As I already observed, there is a lot of dancing going on all through
“Kammer/Kammer” that somehow a lot of people seemed not to notice. The
dimensions that Deleuze was referring to, and which clearly interest Forsythe,
are probably always there already, but we just haven't noticed them yet.
Edited by Jeff.
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