… what? A live performance - by Siobhan Davies and dancers, performed as part of ICA Off-Site, 18 Oct 2014 - in which the performers remember and embody sections from their various archives and invite us, the audience, to witness and to reflect on this process with them. The communal nature of the event is striking; there is a sense of sharing of material, space, ideas and questions. Periodically the performers gather the audience around a sturdy tall table on which the dancers draw and make explicit the next set of danced fragments, they invite questions and discussion, or suggest people scatter through the space to wander, watch and witness as they please.
Each set of danced fragments is composed of three or four pieces and the dancers accompany all their pieces with speaking, either making explicit references to the archive from which the particular dance is drawn, verbalising the movement script that informs the current dance, or deploying the speaking as a parallel task which layers complexities and plays with the limits of attention and memory. Most of the time the speaking makes the workings of the performance more transparent and offers concrete ways into the work, into the process of selection and composition, or into the past. It tends to be a kind of explication that ads a somewhat narrative element to the more or less abstract or formally driven dancing. The pace of the whole event is very measured, the atmosphere is relaxed and there is little theatricality, the invitation is to be oneself.
I loved Charlie Morissey’s revisiting of his prehistoric monkey self, which was full of movement magic and grace and glorious vitality whilst also reminding us of the human condition. Also Charlie and Andrea Buckely’s duet which exposed the working of mind and body through the complex layering of weight bearing, story telling, listening and remembering. As Charlie said in the following discussion it particularly shows that the two dancers cannot really hear each other’s story whilst being physically engaged and telling their own stories. What was in itself a danced fragment was structured in a way that it highlighted the constant process of fragmentation that occurs through our limited mental faculties. I also remember Matthias Sperling’s remembering of fragments from Sue Davies’ archive which was very moving for its rekindling of the work of Gill Clarke in particular. It was like seeig Gill come alive for a moment. Or even suggesting that her work is alive, we just need to tap into it.
I began to wonder about the purpose and effect of the fragmentary nature of the choreography, that is the event as a hole. The structure gave rise to gaps everywhere, between one section and another as performed by Matthias, between one duet and another, between one set of dances and the next, or between the different remembered names, the various designated places in and around the room, and between one gatherings around the table and the next. There were fragments of dances, fragments of discussions, fragments of images and thought, maps drawn in chalk and erased. I could see that this fragmentary structure is part of the nature of every archive which can always only show parts of a rehearsal process or give limited perspectives on a dance. Archives tend to be even more selected, and selective, of bits of thinking and writing. The gaps are embedded in each archive, and have been brought out of the archive into the space in this performance, there was no attempt at creating any kind of coherent whole. What then do these gaps do when they become part of a choreography, a live performance executed in real time and space?
Sue Davies responded by saying (as far as I remember) that for her there are not enough gaps in the archive, that it is all too compressed, that this embodiment through the performance allows however for the archive to unfold in space, to create gaps in which information can be exchanged and things can be seen and responded to. It struck me that that despite all the unlimited space in virtual space everything online is really collapsed and hyper dense through the instant clicking between one page and another, one work and another, one idea and another. There is no breathing space. New web design efforts try to mimic spaciousness and to give a sense of passing through space before arriving at the next bit of content. But Table of Contents demonstrates the significance of the interlude through a transposition of the archive into real space and real bodies.
Table of Contents strikes me as a PhD sort of endeavour, the revisiting and making connections between this and that, out of which new ideas and new things emerge. I am sort of doing the opposite process at the moment, bringing all my doing and reading onto the page, into a written archive, and allowing for something to emerge through this process. Once it is done it will be fascinating to use it as an archive from which to build new work (in space and time).
I agree with Lyndsey Winship’s comment that Table of Contents is “cumulatively absorbing“; the bodies and voices spin invisible threads and invite the audiences to help build more of the net through their observations and questions, so that over a couple of hours or an afternoon a delicate and magnificent but invisible net emerges, which is tied to numerous past moments and present instances, and which probably only exists for the duration of each show.