Klapstuk '91: Apocalyptic and integrated (Part Two)

BLITZ 5 Nov 1991English

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Contextual note
This text is part of the Portuguese anthology. This text collection contains 100% of the writings of André Lepecki for the magazine BLITZ. Sarma could realize this project by the support of the Portuguese Institute for the Arts.
You can read more about André Lepecki and his poetics as a writer on the following link: http://www.sarma.be/nieuw/critics/lepecki.htm


Editor Sarma: Myriam Van Imschoot
Editor Portugal: Monica Guerreiro
Research in Lisbon: Jeroen Peeters
Coördination: Steven De Belder, Jeroen Peeters, Charlotte Vandevyver, Myriam Van Imschoot
Translator: Clive Thoms
Financial Support: Portuguese Institute for the Arts
Thank you to: André Lepecki for the contribution to this anthology, BLITZ for giving consent to republish the texts on www.sarma.be, Diana Teixeira (typiste)

Klapstuk’91 reaches the end of week two. With Jan Fabre along the way and the start of a cycle entitled The New Portuguese as part of Europália Portugal.

Well, to stick to the chronological order usual in this sort of review, I would have to start with the show presented by Fatoumi and Lamoureus, at the Stadsschouwburg in Louvaine, on the eighteenth. But as there is a lot more to report on, go and search through your collection of BLITZ and find the April editions, to see what they say about the piece Après-midi. I would say more or less the same today. I might be a bit less tolerant. So, on to the next man…

1. Kristien Van Reusel: Sóla

…which, as you can see, is the next woman who, as you can also see, presented a solo (about a third part of the shows at the Festival are solos). What you happily were not able to see was the unfortunate choreographic exhibition put on in the Soetezaal hall. Van Reusel gave a feeble performance of an even more feeble choreographic exercise to the so-soft-it-was-hard-to-hear musical backing of Manitas de Plata, watched over by a silent and hieratical spectator: a giant shell resting on what looked like spiders’ legs at the back of the stage. Put like that, it sounds like a delirious tribute to Salvador Dalí (an impression further encouraged by the greens and blues of the lighting scheme) but it was really nothing but nonsense in the service of the impoverished technical and artistic capacities of the choreographer. Maybe one of the weakest shows at the festival so far…

2. Dennis O’Connor: The ostrich and the spider are said to hatch their eggs by looking at them

Dennis O’Connor used to dance with the Merce Cunningham company. One day he got fed up, left his master and created something of a name for himself as a choreographer-performer on the New York scene. So The ostrich and the spider… was awaited with some degree of expectation, not least as this was its world première (the piece was commissioned by Klapstuk). O’Connor presented us with a duet (about another 1/3 of the pieces here are duets) danced by himself and Joseph Lennon, with music by David Linton and lighting by Cis Bierinckx. And so we found ourselves strangely presented with the whole universe and language of Merce Cunningham appropriated in a fairly inappropriate manner, principally in an interpretation which on the opening night was close to chaotic: Cunningham danced in a wobbly way is the same as listening to a record at the wrong speed – pure caricature. And whilst the music was excellent and highly ironic, it only served to introduce a Cageian atmosphere, further accentuating the legacy of Cunningham. For a brief moment the choreography sends us signs of self-irony and a sort of compendium of the clichés of different techniques from the vocabulary of modern dance and even ballet. But these are echoes lost in the confused structure of the work. So confused that it ends up being odd. Unpolished, constrained, without any organizing and critical meta-discourse, but even so with echoes of what was originally an interesting idea. The worst part was the dancers’ technique.

3. V-Tol/Mark Murphy: Crash and Burn

Mark Murphy has created a piece clearly structured around the concept of the rock concert. With a drum section on a military scale taking pride of place at the front of the stage, the piece starts with the drummer walking casually up to his instrument, under a spotlight. Musically, and up to the closing moment, Nic Murcott will explore exhaustively all the clichés and rhythms of rock and pop, with one or more slight incursions into African polyrhythms. In the meantime, the dances James Hewitt, Keely Mancini, Mark Murphy and Kristina Page throw themselves into what we could described as a “Young” choreography, in the “Cool-Youth-Club-Against-The-Consumer-Society” sense of the word. Clearly inspired by the offerings of La-La-La Human Steps, things don’t go too badly as long as they are merely exploring movements: they are nothing special, but at least they don’t fall into the trap of pretentiousness, and are convincingly executed. The problem is that the piece, being a “Youth” piece, has to have a message. And that is where it comes really unstuck. Obviously the male and female dancers join up in heterosexual couples and knock each other about before making love and then knock each other about some more and so on. In the meantime, the drum kit nearly falls apart and the drummer’s technical limitations begin to have effect on the peripheral nervous system of the audience. The choreography ends as it began, which is to say there is nothing to be done. And dance in England still appears to be stuck in the doldrums.

4. Jan Fabre: Sweet Temptations

Jan Fabre is a case apart. Firstly because he has once again managed to hit a nerve with the Belgian audience, which despite clapping politely at everything was unable to restrain itself from some energetic booing at the end of a performance lasting three hours and twenty minutes. And there was of course some energetic cheering, and a lot, a lot of people slinking out before the end. Why this particular interest in the audience’s reaction? Because it is precisely this reaction that interests Jan Fabre as an artist. His pieces are no more than a cruel, intelligent, sadistic and perfect exercise in testing the endurance of the public (and the performer) as he pushes back the limits of each tiny fraction of the performance. Sweet Temptations is a cruel satire. It spits in the eye of the Western world. It derives basically from two confrontations. On the visual level, the imposition of a poetics of symmetry and its deconstruction into (literally) orgiastic chaos. In terms of content, the confrontation between knowledge (personified in the amorphous body of Stephen Hawking) and demented pleasure (the monkeying around of It’s a Knockout!, hooligan chants, rock mega-concerts, gambling).

It is a performance which overwhelms the spectator. Or rather: it saturates him, pulls him to shreds, gets on his nerves. In this and in the astoundingly impressive precision of the staging (there is nothing – not even chaos – which does not function with the precision of a perfect machine) resides Fabre’s genius. But the self-proclamation of his genius as folklore is his undoing. This fragmentary collage of excesses is nothing more than a caricature of what it is to be Fabre; its rudimentary exploration of ideological content is his Achilles’ heel.