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The figures and the signs of night

21st January 2017, BPS22 Charleroi, Belgium

Videos Gast Bouschet and Nadine Hilbert
Music Kevin Muhlen (guitar and electronics) and Angelo Mangini (hurdy-gurdy)
Costume Katie Pollard
Photograph Burning Moon


Created for the closing ‘Night of Radiant Darkness’ of Gast Bouschet and Nadine Hilbert’s Metamorphic Earth exhibition; the choreography was conceived in direct response to the immersive environment conjured by the video projections at BPS22. The overwhelming impression of the main exhibition hall, the walls and floor of which were painted dark grey, was of a vast cave whose walls and ground were alive with rippling, pulsing movement.

The challenge was to dance with the subversive, sorcerous images and ideas of Bouschet and Hilbert’s Metamorphic Earth, without losing the body in the dark flux of the space. I was inspired by the cave as a space animated by ritual performance; where in the flickering light thrown by torches dance, music and voice combine with the movement of animals across expanses of living rock. The importance of shadows, with their unpredictable dance of light and dark, to both the creation and appreciation of parietal art in the paleolithic, was critical to finding the dance that would fuse with the projections and music.

I embraced the role of chance in the interplay of images and sound against the dancing body, subjecting it to random distortions and occultations, to heighten impressions of deformation and transformation; and trace a line from the present to the (pre)shamanic sorcery of the paleolithic.

To further bind the video projections, music and body, I looked to the geometric signs of European Upper Paleolithic rock art, elucidated by James B. Harrod as ‘gesture-movement-forms.’ He has interpreted these signs as descriptions of things and processes within the environment, as well as dance forms; his thesis that they reveal a coherent underlying metaphysics. I understand this metaphysics as existing equally in the present moment as in the deep past, being grounded in the elemental substrate of luminosity, sonority and terrestriality; the ‘raw being’ from which life – and art – emerges.