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Calm and turbulence


Fog Bridge, Fujiko Nakaya, In Between Time Fog Bridge, Fujiko Nakaya, In Between Time
photo Paul Box
Fujiko Nakaya, Fog Bridge

Nozzles either side of the walkway (Pero’s Bridge, Bristol Harbourside) began their high-pressure hissing, jetting out steam that surged and swelled. Underfoot the walkway quaked. Pedestrians found themselves co-opted into this drama, to make either a rock star entrance or an exit into legend as the mist rolled gently down from the bridge and crept along the water, promising myths and melodramas, stories and secrets.

Nacera Balaza, Le Temps Scellé

“Sculpted time” comes from Tarkovsky, describing time within the film frame as rhythm. On the IBT opening night, after the welcome, the speeches and the clapping a woman danced under a soft spotlight. Writhed, twirled, struck out, gathered back in, arms and spine fluid, neck flexible, legs and feet reaching, hips centred. A dance both calm and turbulent. Another in this work by North African choreographer Nacera Balaza replaced her under the light, her style a little different, more punchy, more angular, still using the body to describe and explore a discrete and confined volume of space. Echoes and fragments of sound, swelling and diminishing, sustained an imaginary landscape peopled by waves of peers, heroes and ancestors. A one-word chant, an echo of gospel, moody North African trance percussion. They danced at a distance, and so close as to appear to interlock, with their very slightly different bodies and ways of moving in space. They reached a state of near frenzy and worked their way back down from it. Those who stayed were rewarded as time expanded. Those who wished to leave, left.

Alba, Jo Bannon, image courtesy InBetweenTime, Bristol UK Alba, Jo Bannon, image courtesy InBetweenTime, Bristol UK
photo Paul Blakemore
Jo Bannon, Alba

On a dark set, a woman—UK artist Jo Bannon—stood in the spotlight with a white sheet over her head, obviously blinded. Her little hands poked out, questing, feeling her way. She wore neutral black like a puppet master animating a magical scene; her hair and some carefully chosen tools were its luminous players. She washed her hair, flung it back, forwards, back, in a dripping arc, wrapped it in a white towel. Turning her back she dried it with a hairdryer. For a long moment the dryer buzzed, the hair shimmered, shimmied, was shaken, a fibrous mass of electric, fizzing-with-energy whiteness. It dried in a cloud as she combed it.

Choral samples and her mother’s oral testimony hung on a spare structure of abstract sound, while Bannon used minimalist props—a sheet of fabric, a sheet of paper—to make images progressively revealing her condition of albinism as a disguise, a mask, a baffle, an enveloping muffler, purdah, a lair; a consecration and a crown.

Ishimwa, Niyizi

Tall, graceful and exact in his movements, Rwandan-born artist Ishimwa’s physical presence echoes the economy with which this work is presented, during a performance rooted in duality. A frumpy, respectable dress is shed to reveal gold beaded epaulettes on a glamorous frock set off by orange shorts. A monologue in Portuguese argot is set off with Islamic exclamations. A projection of the artist smiling coyly at the audience is superimposed onto another of him crying. He quotes Martin Luther King while sitting on a toilet and, with his head thrust into his trousers, laments the state of his balls. I’ve never seen so many cornerstones of black cultural life so thoroughly undermined in such a short time.

The story here is self-actualisation, the destination is...LEGENDARY…and the terrain is an ambivalent, piss-taking recollection of events in the artist’s past. Set pieces—monologues, video, live singing—build to episodes of elegant expressionist dance. “Niyizi” means “he knows” and was the artist’s mother’s name. Made in her memory this scabrously funny piece is shot through with tragedy like the beading on that frock.

Fog Bridge

That Saturday, among the fountains and shrubs of the Arts Centre, crowds were enjoying the bright day. There were little fluffy clouds above, and dead ahead the bridge billowing white and grey like the source of that day’s weather. Heads turned toward the water and people stood entranced, puzzling.

O by Project O, image courtesy InBetweenTime, Bristol UK O by Project O, image courtesy InBetweenTime, Bristol UK
photo Paul Blakemore
Project O, O

London-based Project O (Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small) confronts head-on the blatant sexualisation of black women’s bodies in popular culture, especially music, invoking pop presences from Minaj and Kim to Dylan, to Cream, with a nod to the inimitable naffness of 80s glitz on the way. Donning pastel neon wigs at several points the performers reference the battling divas who already wear all the gear of female objectification, turn it inside out and weaponise it. Project O does the same, extracting contradictory ambiguous readings from super-sexist pop motifs in 50 minutes of gorgeous movement, exposure, acrobatics, glittery shorts and palm trees; 50 minutes of discipline, athleticism, provocation and gentleness. One dancer is more classical, all power and lean, clean lines, the other more extroverted, more infectiously carnal. They are kind to the audience, which is just as well, as they are so in-your-face in getting hold of their agency.

(M)imosa/Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (M)

This is what I heard about New Yorker Trajal Harrell’s Mimosa…, which I did not see. “It was so much fun. I could have sat there for four hours happily.” “You were never feeling sure about gender—any minute now someone was going to reveal a body part you hadn’t expected.” “Everybody came out buzzing.” (Thanks, Selina Thompson.)


This is what I saw during (S), the second part of the (M)imosa trilogy in which 20 looks were modelled by the artist vogueing (or not) with minimalist props. How to wear improbable high tops. How to drape a T-shirt using one or more strategic press studs. How to impersonate the desired and yet render oneself so much more than. How to assume a costume loaded with meaning; how to peacock with scraps. A man cooled himself in the wind of a fan, turning as the sweat dried. There was a scent of cedar and rain. Fabric billowed: a paint-spattered T-shirt, old tracksuit pants. There was an apron. Recollection is imperfect. The apron was important. A hand reached under my guard and twisted my guts, I couldn’t tell you how. Then again, the grunt of muffled sobs ran through all three performances.


As in (M) and (S) the framing in (M)imosa’s… XS was subtle and destabilising, although due to the artist’s kindness there were more people there than ideal for the piece. We were given a dense academic text and told the work would be over only after we finished reading it. I don’t know if anyone did. Costumes and props worked wordlessly on our understanding. A kimono (greasepaint, lightbulbs round a mirror: deshabille, preparation). A sober skirt and blouse (service, serving, Sundays, ritual: preparation, undervalued labour). A carrier bag, bedside lamps on the floor, extension leads. In the near dark the psychic and physical space around each audience member augmented what was in front of our eyes with what we imagined, what we remembered. Come to the final action, when the artist’s orange leisurewear put him somewhere supremely vulnerable, and these undemonstrative details, working against each other, created a turbulence in reading the work that somehow bypassed the critical framework he’d set up in the first place. Every detail considered, deliberate, aching with history.

Fog Bridge

A rainy evening and mist poured off the bridge and pooled along the waterfront, a confounding dirty yellow cloud. Three girls ran through it screaming and giggling in the twilight, “Get me out of here!” But when I reached the end of the Harbourside and looked back, the night was clear.

Mammalian Diving Reflex, Nightwalks With Teenagers

We took a bus to go on a walk in the night with some teenagers courtesy of Canadian company Mammalian Diving Reflex. After the games and the ice-breaking we set off in a long, fast crocodile, over the road and past the bus stop and keep up, can’t you! and round the mulberry bush. We were introduced to some of the lesser-known highlights of the area: the house with scaffolding, the gate into a field, dead man’s tree, a friendly duck. Every so often the young people taunted us with very silly dares: Roll down the hill! Jump off the tree!! In the dark, in the mud and with the night vista of Bristol twinkling majestically before us. After a while it was catching, and we were beguiled back to those wild winter nights where now is thrilling and things are what you make of them, and adults a reluctant afterthought. Yes we would play tag, be a werewolf, have a go on the slider. Thank you to the young people who took us out and brought us back safely to the common-sense world with verve and nerve and stories and cheek.

IBT/15: In Between Time 15, Bristol, UK 12-15 Feb

RealTime issue #126 April-May 2015 pg. 17

© Osunwunmi ; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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