It’s been over a week since Imogene and I performed Earth Sounds at RGU. Last night I watched the short promo video that was filmed by Corina Andrian, Adam Johnston and David Newland and was, in the best possible way, gobsmacked. For the first time I had been able to see the performance from the audience’s perspective – something that had been impossible from my desk in the corner.
Thinking back to the performance, I recall a level of intensity that had not been present during our residency. There was, I believe, a kind of release for both of us. After days of rehearsing in a public space – a university building, no less – where we encountered (entirely reasonable) scrutiny and (entirely unreasonable) testosterone-fuelled remarks, the result from both of us was a passionate one.
One thing in particular that has stayed with me was the process of burying Imogene before each run-through and, of course, the performance. While Imogene appeared to be relatively at ease with this, I on the other hand was disturbed by this necessary preparation. The burial itself was not part of the performance – the audience were brought into the space afterwards – but, the act became something like a ritual, and for those who were present, I imagine, a wholly different dimension of the performance.
Before we had installed a breathing tube for Imogene, I would race to the desk after burying her and start producing sounds as quickly as possible so that she could emerge from the soil. [That’s possibly the strangest sentence I’ve ever written!] When I eventually felt reassured that we could both take longer over this introduction, I think we ended up with something pretty special – something perhaps closer to butoh.
Watching the video, I was particularly pleased to see those butoh elements vividly enhanced – especially, the sharp, jerking emergence of Imogene’s shoulder blades and mantis-like position of her arms. In rehearsals, that moment had reminded me of the horrific resurrection of Frank in Hellraiser – which Imogene has yet to watch! See below (not for the squeamish!)
From a sound and technology point of view, the residency was a great learning curve for me. I quickly learned that geophones – or at least the ones we had – are incredibly temperamental. The results were different each day we rehearsed. Additionally, the building’s often deafening acoustics – it lies on the flight path of Aberdeen airport – meant that it was sometimes difficult to discern what was being picked up by the various devices and what was a passing plane, rain on the glass roof or the noisy air conditioning system. Yet, there’s a lot to be said for that kind of acoustic ambiguity, and I enjoyed exploring that side of things.
We fully intend to develop Earth Sounds further and perform it again. We’ve gathered a considerable amount of material – both in terms of movement and sound. What might a different space contribute to this growing project? It’s an exciting thought.