In another reflective piece, Fidelma O’Riordan – Creative Apprentice at John Hansard Gallery – shares her thoughts on How to Live by David Blandy.
How to Live(2020) is one of two digital works by artist David Blandy, specially commissioned by John Hansard Gallery to reflect on the uncertain times we currently find ourselves in. The work was first shown as part of the gallery’s online programme in June 2020 and you can still watch it here.
I’ll be working as “Arts, Culture and Student Insights Coordinator” which is a fancy title I came up with to look cool on LinkedIn. In reality, it means I’ll be working closely with Louise Coysh and Jen Harris in the University’s Arts and Culture team, alongside our venues John Hansard Gallery and Turner Sims, to look at how we can develop the student experience around the University’s arts and culture offer. This involves supporting the student voice in the Heart of Campus project and city-wide cultural development. I’ll be particularly focused on making sure we have extensive student consultation and input!
Larry and Kate chat about all things – from working across different mediums and taking artistic inspiration from popular culture, to class, race, privilege and the environment (and how they are all connected).
To our shame and huge excitement and curiosity, the opening night of ZoieLogic Dance Theatre’s Heist was the first time either of us had seen a dance-only production. And on top of that, whilst between us we have a few years’ worth of mostly amateur dance experience, we know nothing about contemporary dancing, which was the show’s predominant style. In a nutshell, we went to the opening night of this show with absolutely no expectations and completely ready to see contemporary dance with fresh eyes.
And that is
exactly what happened. As ZoieLogic Dance Theatre Artistic Director Zoie
Golding expertly put it (she created the show after all), Heist mixes “the adventure of Mission
Impossible, the gaming of Crystal
Maze, and a little bit of the heart of The
Goonies” – an emotionally dynamic, cleverly woven, action-packed show
bursting with the most graceful moves which kept us on the edge of our seats
One of the most
striking aspects of Heist was in the
way it established the tone so promptly and accurately from the very first minute
with the help of soundtrack and a villain with robotic moves, deeply unsettling
facial expressions and Matrix-like costume. We like to think that we don’t get
scared easily, but we definitely found ourselves huddling close into each other
as the villain slowly approached our end of the stage. This almost instant
characterization was also instilled into the four ‘good’ guys – despite there
being absolutely no words spoken for the entire duration of the show, we
quickly got a real sense of the dynamic between the characters in the first
act, as their movements started to organize themselves into patterns and motifs
to show their quirks and mannerisms, their teamwork and their willingness to do
whatever it takes to escape the prison.
storyline was quite minimalistic. Whilst the general plotlines were conveyed by
the characters’ interaction with the set, the soundtrack and the dancers’
movements and facial expressions, the lack of words brought with itself a lack
of specificity which Heist turned on
its head into a vagueness encouraging audience engagement. We did not know
exactly why the four men were imprisoned, or what they tried to set free at the
end of it, but when we talked about it after coming out of the show we both
thought it had something to do with identity. Whether or not that’s what it
actually was about is a different question.
The great thing
about the show is that none of this guesswork actually matters: you don’t get
brownie points for identifying one specific metaphor the author wanted to
convey. The focus was simply on how the incredibly skilful and graceful
movements affected the audience’s emotions (and trust us, they did). The plot
was merely shaped by some classic heist film tropes (e.g. the chase scene), and
the fantastically adaptable set which enhanced the experience of the show by
being as fluid as the dancers’ movements; the essence was all in the
relationship between movements and emotion. As the dancers were climbing the
prison’s walls showing some real parkour skills, we waited anxiously for them
to fall. As they supported each other through their feeblest sequences of
choreography we felt feeble with them. As they were running from the villain
through the set which became a maze we were rooting for them to get away.
For us, that was
the essence of Heist. It did not
matter that we knew close to nothing about contemporary dance. It only mattered
that we opened our eyes and hearts to see and feel this show, and we left NST
City all the richer for it.