An explosive celebration of performance art, IBT13 provided an inspiring crossroad where audiences experienced precisely crafted, genuinely exhilarating art. A staggering selection of high-calibre work by a multitude of internationally acclaimed artists was performed; the following works exemplify the variety of approaches and mediums showcased.
Italian company Motus presented Too Late!, a blustering adaptation of Antigone retold through highly physical performance. Chaotic, achingly heart-felt, infused with sublimated eroticism, and charged with political fury, Too Late! revolves around the axis of power-struggle in its multiple permutations. The question of authority and prescribed action permeates the play which, through elliptical references to the original tragedy, poignantly expresses Antigone’s dilemmas while revealing how relevant they are to the current social landscape, ravaged by recession and political disarray. Adopting a self-referential, postmodern approach, the actors stop mid-scene to discuss their respective performances; later on, the actor interpreting Creon pulls off his Creon-mask only to reveal another Creon-mask underneath it; later still, the actress interpreting Antigone reads out a long passage of stage directions from a script while acting the directions out, eventually discarding the script while still reciting it and acting it out. Silvia Calderoni is an arresting Antigone, her performance and androgynous physique embodying the juxtaposition of frailness and strength, feminine and masculine, political dissent and pacifism that the play is so concerned with expressing.
Bristol-based artist Jo Bannon showcased her latest project, Dead Line. The one-on-one performance took place in the Parlour Showrooms, temporarily transformed into an abstract version of a funeral home. A palpable sense of foreboding builds up as you sign in and wait at the seating area, exacerbated by the steward who leads you to the installation and leaves you with the reassuring words that she will be outside the door if you need her –what could possibly await you? You enter a dark room, lit by a solitary lamp on an old-fashioned desk. A phone has been ringing. You answer.
The last part of the installation-cum-performance sees you sat in a bright room, next to a window overlooking a bustling green space in the city centre. An indistinct drone fills the room, rising in intensity and gradually turning into the sound of a dead line; simultaneously, the frame of the window in front of you becomes brighter and brighter, like a light at the end of a tunnel: a light you are fast approaching. You become aware of a need to hold on to this moment, you wish desperately that it would not end. But it does. By skilfully offsetting moments of apprehension against moments of peaceful clarity, Dead Line becomes a catalyst for visitors to examine their own approach to the muddled question of mortality. Bannon’s work thus achieves the almost unfeasible: a hairline crack in our defences, allowing for the eventual acceptance of the need to admit unuttered fears.
Amsterdam-based Bulgarian artist Ivo Dimchev gave an exhilarating solo performance as Lili Handel, a mysterious, pathetic, yet pitiable figure stuck in a past she is forever shut out of. From her ratty fur that has obviously seen better days to her patent leather stilettos and pearly thong, everything about Lili betrays a previous existence saturated with illicit pleasures. And everything she does is fraught with the tragic beauty of spent decadence: she suggests a party, the audience laughs. She declares she is here for your pleasure; the audience laughs. It is true, she is laughable. Her lipstick is smeared and her beloved French horn is battered and it gurgles pathetically when she tries to play it. Worst of all, Lili is old. The world has passed her by, and she is now desperately forming connections with inanimate objects –a hat, a stick, a curtain. Your laughter runs cold. Dimchev’s stage presence openly denotes vulnerability, signified in the exaggerated physicality of his performance, a vulnerability which you realise you have unwittingly amplified by playing along. You have been made to play a part in Lili’s isolation, which is archetypal: it could as easily have been you, or anyone who has lived hard and burnt out too soon. Still, the old diva has a few tricks up her sleeve. Dimchev’s humour, his courage and extraordinary panache infuse the performance, balancing gaiety, torment, and seduction on an intoxicating knife-edge.
IBT13 ran 13 – 17 February in Bristol. www.ibt13.co.uk
1. IBT13, Jo Bannon, Dead Line, Oliver Rudkin
2. IBT13, Helen Cole, We See Fireworks, Oliver Rudkin
3. IBT13, Motus, Too Late, Oliver Rudkin