They do this thing with their hands. A wee jaunty flick stemming from the wrist. Moving left to right and right to left. Hands scurrying across a keyboard perpetually, never resting, always searching, but somehow treading the same paths repeatedly. It looks deceptively simple, feels “everyday” and intuitive yet I spend the walk home trying to do it without getting it right.
The movement occupies two identifiable positions.
More happens in between these fixed positions. Something I can’t recreate.
A lot happens in between. A blur. A place/non-place of formation/collapse, where identities shift, remake and move, where the group is organic, its fate inseparable from its constituent selves, where responsibilities and intimacies overlap and interpenetrate, and these long and winding, multiple clause ridden, grammatically incorrect sentences can go on for days. Choreographed and directed by Rob Heaslip, the self-titled blurred expanse this work occupies is a space that is post-grammar, after structure and beyond rigidity; a hypermodern microcosm. FREAGRA | A Blurred Expanse feels relevant to contemporary Glasgow, portraying both individual and collective identity as fundamentally porous, ever-becoming, unfixed and continually informed by how it is witnessed.
Our first encounter with Astrid Bramming, Robert Bridger, Fiona Jeffries, Giulia Montalbano and Keren Smail appears as a fixed position, a starting point. Five bodies sit along a bench dressed in garb best described as “acid”; three face out towards the audience, two towards the back wall. A mass of helium filled balloons are tethered to the bench. And a movement starts, weight and momentum carry from body to body like a ripple. I try to grasp where the motion initiates, but I struggle, perceiving smaller and smaller breakages in the wave. It is beguiling to watch as the five bodies continue to collide and expand further into the space’s extremities. Ultimately the choreography washes over me as the boundaries of my attention and inattention blur. I run out of fixed points to hold onto. I stop trying to notice where movements start. The performers on stage simply continue to articulate, exchange and discard; they keep on moving. By the end, or at least the end of this performance, the five bodies return to the bench, three facing outwards and two towards to the wall. Each performer occupies a different position in the group, the fixed position we first encountered wasn’t fixed at all.
Yet what it most interesting about the work is not this blur, but what this blur is tied to, how this space of indeterminacy relates to the world. This is where the work feels relevant, immediately so. I think it is about witnessing. Besides wiggling my hands all over the shop I think about this most as I’m somewhere between Pollokshields and Mount Florida. As the performers splinter into pairs, threes, fours or solos another body is always watching on, stood apart. The entire choreography is composed of both movement and stillness, of the watched and the watching. Their presence bears the same relation to the group that the bench does to the balloons, acting as a tether, anchoring these shifting dynamics and identities to something, a context. If nobody was watching our identities, much like the balloons, they would just float away. It’s an interesting provocation for an audience as saturated in tele-presence and social media as those watching here at Tramway tonight, that our identity is formed and grounded by whom we are seen doing things by, rather than the things we do.
It’s an interesting provocation for writing this review. Wondering how typing these words is an act of identity forming, and trying to imagine whoever is scrolling to the bottom of this page, whoever is forming their own identity, what relation we bear to each other. Wondering who, in short, is reading this review.